Sports clothing is the pioneer of new fabrics.
Sports clothing and materials, whether for professional athletes or the general public, is the most innovative sector within the clothing industry. That is why it has created the largest quantity of new textile companies that produce technical, specialized and innovative fabrics for each sports discipline and activity.
For instance, ultralight fabrics have been developed with higher multi-directional stretch or more freedom of movement; others improve and manage bodily sweat by getting rid of moist without retaining water and drying faster.
The developments have been constant and relevant in the production of microfibers, which enable the manufacturing of fabrics with exceptional softness, breathability and lightness, as well as elastane, which are elastic threads that are used to produce garments that adapt to the body as if they were second skin; or Gore Tex, which is a PTFE membrane (Teflon) with microscopic pores that make it breathable while maintaining its impermeability.
Technical and smart fabrics in other industries and sectors.
In the medical field, antibacterial fabrics have been developed, as well as others capable of absorbing liquids or protecting against electrostatic charges.
In the field of personal and work safety, there are fabrics that protect from flames, bacterial contamination or radiation. There are textiles that provide warmth or coldness, have shape memory or protect against UV rays.
Along with these technical fabrics we have “smart” textiles, fabrics or fibers with very specific features and characteristics such as the one known as health-tex, which introduces substances that bring health benefits by way of microencapsulation, controlling the distribution of cosmetics, drugs or perfumes. New textiles also receive the name of health-tex, and they come with electronic and computer systems to control the wearer’s vital signs and transmit them to a monitoring center.
They are called “smart” because they are capable of changing their nature in response to the impact of different external stimuli, both physical and chemical. For example, a “smart fiber” is the one that can change its color when there is a variation in the wearer’s body temperature. One of its relevant uses is to detect high temperature in a baby.
Classification of technical and smart fabrics.
These fabrics are technological, interactive and functional.
Garments that include microcapsules are capable of providing insulation from the cold or heat as they are able to manage body heat according to environmental conditions, absorbing, storing or releasing such heat. Microcapsules are added to the synthetic fiber during the spinning process or during the fabric finishing stage.
Textile cosmetics or hydrogels make up a barrier to prevent infections from external agents. They can also give off fragrances or scents to create a pleasant sensation in the wearers. They are microcapsules which are applied to the textile during the finishing process. They usually break apart due to biodegradation, friction or pressure, releasing their content. Their effect currently lasts 20-25 washes.
These textiles change their color. They respond to the effects of solar radiation. They are produced by adding to microcapsules dyes sensitive to the action of light or humidity. These can be added during the process of printing or dyeing. For example, these clothing items can change their color when you get into or out of a building.
Textiles with memory.
Among the fabric layers, materials with “shape memory” are added which are thermoplastic polyurethane. When temperature drops, the air bubble trapped between those two layers increases its volume and its insulation capacity, providing protection from cold. If it’s hot, the action is the opposite.
By incorporating conductivity into textile polymers, fabrics become electronic. These tiny conductive fibers that behave as sensors are resistant to water and dry cleaning processes. Small batteries attached to fabrics power these sensors. These textiles are used to make military, police and firefighters uniforms as they are connected and can provide real-time information to headquarters regarding the condition of the wearer. For instance, if the wearer is wounded, an immediate diagnosis can be made and it would be possible to establish a potential emergency treatment.
Nanoparticles enable us to change the properties of fabrics. With nanotechnological textiles we can manufacture garments that won’t get dirty or stain, are self-cleaning, anti-odour and can eliminate polluting substances. Additionally, these fabrics can repel virus and bacteria.
Thermal textiles are partially made of electrothermic threads that can produce heat when connected to small batteries.
Since we are born, textiles become our second skin. Fabric, a comfortable, soft and warm material, will cover up to 90% of our body during our lifetime.
In addition to protecting us from the external environment, keeping us comfortable and safe, our garments are a powerful means of communication, expressing our likes, feelings and moods. Our wardrobe creates a language that introduces us to the outside world and we use it to be accepted, liked, and as a means of attracting people.
Until a relatively short time ago, it looked as if everything was already invented in the textile industry, and innovation depended only on “fashion creativity”. Now we see that is not true; a new world to be discovered opens up before our eyes, and garments manufactured with technological materials are able to improve their performance, providing them with new functionalities.
Our clothing will continue to introduce ourselves to others, expressing our uniqueness and they will also provide a higher level of protection!
In the next article, we will discuss new fashion trends derived fro2016m technological and smart fabrics.