The Evolution of Textiles and Smart Clothing
From suits that adjust body temperature to coats that can give you directions, the future of textiles is anything but basic. Clothing in the 21st century is becoming smarter and more functional, as the textile industry is moving towards a marriage between fashion and technology without compromising on either.
What is smart clothing?
In spite of what you might think, smart clothing is not a product of this decade, or even this century. A study published on Textile Science and Engineering dictates that the first e-textile dates back to the 1800’s when hostesses dressed in illuminated costumes for entertainment. Then came the astronaut’s space suit in the 1960’s with features such as pressure and temperature adjustment. However, the smart clothing of today is all about clothes that can be worn by the average person, and it’s exciting to see the different products that are being put on the market.
Textiles that can “sense and react to environmental conditions or stimuli” and are “able to perform a special function” qualify as smart textiles. It’s the little details that really provide maximum comfort, practicality, and let’s not forget, style. For instance, Google’s collaboration with Levi’s produced the Commuter Trucker Jacket, which has fibres that are sensitive to touch and gestures. With this piece of garment, you can connect to Google Maps, change the music in your ears, take phone calls, and even get recommendations on nearby establishments. You can hop on your bike and stay connected to the cloud safely at the same time.
There are also more sports-specific products since the health and wellness industry is the biggest innovator of wearable technology. You can find tech-enabled sports bras such as the OMsignal Bra that can monitor distance covered and the user’s pulse, or the Supa that can tell whether you’ve leveled up the intensity of your workouts. Similar features can be found in other pieces. Aside from pushing you to work harder, smart gear can aid in recovery, especially after vigorous exercise. As with most new clothing technology this was first developed and used by professional teams. During the 2014 World Cup, Italy’s national team wore kits with fabric technology that prevented soreness and boosted recovery. A special kind of tape was worked into the shirt to give the players a micro-massage as they ran and kicked on the field. Today, this fabric can be found in sports gear for the public.
Of course, the fashion conscious crowd does not have to worry about being left behind in the evolution of textiles. One brand worth knowing about is Thesis Couture founded by former SpaceX recruiter Dolly Singh. Elle reports that they specialise in making stilettos with high-grade advanced polymer as opposed to the metal plates that most high heels are made with. The result is a comfortable pair of shoes that can be walked in for hours on end— a very simple yet life-changing advancement. Another exciting innovation is the product of a partnership between Julianna Bass and LOOMIA. It’s a colour-changing piece of fabric triggered by slight changes in the temperature. When the clothing hit the runway last year in the NYFW it became an internet sensation.
Thermochromic fibres and posture-correcting shirts are just the beginning of this exciting phase that the clothing industry is heading into. Soon enough our clothes will be embedded with chips that can get us through our front door. Clothing with LED lights, such as the one Claire Danes wore to the MET Gala, will become more practical and seamless. You might even soon be able to purchase a pair of trousers that can harvest energy from the sun and charge your devices. The future is bright and the possibilities are endless. But until you can keep re-wearing the same shirt that changes colours, check out Breaking Rocks’ advice on ways to get creative with a simple T-shirt.
Written by: Annie Copeland for Breaking Rocks Clothing