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That Poncho’s Not Just Waterproof: The Future of Textiles

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010, 2:13 PM

Did you know that flying cars have been in development since the 1930s? Or that multi-touch technology, with which we’ve become familiar through the iPhone and iPad, was inspired by its initial appearance in futuristic films? For years now, we’ve been seeing technology of fantastical nature materialize into tangible product. But we’re not only seeing these dream-like inventions self-actualized in gadgetry—the fashion industry is catching up, and now, the textile industry is following suit.

Remember that episode of Project Runway Season One, when the final six designers had to design a collection for the year 2055? The color palette, the cuts, the concept, and certain design details (solar panels for shoulder pads, anyone?) were all reflective of changes the designers anticipated in climate and environmental condition, all of which we’d have to account for in the things we wear and how we wear them.

Last week, we were intrigued by an article Discovery News published on the development of a textile that will enable for invisibility. Anyone who’s read Harry Potter will find it impossible to deny that this is a textile invention that was directly influenced by pop culture. And though we won’t be using such things to escape evil forces, it is believed that this research could lead to the production of many optically unique materials that would be used in bio-medicine or wartime defense. According to Fiorenzo Omenetto, a scientist at Tufts University, silk-based invisibility, for example, could allow doctors and radiologists to see through organs and tissue by cloaking them in the fabric, creating a transparency effect.

It’s called “metamaterial,” and since news of it hit the airwaves in 2007, it’s popping up everywhere.

Unstitched Utilities, too, is following the trend of textile sustainability by capitalizing on unconventional textiles. This streetwear and lifestyle footwear brand uses Tyvek, a textile made of recycled material. It’s light, it looks like paper, but it’s stronger than leather. Traditionally, Tyvek is used in U.S. Postal Service envelopes, due to its lightweight, breathable-yet-weather-proof qualities. So, it’s not just that new materials are being created to suit new environmental needs, but brands are also beginning to re-appropriate existing textiles. Marloes ten Bhömer’s designs are also a great example of this.

So whether it’s Knitted Metal Mesh from Metex Corp (a Belgian company whose stainless steel fabric design is allegedly used in automotive trade and repair) influencing the crocheted metal jewelry designs of Arielle de Pinto, or 3D synthetics used by London designer Anne Kyyrö Quinn, keep an eye out–because old materials are taking on new functions, and new materials are taking on old needs.

To read part two of the Future of Textiles, click here.

Samantha Garfield | TribaSpace

Interested in reading more stories like this? Keep an eye on the TribaSpace Magazine:

Product Groups: Creation, Textiles, Fabrics
Markets: Other, Women's, Men's, Children's

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