Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sustainable Doesn't Mean "easy"

Sustainable fashion seems to be the newest trend. People have adopted the trend not only in their wardrobe but as a lifestyle. Now we would rather wear garments made out of natural and organic fibers with natural dyes. Anything natural means it's better for the environment. Right? Well what if I told you...
  1.  When you take a look at the full life cycle of a natural fiber including the growing manufacturing and more importantly usage, natural fibers are not necessarily more sustainable than synthetic fibers
The characteristics of individual fibers are not only important influences of their footprint. They also determine how textiles will act during manufacture, the type and quantity of dye they take, the frequency and intensity of washing required when they're being worn, and whether or not they are recyclable
  1. Natural dyes aren't necessarily better then chemical ones
  2. Organic cotton amounts for only 1% of thee world harvest and production cannot be scaled in a sufficient amount quickly enough to cater to main stream needs yet.
It is very important to pay attention to the influence of technical innovations with regards to fibers because seemingly counter-intuitive and surprising facts surface. For example,
  • conventional cotton scores worse than virgin polyester in its overall environmental impact
  •  organic cotton scores the same as chemically recycled polyester 
  • recycled cotton is equally 'good' as mechanically recycled polyester and nylon.
  • recycled cotton is too short stapled and not a suitable replacement for virgin cotton fiber
  • but recycled polyester is of equal quality as its virgin variety.
This is why technology is so important for sustainable fashion because it helps it live up to its true meaning. Here are a few examples of these technologies,

Tejin Technology
  • closed-loop, perpetual recycling system for polyester products whereby the products are broken down into polymers, and then processed into new fiber with characteristics equivalent to virgin fibers. Patagonia uses this technology in many of their outdoor garments.

JFS/Teijin Eco Circle

  • they created a closed-loop perpetual polyester recycling system powered by renewable hydroelectric energy. Many of these fabrics are targeted for the interior design market

Recycling System

  • closed-loop system upholstery fabric is biodegradable. It is also good for human consumption and production waste is used as fertilizer by the farmers in the factory's vicinity. The fabric is prominently flown around the world in the A380 Airbus
  • http://www.climatex.com/
Finding alternative natural fibers is as easy at sounds either.
  • Kapok (or silk cotton) for example is available in many places across the world. It is a natural cellulose fiber with a hollow body, a sealed tail, a silky surface, and when in season, is abundantly available. All these features make it a desirable candidate for textiles, but other characteristics, like its short fiber length, make it ideal for modern spinning machines.
  • Bamboo- the standard process is to break the bamboo down into pulp using chemicals, before turning it into a rayon fiber, a man-made filament type. Unless this process takes place in a closed-loop environment, it can be damaging to both workers and the environment.
Finally The multi-disciplinary nature of the textile industry is both its biggest asset as well as its highest hurdle. Successful innovators, like Teijin work from the bottom up as well as from top down. They create competitive advantage by connecting research and application, working in close collaboration with technologists, spinners, weavers, dyers, designers and future clients to realize their vision. However rare in the current competitive climate, such team work is indispensable if the resulting product is to live up to the requirements of large scale manufacturing on the one hand and individual designers and consumers on the other.




Where technology is Taking YOUR Clothes

Did you ever think of what your clothing will look like in five years?  No, well many companies are doing just that and looking to technology for help.  Companies are producing wearable technology clothing.  Clothing that moves, changes colors, and even guitars on t-shirts that you can play.

Clothing being turned into batteries, that could change clothing as we know it.  Fabric batteries can turn your clothing into portable chargers for phones, smartphones, and ipods or MP3 players.  It works by coating the fibers with a special ink that once dried allows the fibers to become porous and great conductors of electricity.  What's makes this clothing even better, even after laundering the clothing will still continue to conduct electricity.

