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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Smart Fabric for Smarter Clothing

How smart is smart fabric?  Pretty darn smart… and getting more intelligent every single day.  Truth be told, we are surprised how clever textiles and apparel has become.  We are entering the realm of science fiction.
Smart Fabrics Continuum
Smart fabrics and wearable technology are getting smarter every day.  It is amazing how the field has grown over the past several years.  Possibly when these special fabrics started to be developed they had been thought about as fads.  However, they are clearly becoming more and more main stream as time passes.  Fashion designers and clothing companies in general see the benefits of creating garments with these specialized fabrications.  Both traditional textile mills and technology companies are joining forces to develop mind boggling inventions.  Today’s priorities have gone far beyond the desire for wicking, and anti-bacterial properties.  Now we have moved into fabrics with electronics that work side by side with fashion apps, healthcare, space travel (alien clothing), and beyond.

There are quite a few notable designers and companies that have jumped on the smart textile bandwagon who are doing some pretty amazing and innovative things in this space.  Here are only a few of the examples:

Grado Zero Espace is an Italian based company who is doing some amazing things with textile technology and product design.  Grado Zero Espace is able to perform demonstration and prototyping activities in the field of technical fabrics design, including the development of complex textile structures, as well as the study of physical-mechanical behaviors. Thanks to the support of specific geometric textile modelling software package in combination with software for the analysis of thermal, mechanical and engineering properties, they are able to improve the possibilities to produce and test several new textile configurations, joining together their expertise the textile field and in the engineering.  GZE is able to provide the development of wearable technology systems consisting in the integration of smart sensors for monitoring vital-functions, conductive textile for data acquisition and transmission, thermal regulating systems, electroluminescent devices and other new functionalities.  Thermo-active alloys or polymers and high performance fibres or smart coating with innovative added properties.  The experimental activity includes the development of eco-friendly fabrics using natural fibres such as cypress, peat, kapok, nettle, spider-web and processes following eco-compatibility's parameters. 

AIQ Smart Clothing: AiQ Smart Clothing Inc. is where electronics merge with textiles to create fashionable, functional, comfortable solutions to meet your everyday needs; whether it’s in sports & fitness, outdoor & leisure, home & leisure, home care & health care.  They have the drive and capability to make Smart Clothing concepts into reality.  AiQ Smart Clothing Inc. plays a crucial role within the Smart Clothing supply chain by offering a complete and vertical integration of functional and fashionable technologies.  They excel in the textile incorporation of technology by combining and installing multiple key components from King’s Metal Fiber Technologies, one of Tex-Ray subsidiaries, and the specialize in developing wearable systems that are fully compatible with their downstream manufacturer and parent company, Tex-Ray.  In 2009, the idea of joining textiles and electronics became a reality with the beginning of the AiQ Smart Clothing project that was born as a department of Tex-Ray. For years we have been setting the standards in the Smart Clothing industry and, in 2012, AiQ Smart Clothing Inc. emerged as a subsidiary company. Based in Taiwan and with years of industry know-how, AiQ Smart Clothing Inc. is an ideal partner for wearable technology solutions.

Ying Gao, a fashion designer based in Geneva is creating clothing that combines urban design, architecture and multimedia, and uses sensory technologies to make garments more interactive.   Ying Gao is a university professor as well as a fashion designer.  Her work testifies to the profound mutation of the world in which we live and carries with it a radical critical dimension that transcends technological experimentation.  Ying Gao has achieved personal distinction through her numerous creative projects: five solo exhibitions in Switzerland and Canada (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Textile Museum of Canada…) and participation in around fifty group exhibitions around the world (MAK Vienna, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam, Design Museum Holon…). Her varied creative work has enjoyed international media coverage: over 350 press articles and media appearances (Time, METAL, Vogue, Dazed, Interni, Radio Canada, TV5… ).   She explores the construction of the garment, taking her.  Recognized worldwide, her designs are frequently shown in museums and galleries. Design is the medium, situated in the technological rather than in the textile realm : sensory technologies allow garments to become more playful and interactive. Ying Gao explores both the status of the individual, whose physical contours are transformed by external interferences, and the garment’s function as a fragile protective space.

CuteCircuit, Internationally-known fashion house, CuteCircuit, has been pushing the boundaries of wearable technology since its launch in 2004.  A global leader in interactive fashion, CuteCircuit has introduced many ground-breaking ideas to the fashion world by integrating new beauty and functionality through the use of smart textiles and micro-electronics.  CuteCircuit, a London based design duo is taking their smart textiles and technology to the runway, as they showed a collection at New York Fashion Week where the models controlled what their dresses looked like on the runway through their mobile phones. 

BioCouture who is focused on bringing living and bio-based materials to fashion, sportswear and luxury brands.   BioCouture is literally growing clothes from microorganisms like cellulose, fungi and algae.  Suzanne Lee, Founder of Biocouture Ltd, is heading the world's first biodesign consultancy firm.

Above is only a few of the many exciting developments in the world of smart fabrics.  Learn more about smart fabrics in our fashion industry terms section.

You may also find interest in readying about the Google smart fabric project.

Read about Levi’s project jacquard and Google project jacquard on their websites.

Recent advances in technology have brought together the apparel, technology, and textile industries to develop new capabilities in fabrics with the potential to change how athletes, patients, soldiers, first responders, and everyday consumers interact with their clothes and other textile products.  Combining garment manufacturing techniques with science and technology, the industry has significantly expanded the realm of possibilities.

Known as ‘smart fabrics’, new high-tech textiles, footwear, and clothes have the capability accomplish many special applications.  Some products can interact with their user or environment, including by tracking and communicating data about their wearer or environment to other devices through embedded sensors and conductive yarns.  The applications for these new capabilities are broad with most smart fabric product development now seen in the fields of defense, fitness, health, and public safety.  But this is obviously just the beginning.  We are still in the infancy of the development stage.  As tech improves so will the textiles designed to utilize the benefits of technological advancement.

Reaching the market’s full potential will require overcoming not just technical challenges but also bridging differences in how these distinct industries approach product development as well as addressing various public policy issues.   To foster greater collaboration between the U.S. apparel, technology, and textile industries and to identify the public policies that could accelerate the design and manufacture of smart fabrics products by U.S. companies, the Department of Commerce in partnership with the Industrial Fabrics Association International hosted the Smart Fabrics Summit on Monday, April 11, 2016.  IFAI is a member-owned, member-driven trade association representing the global industrial fabrics industry.  They invest more than $8 million each year to advance the industry and support member companies.

You should also learn more about the WEAR Conference regarding smart fabrics and wearable tech.

If you are looking for basic dumb fabric, you can find plenty of textile mills here on Apparel Search.

Watch the TV series Continuum if you want to see super smart clothing.

Are you already familiar with the concept of super smart fabric and even smarter clothing?  If you know of any amazing innovations that we have not discussed above, please share your knowledge in the comments section of this article.

Thank you for taking the time to read our apparel industry blog post. We hope that you have found this news to be informative. 

If you have comments or questions, please add your thoughts in the discussion area below.

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