Fashion design requires new technologies for creative development. Fibre optic dresses such as the Zac Posen ball gown worn by Clare Danes to the 2016 Met Gala make the relationship between physics and fashion obvious, however there are more subtle nuances to the impact of technology on fashion. Everything from design to textiles to manufacturing methods are linked to science.
Recently, conversation about sustainability has generated a greater demand for ‘green fabrics’. Perhaps bamboo and organic cotton are the first to spring to mind, but before you dismiss these early ‘eco’ alternatives as un-glamourous and expensive experiments, consider Stella McCartney’s animal-free silk instead. Stella McCartney partnered with Bolt Thread, a biotechnology company, to develop a silk fabric based on the DNA of spider webs made from sugar and yeast. The resulting fabric is soft, strong and sustainable. McCartney was particularly excited about this breakthrough as it shows “everything is finally coming together and the dots are being connected between fashion, sustainability and tech innovation.” The eco-conscious designer has also just released a vegan version of the Stan Smith sneaker, showing that science really does come into all walks of life.
Other innovators such as Linda Loudermilk have brought ‘vegetable cashmere’ to the table. This is a yarn made from the waste products of the soya food industry, woven into luxury jumpers. Pineapple leaves and algae mass have also been modified to fulfil our fashion needs. These fabrics have multiple benefits as not only are they better for the environment, but they can also benefit the body as they are natural and non-toxic.
Another branch of the technology and fashion tree is intelligent textiles or ‘smart fabrics’. These have functional aspects, for example, Korean Born designer Dahea Sun invented a natural cabbage dyed dress that acts as a pH indicator. This comes with a mobile app, allowing you to track the concentration of acid rain in your city and compare it with others around the world. Wearable solar fashion is another eco-alternative which allows us to charge our phones or laptops on the go and of course, the wonders of microencapsulation are not to be forgotten. This is a technology so miniscule you probably weren’t aware it even existed. It is the science behind your anti-bacterial socks or your mosquito repelling scarf. Tiny smarties of repellent or sanitiser are encased in a delicate shell and then incorporated into the garment’s fabric. When the wearer moves, the coating is worn down and eventually breaks, releasing the repellent or anti-bacterial particles.
However, textiles aren’t all about function, there has to be an element of aesthetics. Technology can also enhance this and a perfect example of tech-y textiles are the creations of Dutch designer Iris van Herpen. Her designs are beyond anything else you’ve ever seen, as early as 2013 she was 3D printing designs for Paris Fashion Week. Yet, whilst using textiles of the future van Herpen still manages to maintain a solid grounding in the present, through the clear influence of natural forms in her designs. This ranges from the mesmerising water dress, which genuinely looks like a splash of water surrounding the wearer, to the more abstract feathery shapes of this year’s SYNTOPIA collection. Something really refreshing about these designs is that they are made to be worn and they flow with the wearer. Her dresses can often seem completely different from varied angles due to the plastics and laser cutting in her designs.
However, all this is only the beginning. Fashion has come so far but it still has a long way to go in terms of becoming more sustainable and more intelligent. Research into fabrics made in a completely carbon neutral process is underway, as well into those which can monitor your heart rate or maintain your optimum body temperature. Scientists are lining up at the starting line on a journey to smarter solutions. Ready. Tech. GO!
Last modified: 8th May 2019