By Charles Morley
Technology has always been somewhat embedded in the very fabric of fashion…no pun intended. Now more than ever, experts are setting their sights quite ambitiously far ahead in order to dream up the next big thing – but for the sake of future generations, the work they are carrying out is of supreme importance.
Far from simply utilising and continually improving technology for the clothing manufacturing process, we’re slowly but surely entering an age where technology and fashion are coming together as one to create clothing that is far more sustainable. Given the energy intensity of producing most fabric, this is a very welcome change. While it may initially seem that organic cotton or recycled polymers may be a great foundation for the clothing we wear, when you consider the vast land and quantities of water used by cotton or the horrendously energy intensive and highly polluting process of extracting oil to make plastics, it seems high tech may have a lot to offer.
Here, we outline 5 key innovations made by high technology in creating new, exciting sustainable fashion and fabric.
Clothing Made From Food
A German microbiology-student by the name of Anke Domaske recently used milk, tea and coffee beans in her ‘Grow Your Own Clothes’ project. Consequently, she launched a company called Qmilk which produces fabrics not only for the fashion industry, but also for home and car furnishings. Cloth made of Qmilk fiber is very soft and provides a comfortable fit, but the textile also provides reduced bacterial growth and skin-sensory properties, which make it suitable for any activity in any climate.
Hi Tech to Dye For
California’s Colorep has come up with an ‘AirDye’ system that uses 85% less energy and 90% less water than conventional dyeing. Few people seem to realise that the dyeing process is normally a highly polluting process that involves many chemicals, waste, and water usage, but AirDye takes water almost out of the equation completely, and also reduces the emissions and energy used dramatically, since extreme heat is needed to dry the textiles after they are soaked in dye (and most fabrics then require a post-rinse and yet another dry cycle).
AirDye’s process begins with using all synthetic fibers for its material, which can be made from recycled PET bottles. Using dispersed dyes that are applied to a paper carrier, AirDye uses heat to transfer the dyes from the paper to the surface of the textiles, coloring it at the molecular level. All paper used is recycled, and dyes are inert, meaning that they can go back to their original state and be reused.
The system works on all textiles, be they for upholstery, wallpaper or fashion. So far, only designer, Costello Tagliapietra, has debuted a fashion range made entirely with AirDye methods – we hope to see more designers on board soon!
When ‘Fashion Print’ Takes On A Whole New Meaning
3D printed fashion has already appeared on the catwalks of Paris, London and Milan thanks to innovative designers like Iris Van Herpen and others. Yes, 3D printing quite often uses polymers rather than natural materials, but it can be considered to be eco-friendly for two reasons: one, it avoids fabric waste, which is so prevalent in the industry. Any time a pattern is cut, there are metres and metres of unused fabric that simply go straight to landfill. Secondly, outfits made from 3D printing can be produced on a when-needed basis only, as it doesn’t take long to make them. Normally, designers take orders from buyers, who guess the demand for their clients. If they get it wrong, they could have a whole lot of stock on their hands. But not so if clothing is printed – customers can place their orders, and conceivably have them made for them in-shop while they wait!
None could really have envisaged how quickly things would progress over just a few short decades. The only question now being how, if and when all these amazing developments will be used to further matters of universal interest – conservation, sustainability, carbon-reduction, and of course, style!