Smart fabrics are beginning to take center stage in fashion, as more designers are looking at technology to express their creative and innovative ideas. And it’s not just about making a change in designer aesthetics, through new patterns, colors or textiles. It’s about adding real functionality to clothes.
Clothes as we know them, serve primarily to cover up our bodies, while making us look and feel pretty – or cool/stylish/elegant/glamorous. But it’s not about clothes making you look or feel a certain way. It’s about clothes doing smart things for you. Innovative designers are moving quickly, going beyond key modern fabrics made of microfibers for special uses in the military or sports areas, to integrate nanotechnology into them.
There are two types of smart fabrics: “phase change” textiles that conduct electricity and can change colors or temperature, and “shape memory” textiles that can change from a temporary deformed shape back to their original one.
These types of textiles can be used to add a number of functionalities to clothing items. For example, garments embedded with sensors and microprocessors can:
- Process information, such as heart rate or temperature.
- Download colors and patterns to change up garment appearance.
- Capture solar energy that can then be used to charge up a phone.
- Act like a wi-fi hotspot.
All these while connected to a smartphone. But the possibilities are way broader.
Currently, many smart garments making it to runways are just conceptual. Like the beautiful Tinkerbell optic fiber dress, designed by Richard Nicoll in collaboration with Studio XO. While it turned heads at the London Fashion Week Fall 2014 for its ethereal glow and left the audience in awe, the Tinkerbell dress can hardly be qualified as wearable. Curious to see what’s that all about? Check out my take on Nicoll’s fiber optic dress here.
Source: The Guardian, Yui Mok/PA Photo
But at the pace technology is evolving, and considering the huge interest shown by fashion designers in integrating technology into their creations – Alexander Wang, CuteCircuit and Ralph Lauren, for example – we’re expecting to see smart fabrics taking over the consumer market. It’s just a matter of time.
Having said that, I will leave you with a question: what kind of functionality would you want to have embedded in a piece of clothing?