High quality fabrics that last a long time are hard to find these day. Many garments only last a few washes. Whether for performance or aesthetic reasons, the focus within the textiles orb is on smart fabrics – from those that change their hue to those that regulate body temperature. Researchers are developing smart fabrics that do things that traditional fabrics cannot.
“If you think about what your skin is doing and then think of fabric – it will be able to do the same,” says Sabine Seymour, a futurologist and founder of wearables start-up Supa. “You tan, you sweat, your pores open up, your skin changes depending on the humidity … So imagine your hairs standing up and that changing the shape of the garment, or tanning and your apparel changing color. If you perspire, what if a garment responds to that?”
Seymour says smart clothes in the future could have self-healing properties. If you fall and graze your skin, the technology woven into the fabric you are wearing, will treat your skin.
“There is a consumer demand for it,” she says.
Fabrics interwoven with technology are becoming a reality. In the future, likely to be 5 to 10 years away, smart clothes will monitor our health hand help keep us stay healthy and fit.
“Are we about to suffer from a medical problem? Are we having a good time? Do we need to relax? Textiles will warn you about impending epileptic seizures. Your bra can already contain a heart rate sensor. There could be advantages to using garments rather than attaching gadgets, as some of the sensors need to be placed in exact positions on the body. We need investment in wearable technology, and smart textiles, as they will have relevance for us all in the coming years,” says Alison Welsh, head of department at the Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Project Jacquard, run by Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects unit, weaves technology into fabric to give it conductive and interactive properties. Google has collaborated with Levi’s on a smart jacket that will enable cyclists to brush their fingers on the fabric of their jacket to check the time or play their music.
Last year, University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute produced a dress in collaboration with wearable tech company Cute Circuit. The dress is made with a fabric that has “wonder material” graphene which causes the dress to change color according to the wearer’s breathing patterns.
A key factor in this technology is sustainable materials. Plant-based fibers that use the latest technologies will help manufactures produce innovative hybrid fabrics, according to Kate Hart, senior trend researcher at Trendstop.
“Developments such as Stella McCartney’s Skin-free Skin illustrate the elevations in faux leather quality, increasing their viability as an alternative to animal hides at designer level,” she said.