If we examine where fabrics, textiles and clothes are moving towards in the next generation, the marriage of art and science has created an interesting array of smart textiles that could change the way we perceive clothes.
Kazuhide Sekiyama, founder of Spiber, has been working on synthetic spider silk since 2007 and recently launched a spider silk moon suit through the North Face, available in Japan for $1000. His startup was the first to develop and launch this material- which has been engineered from a combination of proteins by recreating the DNA designs of spiders in an artificial environment that does not depend on petroleum like other synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon.
"Elastic but strong, spider silk is equal to steel in tensile strength and much tougher than carbon fiber." -Spiber
Leather traditionally has appealed to both the luxury world and the population at large, despite the fact that its production entails an unsustainable process of animal farming and cruelty and its tanning process toxic to the environment that often negatively impacts the health of workers involved in the tanning process. Although many alternatives to leather have been produced in recent decades, from pleather to synthetic leather derived from petroleum products to cork leather to even laboratory produced leather by Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn based startup that produces synthetic leather derived from animal DNA which recently raised $40 million in funding; Dr. Carmen Hijosa has produced a new kind of sustainable leather that can be said to be far superior to animal leather, with similar suppleness, texture, breathability and durability.
The Gaze has always been a subject for artists working in visual media, architecture, urban design and multimedia. How people look at objects and how objects are objectified has integrated concepts in gender studies, sociology and aesthetic design. Ying Gao is a Montreal-based designer and professor who has produced a pair of dresses that light up when someone looks at them. The dresses have an eye tracking camera that activates the dresses to change shape and illuminate.
Integrating the same technology, Behnaz Farahi is a UX designer and architect based at the University of Southern California, who has used eye-tracking cameras to produce a 3D printed jacket that resembles the plumage of birds that move when people are looking at it.
Lauren Bowker, a graduate of Manchester School of Art and Royal College of Art, has launched her smart fabrics line of jackets that react to the environment and changes colour in her London based startup the Unseen. Her clothes and accessories are now available at Selfridges.
Whereas artists are experimenting with the Gaze, scientists have been playing with the idea of invisibility.Developed in 2003, Japanese scientists at the University of Tokyo have been developing a hi-tech cloak, made from nanoparticles that reflect light, so that it appears that the wearer is invisible. A camera fitted on the back of the cloak records what happens behind the wearer and projects the image on the front, creating the illusion that the person is invisible. The researchers in this area hope to develop these fabrics for use in augmented reality for a variety of different applications.
However, the trend seems to be clear; we are moving towards synthetic versions of animal skins, and away from the farming of animals to be used in our clothes, bags and accessories.
By Sierra Choi