Another technology perk, flexible and wearable designs such as LED t-shirts.  Think of your light up shoes but only better, now your clothing can light up.  It can allows designers to design a whole new creative look.  There now are millions of more possible clothing options than we ever though before.  This new technology unlike other like it can be placed in just about every fabric including rubber, plastic, and glass.  Who knows maybe soda companies will produce light up cans that makes their brand stand out that much more in the consumers eyes.  A new product was the Rock Guitar Shirt, which had a design of a guitar that could be synced up can be played like an actual guitar.

In additon, this technology has practical uses also not just for fashion, for instance, heated clothing.  Also for those consumer who are looking for the healthy root, this clothing monitor heart rates, blood pressure etc.

Where do you see clothing going in five years?

Don't Wash Your Clothes

Water is a scarce nonrenewable resource.  Much of the developing world does not have access to clean water, a resource that the developed world takes for granted.  I’d like to share some infographics from Water.org that illustrate how dire the water situation is.

After seeing this I began to wonder what could be done to help conserve clean water.  An idea I explored in an earlier blog was the waterless washing machine, and the machine is certainly one thing that can be done to help water usage, but what if clothing didn’t have to be washed at all?

Scientists working for the United States Air Force have developed a finishing process that allows clothing to be worn for weeks without washing that remains hygienic. The new technology attaches nanoparticles to clothing fibers using microwaves. Then, chemicals that can repel water, oil and bacteria are directly bound to the nanoparticles. These two elements combine to create a protective coating on the fibers of the material.

This coating kills bacteria and forces liquids to bead and run off.  

The coating is already being applied to t-shirts and underwear that soldiers wear, but there are many other useful applications including biological and chemical protective clothing for healthcare, food processing, and farm workers.

Another finishing process is being developed by US scientists at the University of California.  The procedure would be simple enough that it can be applied during the dyeing process and would bond to the cellulose group in cotton.

If the clothing we wore did not have to be washed as often we would be able to save approximately 40 gallons of water per load of laundry that did not have to be washed.  If you normally wash a load of laundry a week you would be conserving 120 gallons of water each month by buying clothes that don’t require frequent laundering.


-William Diak

Simple Solutions to Complex Problems

Sharklet a plastic film which is inspired by sharks. Shark skin has the ability to prevent the growth of algae on their skins surface. The reason behind this is that they have these scale like structures on their skin which makes the surface smooth in one direction and rough in the other. Nova Science Now has a episode titled Smarter Materials where they feature some biomimcry, engineering and design concepts which are used to solve real world problems.

This plastic film, simply by having this diamond shaped pattern on the surface dramatically reduces the mount of bacteria which can grow on it. This is the ideal solution for hospitals which have a notorious problem as being a bacteria haven. Sharklet has been introduced in some hospitals on door, bedside rails and other surfaces which are touched regularly.Tony Brennen is the person behind the design. He has tried different patterns but the ridged diamond pattern works the best for some reason. Bacteria likes to live in colonies and by adding a texture to the surface they cannot multiply.   

The material does not kill the bacteria, it simply stops it from becoming colonies. Due to the immense amount of drugs we are using to kill them, the bacteria has developed resistance and thus the need for innovative thinking and design has let to this discovery.

Shaklet Website to view more of their products

This is the link to the Nova ScienceNow Episode which is worth watching because of the many innovative concepts and ideas discussed.
NovaScienceNow - Smarter Materials Episode

The youtube vidoe below focuses on the Sharklet material
- Simone Muller

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When worlds Collide

The fashionable trend of fashion used to be separate and competitive. The modern fashion trend has led to the collaboration of sectors of the industry to form partnerships in order to be competitive and succeed. The theme of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this year was dedicated to collaboration. Whether it is through the sectors of industry or key players creating innovative business models. The various speakers focused on the consumer and changing their mind set will turn eco-fashion into just fashion. The trends are changing from fast fashion to fashion which is versatile and this is leading the industry to come up with ways of being more on trend when it comes to business practises.
Key Points of Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012
More Clips from Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012

