Smart textiles advance in the field of fashion

Smart textiles are more than medical innovations and technology. New businesses are established also in the field of fashion in Europe. This is evident in a new report from the Swedish School of Textiles.

 According to the report, smart textiles has a place primarily in four areas of the fashion business: medical garments, workwear, sportswear and fashion. Current research efforts concentrate mainly on the three first areas, whereas fashion has been viewed as the weakest area for the development of smart textiles. However, the report written within the frame of the EU project Baltic Fashion indicates that it is within the area of fashion that most new companies are established.

 – The new companies have been considered to be too small to count, but there’s nothing wrong in being small. Everyone doesn’t want to become a new H&M and work in mass production. This fact is often overlooked in many analyses as they have too great expectations on the area, says researcher Lena Berglin, who has written the report Smart Textiles and Wearable Technology – A study of smart textiles in fashion and clothing.

Best governed by demand

The development of smart textiles brings together areas such as chemistry, physics, computer science, textile design and material science. It is carried out both in EU projects and as research at the universities, but also by companies looking to develop new commercial products. In Sweden, this is done at for example the University of Borås through the innovation initiative Smart Textiles, which has been involved in one of the examples of successful products included in the report: the inflatable helmet Hövding.

– Instead of answering to a real demand, many of the developed products are based on the assumption that technology is interesting in itself. The helmet is based on the co-existence of the need for a presentable appearance and the need for safety of cyclists.

Emphasises ethical aspects

The report provides an overview of ongoing European research and innovations in the field of smart textiles. It is also intended as material for further discussions on how smart textiles may be introduced into the area of fashion. What are the ethical aspects of, for example, creating clothes which facilitate monitoring individuals’ activities?

– It is very important to discuss the implications of technology coming close to the body, Lena Berglin says.

 

Text: Emma Engström

 

The Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås is the contact in Sweden for the EU-funded project Baltic Fashion, which is a project promoting fashion through research and innovations. The project started in 2011 and concludes in 2013.