Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Century's Brave New Closets Will Be Full of Smart Fabrics

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Century's Brave New Closets Will Be Full of Smart Fabrics

Article excerpt

The same fabric will keep us cool in the summer and warm us in the winter.

Smart fabrics will dictate the fashion of the future, according to experts and visionaries from the fabric industry, design schools and digital labs. Instead of form following function, as architect Louis Henry Sullivan proclaimed, form and function will morph into an inseparable unit.

Some of this fabric is already here, according to Joe Cunning, director of the National Textile Center in Wilmington, Del., a research consortium of seven universities.

"A few smart fabrics are beginning to make their noises in Japan now," he said by phone from his office. "The Japanese have experimented with a great number of these ideas for the past couple of years and do have some products out. These are very expensive garments, but what you find out is, people who are really active, the professionals, they will pay good prices for it." The No. 1 issue is comfort, said Cunning.

"How can I handle the sweat in a cool and comfortable way or, if I'm skiing, how can I keep warm? The designs of these fabrics are coming round by the hundreds -- fabrics that change dimension, larger or smaller depending on temperature and humidity. Instead of passive, they're what we call smart fabrics."

In the next three to five years, look for them to dominate the market and fill our closets, Cunning said.

Maggie Murray, gallery and visual director for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, agrees.

"I do think that will be a wave of the future," she said. "I don't know that I can say that when the clock turns, something specific will happen. Fashion doesn't work that way. I do see, actually, leaner, plainer, simpler everything. It's no accident that T-shirts and jeans are the universal uniform.

"Not only will clothes become minimal, you could in effect have one thing that you wear forever, but that won't happen. Nothing is ever forever or permanent."

STEP INTO CHANGE

Innovations often show up in your shoes.

"It's a good place to test ideas," said Cunning. "Shoes wear out pretty quick, people like or don't like them. …

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