Collaboration is not a new thing to the modern business world because it makes sense. Musicians do it, engineers do it and designers do it. The future lies in the thinking process changing to no longer focus on the creative or analytical side of our brains, but combining the two and finding a new way of thinking. The question might be well how will it apply to fashion?
 Bellantine (an alcohol company) + CuteCircuit (designers)) = tshirt os
What is this? Below is a video that explains it.
The owners of the CuteCircuit company are collaborators in themselves. On their website the about tab tells us about their background,All CuteCircuit garments are designed by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz. Francesca worked as a fashion designer for Valentino in Italy. Ryan Genz was formally trained as an artist, anthropologist and ultimately Interaction Designer focusing on Wearable Technology and holds patents and patents pending for wearable technologies"
This is a fascinating concept and will lead to bigger and better things in the Apparel industry.
To tie this into sustainable fashion would be for the whole garment to be integrated with the technology in order for the maximum use for the tshirt to be more versatile.
By Simone Muller


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Smart Clothing?

Smart Clothing?

Smart clothing is exactly what one lab is working on producing now for future use.  The lab located in Canada is producing technology on clothing by working with different fibers.  The fibers, which are woven loosely, will allow lights and screens to be seen on clothing.

Tron sound familar?  But unlike in the movie the lab is making the clothing to be more than just a light up accessory.  It can be used in cars such as being able to swipe a finger across a sit to turn up or down your heat or swiping up or down your arm to change the volume of a MP3 player.  The lab has stated that you want you to not be aware of what you are wearing, they do not want the clohting to burden the wearer.  This technology will include batteries, multi touch screen, and microchip transistors.  This could possibly be the base line for clothing that could check vital signs or even be worn as a computer.  The lab was able to pull a fiber out of fabric that is able to conduct electricity and was able to make a prototype touchpad much like the IPad that did work.  This clothing is here and does need to be perfected but a bigger obstacle is the manufacturing.  Many manufacturers are hesistant when working with new materials especially one that require engery.  Many obstacles can arise within these process whether duirng the producing or after.  How can they manufacturers be sure that the product with this technology will last in the consumers hands for an extended period of time.

This technology has proven to be difficult but it has great potential for the future.  For instance, how to keep the technology charged and keep the performance at a high quality.  In addition, since most tehnology is made of chips these chips are not meant for soft fibers so finding the right path to do this is proving to be a challenge.  Another challenge is being able to create the soft textile fibers for the transistors which can prove to be a downfall, but being able to accomplish this feat would mean a huge advancement for apparel.  Consumers would have clothing that would act like gadgets but would fit into everyday wardrobe easily.  Unfornately they lab has the textile they seem to just be missing the electronics.  Who knew that technology could become so futuristic in just a few short years.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waterless Washing Machine

Well... not exactly.

While watching a video by Natalia Allen about sustainable fashion she mentioned somethign very interesting to me: a washing machine that does not use water.  While doing independent research I was not able to find an existing washing machine that uses no water, but there was one that uses very little water, and only 2% of the energy that a conventional washing machine uses.  


This machine is named Xeros after the Greek work for dry.  It uses a just cup of water, 90% less than a conventional machine. It also requires a drop of detergent and reusable nylon polymer beads to clean clothing.  The beads are added to the wash and after the water and detergent dissolve the stains, the beads soak up the water and dirt.  The dirt is absorbed into the core of the nylon polymer beads and is trapped so it does not get the clothes dirty again.

The machine automatically separates the beads from the laundry to save the user the trouble of separating them out on their own, and the beads can be used for about 100 washes.  Since this process does not have a spin cycle or rinse cycle it uses much less energy, and because the beads absorb most of the water from the clothing, using a dryer is not necessary.  Overall Xeros estimates a 40% reduction in carbon emission over a conventional washing machine.
This innovation is invaluable to saving the world's clean water supply since only 2% of the water on earth is drinkable.  Conserving water during the care of a garment is critical because the care of the garment accounts for a large percentage of the total water that goes into a garment's lifecycle.  Hopefully the Xeros machine will be available for purchase soon.