Looking Smart – The New World Of E-Textile fashion
For the uninitiated, E-textile fashion is the latest word in wearable digital technology. Combining traditional fabrics with digital components, Smart Garments are being created with tiny computer technology embedded into the composition of the material.
If you’re picturing the kind of outfits that the crew of the Star Ship Enterprise wear, don’t worry; Smart Clothing is being designed to look just as stylish and practical as regular garments, just with much more functionality.
Smart textiles are being developed which contain digital and electronic components such as batteries, lights and tiny computers in order to let the wearer communicate, transfer energy, monitor health and even transform in a number of ways at the touch of a button or, even, with just a certain kind of movement. Using textiles which easily conduct electricity, such as cotton, nylon and polyester, textile based sensor electronics can be weaved into the fabric creating a kind of couture motherboard.
As well as the convenience of not having to carry electronic devices in a pocket or bag, e-textiles have a number of benefits such as flexibility, permeability, low cost production and discretion. In addition, e-textiles will offer thermal and electrical resistance to the wearer.
The use of e-textiles will be limited initially to two separate kinds; textiles which have electronics embedded into the finished garment and, textiles whose very composition includes passive electronics such as solar cells, conductors and resistors. The first kind of textile will be used for classical electronics such as LEDs for recreational uses like clubbing and events and will have conventional batteries embedded into the fabric, whereas, the latter will be manufactured with the components as part of the fabric and will be used for athletic and military purposes. Such purposes may include the monitoring and regulation of body temperature and the resistance of extreme weather conditions. In time, it is thought that Smart Fabrics may even be able to protect against environment and bio hazards.
Although it may seem a little far-fetched to many, these wearable fabrics may have a very important role to play in our future health-care as they will be able to not only monitor health but also administer basic treatments.
In addition to our health, these garments may even make us more beautiful – by adding anti-ageing moisturizers and perfumes to the fabrics.
Once the technology is up and running, the possibilities are endless – e-textiles could be used in home furnishings meaning that heating, lighting and entertainment devices could be integrated into soft furnishings – giving a whole new meaning to the term couch potato !
The techy bit
E-textile fashion will be produced using fabrics suitable for conducting and semi-conducting electricity. Metallic and textile fibre will be combined to create a fabric which is flexible and, more importantly, washable.
With the speed at which technology advances, many will be unsurprised by this new and very real possibility which will make interesting catwalk viewing!