2014 was the year where science wove itself onto threads

2014 was the year where science wove itself onto threads

Wearable technology, 3D printing, and new frontier fabrics: 2014 was the year where science wove itself onto threads as never before.

3D printing particularly continued to push forward. Academics such as Kate Kennedy, lecturer at the School of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) university in Australia, noted print-at-home fabric is not that far from becoming a reality, with polymer extrusion replacing spun yarn to create flexible forms a technology in rapid evolution. From there to commercial application, however, there is still an abyss, despite the universal potential appeal of print-at-home clothing.

The downside of 3D printing of course is the ability to counterfeit logos and finishing items, and with counterfeit trade in clothing and footwear worth GBP3bn (US$4.72bn) in the UK alone, the stakes are high. Nike Inc has the unenviable position as the number one counterfeited brand, with mid-market labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Superdry not far behind. Design files for 3D printers are becoming a valuable, tradeable, hackable commodity.

Wearable technology, on the other hand, is set to post a 32% increase in global sales across all sectors, according to analysts Futuresource Consulting. The physical boundaries of what exactly constitutes wearable technology appear to be as fluid as the idea itself.

Is it Ralph Lauren's Polo Tech shirt - the sensor infused polo shirt that records and transmits physiological data to users via an application on their smartphone? Or is it the Smartwatch with an application that can warn when you are walking past a store with a once-in-a lifetime, can't miss sale? Or is it the fabric itself that constitutes a technological marvel, such as Vancouver-based Garmatex Technologies Inc's advanced engineered cooling fabric that can regulate body temperature?

One thing is sure, even the latest technology means nothing if the customer does not want to buy it.

This thought appears to be driving Diesel co-founder Adriano Goldschmied's latest endeavour to reinvent denim. Made from blending indigo, nylon and polyester, 'active denim' is already wooing orders from large players including G-Star (and Diesel), according to Goldschmied. He claimed the fabric will jump start boosting jeanswear sales across the world, which have been influenced by a gradual trend towards buyers preferring more comfortable clothing such as leggings and yoga-wear.

The search for new fibres and new ways of making clothing - especially in a marketplace characterised by raw material price fluctuations and supply - apparently knows no boundaries. A Mexican innovation centre is now working on fibres made from the agave cactus to supply an influx of fast fashion companies; while the DuPont Fluoropolymer Solutions team are ready to launch a new Teflon apparel range with a "built-in molecular technology" around the fibre that protects it from stains.

One analyst has even suggested that Swedish furniture retailer Ikea should get in on the apparel game. Swedish author and business consultant Stefan Engeseth said Ikea's expertise in design and packaging could be easily transposed to the world of fashion with both complete apparel items and composite parts that customers could assemble themselves. The parts could be "tailored" at home in inventive but simple ways, according to Engeseth.

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