Future of smart fabrics: apparel and home textiles
Will technology mix up with the textiles or will textiles become a new technology? The future of fabric is definitely in reinventing the whole apparel and home textiles industries. Just imagine one piece of clothing that serves the whole family from children to grandparents. How and who can make it possible? Focusingfuture.com interviewed two experts, home textile digitizer Qaizar Hasonjee and apparel innovator Madison Maxey, who create our future of smart textiles.
Why reinvent textiles? Both experts highlight that fabric is the substance that has always been around people since the times of dawn. Moreover, in the digitalized today, textiles lack of modern functionalities. It is time to give a natural extension to the interior and apparel fabrics to provide people with more than style and protection.
You are in the center of the textile innovation hub. Can you share your vision of the future with new technologies?
First of all, the biggest change is that smart textiles will become a new medium of communication to a tool of social media like Facebook or Twitter. The second way is how smart textiles will supply us with an additional benefit in the form of safety by data provision. As we will never abandon textiles, the fabric becomes the best medium to integrate the technology. Changing the color, apparel can notify if user has a heart attack, for example. The continuum of smart textile to get commercial has already begun. It is a very steady evolution of research, development, commercialization of digital fabrics. The growth will happen exponentially with the critical shift to smarter solutions already in the nearest years.
We are looking for a way to make textiles human intelligent. It will enable a constant feedback for differentinteractions that we have with objects and a new way of distributed computing. At the moment, all of thecomputing functions live on computers or phones but they could eventually be ambient everywhere. Smarttextiles will enable the future where digital has no screens. I am really curious to see how this future wouldlook like. Especially, as people we know are working towards making our living better.
Qaizar, you mentioned that smart textiles will enhance our communication. What is the role of smart textiles in human Interaction and in the interior?
By looking at the possibility of textiles being more than just fabric to cover ourselves, we will get a new perspective, a broad scale of functionalities textiles can give us. For example, by providing more information about other people, the environment and ourselves. What is more, we can transform textiles to entertain and even educate people. The challenge is to determine how much do we want to express ourselves with textiles: is it our mood, health condition, bank information or else?
We have an opportunity to grant textiles additional functions by integrating technology into the fabric we are sitting on – chairs and sofas, walking on – carpets and rugs, surrounding ourselves - drabs and curtains in the rooms, bedding sheets, towels, etc. Smart textiles will generate an enormous amount of data enriching analytics and insights and helping human to make sustainable decisions. Digitalizing textiles can provide us with better tech coverage. There are places where you have a carpet, but you don’t have a camera. We are going to transform the textiles that are already in use and make new products out of smart fabric that has not been thought ever before.
In SpinTales, we have launched the smart textiles that entertain and educate children. It is an interactive smart home textile, that with the help of tablet or phone, transforms regular carpet or duvet to augmented storytelling. This is one of the examples how future of smart textiles can look like. And more exciting augmentations are yet to come.
Maddy, your specialty is smart apparel. What is the future of fashion and clothes overall?
I do not separate the fashion from apparel. In my opinion, the most important is that combination of smart textiles and fashion enable creativity. Every person in this world purchases textiles. I wish to create a highly functional apparel which will perform a shift from a commodity attitude to clothing for its color and pattern to a well-engineered product that one buys for its capabilities.
At the moment we, at Loomia, are working towards revolution shifting textiles to a service-based industry. Loomia has grown from Crated, which was working on one-time projects integrating technology in apparel. There is a large market potential for creating actual smart textiles that enable the smart future. There are a lot of highly functional textiles in the industrial and space industries, and now it is time to bring intelligence to any textile that is surrounding us. The result of all those efforts is creating a screenless world with the latest tech possibilities so people can spend more time living and enjoying their life instead of operating through the screens.
Will the design of interior textiles and apparel change? If yes, how?
We can see the focus on design, appearance, and comfort of wearable technologies. At the beginning of wearables’ development, functionality had a high importance level. Now, it all comes to design and customer experience without compromising on functionality. From clothes standpoint, I think it will always be gender specific fro both male and female fashion. However, when talking about other textiles like home and interior, it is less gender specific while more theme oriented. Interior textiles are not be necessarily used by one person; they are shared commodity. Depending on the situation, the textile might seamlessly change adapting to the need of the particular user.
I would hope that at some point there is enough customization that you can get a product that works well for any biological shape and size. I find issues with things like Oculus Rift making women noxious because of men and women sense distance to objects in a different way. For example, in my work, I also think about people with tattoos. I want to be sure that my products work for a wide variety of people and are suitable for all skin types. The future products have to be gender binary, fitting both genders and those who do not resemble any sex. It is my hope that intelligent wear will serve everyone representing a large scale of people.
It seems like textiles will gather a lot of valuable and private data. What is your take on the future of privacy?
To begin with, we have to understand that monitoring combined with smart management can prevent a catastrophic event. This is when customers give away some pieces of privacy for safer and more controllable future. People already openly share their thoughts and feelings on the Internet as they believe it gives some value back. It is a form of social exchange. I would expect the same mechanism will happen with smart fabrics. As long as sharing of personal data is providing a value back, the exchange is justified.
There are certain risks that we as consumers take on with any product. At times, the risk, like privacy, is worth the trade off. The system works that way: if you want to get better and more personalized solutions, you have to share your data. At the same time, there are well-reputed groups like Veritas putting a lot of thoughts on data privacy and protection. Certainly, it's essential to have new regulations for the industry. Also, we need to raise customers' awareness about the trade-off for the products that serve you better.
About our experts:
Qaizar Hassonjee is a pioneer in Smart Textiles leading into Wearables and Internet of Things with 20 years experience. Qaizar is a co-founder of Textronics Inc, which is an electro-textile technology company originated from DuPont’s textile fiber research effort and acquired by Adidas. He was the first to launched Heart Rate Monitoring Sports Bra in 2005. Today, Qaizar brings technology to the home and interior textiles at TILT through the children entertainment system Spintales.
Madison Maxey is a smart apparel and wearables innovator who is delivering high-tech apparel solutions for the biggest apparel brands. Maddy is a member of Forbes 30Under30 and the first fashion designer to win a $100000 Thiel fellowship. Today, she fabricates smart future at her company Loomia (previously The Crated) enabling enhanced screenless future for everyone.