Luxury animal fibers
Alternative plant fibers
Fabric and the fashion industry
Fashion design and textile knowledge are often taught as separate disciplines, and knowledge of the raw materials and processes that make up a fabric are not usually integrated into fashion studies. A confident understanding of fabrics, and the fibers they are composed of, is fundamental to the design process, allowing one to make informed choices rather than arbitrary decisions based upon surface appeal. This book is intended as an easily navigable fabric lexicon that explores the relationship between fashion and textiles and encourages an awareness of fibers and fabrics in a broader fashion context. It is designed to inform the reader of the endless possibilities that fabrics offer to the design process. It is not intended as an exhaustive technical manual, but rather as a tool to inform, inspire, and encourage the creative use of fabrics. The content of the book is intended to support an essential knowledge base, which is fundamental to developing a range of fashion products.
Focusing in turn on animal, plant, and man-made fibers, each of the three sections considers the origins of specific fibers within these classifications, their history, provenance, and the processing journey to finished fabric. Additionally, it explores the socioeconomic factors that may have influenced the importance of a specific fiber, in order to create an awareness of how one’s choice of material may impact upon ecological, sustainable, and ethical issues.
Each section provides an extensive database of terminology, to encourage informed and effective communication with industry professionals. This is underpinned with information about processes generic to all fibers regardless of origin. The importance of color is explored within a separate section, and the final chapter contextualizes the interrelationship of all the components that make up the fashion industry. “The bond between fashion and textiles is one of mutual dependency and reciprocal influence; a shared destiny based upon our need for clothing.”
Fashion and Textiles: An Overview
Colin Gale and Jasbir Kaur (Berg Publishers, 2004) Our relationship with fibers and fabrics is intimate and allencompassing; we are surrounded by, sleep in, and are clothed by them. Historically textiles have been valued not only for their practical and aesthetic properties, but also as incredibly powerful cultural indicators. Textiles display the artistry and ingenuity of a civilization, the most precious examples of which even help to denote status within society. In contemporary life an evermore sophisticated and growing range of fabrics expresses the complex language of fashion.
The textile industry may be simplistically viewed as the supplier of the raw materials for the fashion industry, whereas in reality the two industries are inextricably linked. Developments in the textile industry invariably impact upon the fashion industry, and vice versa. Fabrics are also incredibly powerful as a strong visual indicator of a brand, often defining aspects of a brand identity. The fashion designer’s relationship with fabric is at the heart of the creative process. The right choice of fabric is fundamental to good design and is instrumental to its success. The better the understanding of the material, the more effective is the symbiosis between the design and fabric.
Fabrics: the raw material of fashion
Throughout history people have clothed themselves with natural fabrics made from animal or plant fibers. Man’s ingenuity in developing and processing these raw materials has become more sophisticated over time.
The twentieth century heralded the invention of synthetic fabrics, originally developed to mimic the attributes of natural fibers, and provide inexpensive alternatives with a lowmaintenance appeal. Brand names such as Dacron, Terylene, Orlon, Acrylan, and Crimplene are examples of materials that were made from the main generic synthetics group that includes polyamide, nylon, polyester, acetate, and acrylic. These fibers and filaments are primarily derived from coal and oilbased raw materials. The cotton and wool trade organizations have invested in fiber development technology and proactive marketing campaigns to regain the market share initially lost to the man-made materials.
Recent decades have seen a growing appreciation of natural fibers at accessible price points. Today, exciting potential is offered by leaps in technology with natural fibers, man-made artificial regenerates, and refined synthetics. They offer exciting options for an increasingly complex range of consumer demands.
Sophisticated developments in man-made textiles offer a look quite different to traditional, natural materials, and do not work against them but alongside them instead. Combinations of microfibers (the new generation of ultra-fine synthetics) with regenerated yarns, silks, cottons, and linens provide new looks and performance potential. The emphasis placed on recycling in our everyday life has influenced current research into the development of biodegradable synthetics.