Beyond Wearables: Future Fabrics and Fashion Design

Future Fabrics and Fashion Design

Much of the current recent fashion technology discussion involves the idea of wearables: things like wristwatches and Google glass. But a lot of innovation is going on in terms of fabric technology and other approaches that will change the way we dress ourselves and will impact the way designers create everything from everyday fashion to haute couture.

From futuristic Swiss fabrics that don’t require cleaning to fabrics that give sensory or “haptic” feedback to rapid prototyping and 3-D printing being applied to fashion design, a diverse panel of experts investigates this fascinating new space.

“There’s a gap between what me and my fellow designers imagine can happen with this material in the future and what is actually happening with it for the consumer today,” admits panelist Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman. “It’s starting to happen, but we’re not there yet.”

Light It Up! Workshop

Fashion and Education Workshop

Light It Up! at the White House.

Light It Up! at the White House.

As part of the Reach Higher Initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a fashion and education workshop at the White House with 150 high school and college students. A full day of activities started with sessions focused on one of five core themes: technology, construction, entrepreneurship, inspiration and journalism, followed by a luncheon and panel discussion lead by Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman and a team of undergraduates from Pratt Institute led the technology workshop, which guided participants through the process of creating a customized piece of wearable technology: an LED-powered pin. Students created their own design, sewed the pin body and then programmed attached LEDs to light up in specific patterns. As a hands-on example of how easy it can be to sew, use electronics and start creating code, the workshop demonstrated the way fashion draws on disciplines from art and design to STEM.

The workshop highlighted the growing influence of the Maker Movement on the fashion industry and the creative economy as a whole, and explored new materials and technologies such as 3D printing, low-cost sensors and micro-controllers.

E-SEWT paper presented at ISWC Atelier of Smart Garments Workshop

E-SEWT project

Wearable technology used in spaceflight has many applications. Electronic sensing, interaction and computing designed into comfortable on-body form factors has the potential to augment human capabilities while improving safety, efficiency, autonomy and ergonomics. This paper discussed design methods for improving the E-SEWT (Electronic-textile System for the Evaluation of Wearable Technology) project for The Wearable Electronics Application and Research Lab (WEAR Lab) in the Avionic Systems Division at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).

The E-SEWT project is a design-centered study of the form and function of a reconfigurable smart garment to be worn on board the International Space Station (ISS). This specialized garment consists of a base unit and removable sensor components, called “swatches,” which allow the garment to be customized by the wearer to complete a particular task or simply for personal preference. The study focuses on mobility, ergonomics, comfort and ease of use while maintaining optimal data flow. Using wearables built into garments is a key focus of research for Pailes-Friedman and her students at Pratt Institute.