Smart Textiles for Designers: Inventing the Future of Fabrics
By Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman
DEFINITION AND CONTEXT
Interview: Melissa Coleman
The Second Skin
Designed for Protection
Basic Textile Components
The Birth of Performance Fabrics
Survey of Smart Textiles
Light and Colour
Communication: Touch, Voice,
and Data Transfer
Scent and Sound
Movement and Temperature Regulation
Sustainability: Renewable Energy
and Energy Conservation
Medical: Prevention and Healing
PEOPLE AND PROCESS
Industrial Design—Driven by the User
Fine Art—Driven by Concept
Fashion—Driven by Aesthetic
Architecture—Driven by Site or
Synthesis Design + Architecure and
Engineering—Driven by Scientifc
Johanna Bloomfeld and Ted Southern
This book has been an incredible journey for me. I am amazed at the enthusiasm and interest the topics of smart textiles and new materials bring. Never before have so many people been intrigued with the combination of art, design, and science. The e-verse is constantly buzzing with the introduction of each new smart product, futuristic material, and revolutionary manufacturing process. Wearable technology and smart textiles are hot topics with a growing number of people interested in exploring how these new materials can be used in both their artistic practice and personal life.
The revolution has begun. Smart textiles will redefne the way we think of our clothing, homes, and other products. It is now the norm to exercise while monitoring your heart rate, steps, exertion rate, and hydration among other metrics. Once debilitating health issues are now manageable, giving patients mobility, freedom, and transparency to the workings of their bodies, resulting in an improved quality of life. Designers are working in tandem with scientists to develop textiles with multiple benefts ranging from incredibly lightweight, insulating and cooling textiles to textiles that transmit light, sound, and smell. Other developments include textiles that transform their structure and textiles that are created with sustainable production methods including waterless dyeing techniques and biological processes that grow textiles in the lab.
Information gathering from our actions, bodies, and environments has never been so pervasive as it is today and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Words like disruption, privacy, metrics, and augmentation are commonplace. But what exactly are these new smart materials and what is the benefit of wearable technology? Many designers, artists, researchers, scientists, technologists, and engineers are working on creating these new technologies and applying them in their work while others explore their impact on society, the environment, and ourselves. We are only at the beginning of this feld of exploration.
Sparked from my personal experience as an industrial designer developing active sports products and apparel, these new smart materials beckoned me like a bright light. I spent over a year immersing myself in the research and exploration of smart textiles and the work being done in the application of these emerging technologies. The result is this book, Smart Textiles for Designers: Inventing the Future of Fabrics, an introduction to smart textiles and the materials and processes that are being explored and applied in many labs, studios and workshops around the globe.
DEFINITION AND CONTEXT
Truly new ideas are rare but when one comes along it can star t a revolution. We are at the frontier of one of these revolutions today, the technotextile revolution, the convergence of textiles and technology.
The materials that you will be introduced to in this book will challenge your idea of what fabrics and textiles are and inspire you to rethink what your clothing and other products made with textiles can do.
Fabric is our second skin. We each have a deep personal connection to it from the time we are born. Every day we expect the fabrics that touch our bodies to keep us warm or dry, to be soft or strong, to be flexible or give us support and many other things. At the same time, we demand that our products and clothing perform many of these functions while maintaining their shape and color and expect that they will be easy to care for and to clean. We use textiles in our environments and to build with, we use them in manufacturing and require that they be sustainable, renewable, and use little energy. The more advanced textiles become, the more we demand of them. Textile and material science is constantly developing ways to meet, exceed, and even anticipate our demands as consumers and users.
The pioneers of this field explore the next frontier of these technological developments in materials, fbers, fabric construction, and chemical finishes. New media artist, lecturer, blogger, and curator of “Pretty Smart Textiles” and three smart textiles exhibitions, Melissa Coleman has her pulse on the future. Her works are critical explorations of the body in relation to technology. She writes for Fashioning Technology and has taught at art and design schools in The Hague, Rotterdam, Tilburg, and Eindhoven. I interviewed Melissa to get her perspective on the difference between smart textiles and e-textiles and what she thinks are the most exciting things that are happening in smart textiles today.
RPF: Can you give me a simple definition of e-textiles and the difference between smart textiles and e-textiles?
MC: E-textiles is a name for textiles that integrate electronics in the textile itself. In its most perfect form, which doesn’t really exist yet, you might not even be able to tell the difference between a regular textile and an e-textile because the electronics are physically part of the textile structure.
At the moment this is mostly happening in the form of metal coated textile fbers. But people are also experimenting with fbers that can generate electricity through movement, or through the sun. Smart textiles don’t describe the material as much as its innovative character. In some cases this might mean a highly technical nano-coating, in other cases it might mean the textile has integrated electronics and a computational function. Really all the “smart” part describes is that it has more functions than a traditional textile.