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Smart Fabrics and Smart Textiles for a Smarter Fashion Industry

From novel fabrics to electronic textiles, the fashion industry also doesn’t stop innovating. Since digital fashion has been introduced, the fashion-tech market has been continuously expanding. And now, more and more fashion experts and enthusiasts are interested in trying out any tech-infused fashion-related product. 

This 2022, even the global textile market shows significant growth thanks to various technological advancements and interventions.


E-Textiles: Technology-Infused Smart Fabrics Textiles

Electronic Textiles or more commonly referred to as E-Textiles are modern fabrics infused with electronic components. Similar to smart fabrics or novel fabrics, these are further explored in the hopes of providing added value to clothing.

E-textiles and functional fabrics are designed with embedded sensors, microcontrollers, batteries, and various other smart electronics. These are used to convert plain clothes or accessories into fully functional but still aesthetically pleasing garments.

With all the tech infusions, these wearables and apparel can detect and respond to external factors or environmental conditions. And with all the added functionalities and uses, these sustainable smart clothes are not just eco-friendly but also lifesavers.

Smart fabrics are taking convenience to a whole new level. These tech innovations are showcasing various uses and benefits.

  • Extra Protection. Aside from mere covers to our bodies, smart garments offer an extra layer of protection such as those that have customizable built-in heaters.
  • Performance Enhancement. Some e-textiles are designed to track the physical activities of wearers, gathering data that could help improve their performances.
  • Posture Correction. Electronic textiles can also identify potential risks and certain defects, as well as address basic posture errors.
  • Energy Generators. Certain smart fabrics are programmed with microelectronic tools that can harness, convert, and/or generate sustainable energy.
  • Sustainable Materials. These lab-made or synthetically created garments can not only reduce material costs but are also great alternatives for unsustainable material sources.
  • Mass Production. Technology has paved the way for faster and easier production. Manufacturers can efficiently produce smart fabrics or e-textiles.

Textile Industry: Types of Smart Fabrics and Enthusiasts of Smart Clothes

Over the years, there have been several tech innovations in the world of textiles. But let’s focus and take a closer look at these electronic textiles. These smart textiles are basically divided into two categories.

  • Embedded Electronic Textiles

These are smart textiles with electronic components woven into them – these could be environmental sensors or data emitters. These components are thinner than those used in laminated e-textiles, making embedded e-textiles less bulky and more portable. These are also more comfortable for daily use or regular wear.

  • Laminated Electronic Textiles

These are smart textiles that also make use of certain electronic components. However, the sensors and circuitry are merely attached and aren’t woven into the fabric. These are bulkier than embedded e-textiles but laminated e-textiles can contain and process more data due to their more complex programming.

With the continued innovations and advancements, the gap between embedded and laminated is expected to narrow down. And eventually, e-textiles would offer more enhanced programming and functionality. Nevertheless, there are now various forms of clothes that adopt these technologies. Here are some of those.

  • Temp Apparel

Usually gloves, these apparel make use of conductive fibers that can heat up and provide warmth to the users. Some brands now showcase controllable heated garments wherein wearers can adjust the amount of transmitted heat.

  • Fitness-Focused Wearables

From smartwatches to eyeglasses, several fashion items are now also converted into aesthetically pleasing health and fitness trackers. Now, users can monitor sleeping patterns, mood swings, mental health conditions, and more.

  • Heart Monitoring Shirts

There are now shirts or tops that have integrated sensors that can efficiently monitor vital signs such as heart rate. Now at a more affordable price, you can look after your heart’s health more regularly.

  • Activity Recording Shorts

Some e-textiles are specifically designed for athletes or those whose lifestyles involve active and/or continuous movement. For instance, there are running shorts that can capture the technicalities of their performances, including speed and distance, as well as the player’s running technique used.

  • GPS Tracking Bags

GPS transmitters are now also woven into certain clothes. This special feature could come in handy for parents with toddlers or employers with on-field employees.

  • Simulator Vests

Garment innovations aren’t merely affecting the fashion industry but various other industries at the same time. Gamer vests, for instance, have some sort of components that can simulate real-life combat. These make you feel like you’ve physically taken a hit when you get shot in your game, for example. 

Smart fabrics aren’t just shallow or meaningless innovations. In fact, various fashion brands from all over the world have started adopting and embracing these changes. 

  • AiQ
    A Taipei-based smart clothing company that’s one of the pioneer businesses that made use of semiconductors to convert traditional textiles into smart clothing. BioMan+ and AiQSynertial are two of their most famous products.
  • Alpha Femtech
    A smart bodywear startup that offers smart menstrual clothing that’s capable of easing menstrual cramps and period pains. Their products can also collect valuable data that could come in handy for gynecologists.
  • CuteCircuit
    A London-based company known for its interactive fashion garments. This is the manufacturer of SoundshirtTM which is a suit with haptic sensors and the Hug ShirtTM which is embedded with actuators capable of creating touch and hug sensations.
  • Hexoskin
    A product of Carre Technologies Inc. – a Canada-based fashion business that caters to the needs of emergency responders, aerospace workers, pharmaceutical agents, and so much more. Hexoskin is a washable smart garment that can monitor health status, including respiratory, cardiac, and sleep quality.
  • MotoSkins
    A German startup that offers smart textiles. Its Robotic Fabrics are embedded with fluidics that can significantly improve energy circulation within the user’s body.
  • Refiberd
    An eco-friendly US-based business that converts post-consumer waste into fully functional recycled textiles. It offers sustainable and cost-efficient textile alternatives.
    An Italian company that’s one of the trusted brands in the biomaterials industry. It’s the creator of V-Textile – a groundbreaking leather-like vegan-coated fabric that’s made of biopolymers extracted from grape seeds, skins, and stalks.
  • Vividye
    A Sweden startup business that develops reversible textile coloring through the use of innovative printing technology. It specializes in decoloring and recoloring fabrics.
  • Xenoma
    A smart garment company well-known for the e-Skin, a whole-body suit that can monitor and evaluate workouts. Some variations of their product include ECG shirt, EMStyle, LETS WALK, MEVA, and Sleep & Lounge.

Smart Textiles: Paving the Way For a More Tech-Advanced Fashion Industry

Though relatively new, e-textiles and fabrics have been greatly stirring the fashion industry. But will smart clothing actually define or at least remain to be a part of the industry’s tech-advanced future? Experts and professionals highly believe so. After all, textile is originally a vast landscape with a broad market; hence, much more when technological innovations and advancements intervene. 

Aside from the aforementioned uses and benefits, manufacturers are looking into integrating smart textiles into military uniforms and gears. Fully functional war-ready suits are more lightweight and comfortable and are said to be expected in the nearer future thanks to such technologies.

And somewhere in the future, smart textiles are expected to break through in the fields of health, wellness, and beauty. Some brands are already conducting a series of research to create smart fabrics that can track physiological conditions, administer medicinal intake, and offer anti-aging properties.

Conclusion: Is the Smart Textiles Market Booming?

Technology, indeed, always finds ways in improving various aspects of the world and our lives. And the fashion industry is of no exemption. With continuous innovations, there’s no denying the bright future of the smart clothing industry. In fact, some experts foresee it to be a multi-billion dollar industry by 2025. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some smart textiles examples?

Heated apparel, waterproof fabrics, conductive fibers, plasma-treated clothing, and UV-protecting garments.

  • What are smart interactive fabrics?

These are tech-advanced textiles capable of detecting and responding to certain environmental conditions. 

  • What can smart fabrics do?

These can change colors, adjust temperatures, repel UV rays, record performances, track heart rates, and so much more.

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