from the world's big
New and smarter textiles race to the future of fashion
Fashion Week, 2050
- The clothing of the future will look nothing like what we wear today. Or maybe it will.
- A hunger for sustainability is leading researchers to new organic materials from which to design clothing.
- Other visionaries are working to make our future outfits as smart as we want to look.
One of the fun things about watching science fiction movies, especially old ones, is seeing filmmakers' sometimes daffy predictions of what future clothing will look like. A lot of these prognostications envision traditional fabrics such as cotton or contemporary synthetic fibers cut into "future-y" designs. Recent advances make the real future of clothing look much more imaginative: While some are busy discovering more sustainable materials from which to fashion our clothes, other are dreaming up new things for our outfits to do.
Nature knows best
Image source: freestocks.org/Unsplash
About 60 percent of the clothing we wear contains plastic microfibers. The best-known are polyester, nylon, and acrylic. Unfortunately, these fibers don't stay in our clothing. While some of them leach out as we go about our business, taking to the air and so on, doing laundry may be a significant contributor to the 8 million tons of microplastics dumped into our oceans annually. (Fun fact: Experts only know where about 1 percent of that plastic goes.) Nonetheless, research published in 2016 says that for an average wash load, over 700,000 fibers could be being released into the water supply.
In addition to ongoing efforts to find new ways of incorporating used materials in new clothing, textile-industry scientists are experimenting with a range of less environmentally damaging, more sustainable materials for us to wear. Much of it is derived from naturally occurring sources.
Piñatex is a leather substitute made from pineapple-leaf fiber. These leaves are discarded during harvesting of the fruit, and so they're readily available with no additional farming necessary, according to the Piñatex web site. The material, which is produced in sheets, is already being used for making shoes, handbags, and dresses.
There are a few mushroom-thread-based fabrics.
There's a synthetic leather called Mylo, from Bolt Threads, a vegan, eco-friendly material. The company's partnering with fashion brands Stella McCartney and Patagonia in making actual clothing from Mylo.
Then there's MycoTEX. The most startling thing about MycoTEX is that this living material can be grown into clothing. As producer Fungal Futures puts it, "the garment can be built three-dimensionally and shaped whilst being made, fitting the wearer's wishes," using clothing-shaped molds. Since MycoTEX grows into the desired shape without cutting, there's no waste material when a garment's complete.
One of the wildest ideas is another technology from Bolt Threads called "Microsilk." Based on the way in which spiders produce real silk, Microsilk is derived from yeast-based proteins, extracted, and then spun into fibers. The company released, and immediately sold out of, a Microsilk tie in 2017, and Stella McCartney showed a gold dress made from the fibers at NYC's MoMA that same year.
A company called Wool and the Gang (a pun better read than said) is selling a product, "Tina Tape Yarn," made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees. They call the material Tencel and claim it's "more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen." It's also biodegradable, made with renewable energy and — heads up, sheep — totally vegan.
This company takes plant-based textiles beyond pineapples. We say that because pineapple leaves are just one of the castoff materials sourced to make their line of BioFibres. The others are oil-seed hemp, oil-seed flax, banana tree, cane bagasse, and rice straw. Agraloop notes that these six crops provide 250 million tons of textile fiber per year, 2.5 times the global demand.
Some of the rest
Other natural substances being reworked into clothing include chitin fiber from crustacean shells, seaweed, banana fiber, coconut fiber, and corn fiber.
Don’t forget to recharge your underwear
Popular future brands?
Image source: Boris Bobrov/Unsplash
Technology in textiles is not a new thing, but it's a booming field. Antimicrobial silver nanoparticles that prevent smelly bacteria — and therefore require less washing — have been embedded in fabrics since early in the new millennium. Researchers are working on water-repelling fabrics, and nanoparticles can also make clothing less flammable. Just this month, a nanoscale accelerometer was announced, perfect for incorporating into future motion-sensitive clothing.
What can clothes do? What can't they do? Get ready for smart textiles.
Google goes beyond Glass
Having been early into smart wearables with their Glass products, Google has has begun weaving its Jacquard platform into clothing, in particular a jacket co-developed with Levi's. The jacket is a wearable touch device you can use for controlling your devices.
Another smart-tech use being explored for fabrics are materials laced with sensors that can monitor the wearer's health, going far beyond fitness watches to clothes that keep an eye on a wide range of health indicators.
Clothes that change color
Scientists from the College of Optics and Photonics at The University of Central Florida have developed ChroMorphous, a color-changing fabric your can control using your smartphone. They cal it "eFabric." (What, does Apple own "iFabric?")
Some of the new materials are designed to be helpful. Wearable X specializes in materials that support haptic feedback, electrical signals that mimic a sense of being touched or of interaction with virtual objects. The company currently sells NADI X yoga garb with embedded haptic feedback that provides training cues. An earlier product put the "fun" in Fundawear by allowing touch to be transmitted from a smartphone to a partner anywhere in the world, "created with long-distance couples in mind."
Optical communicator hat
We'll let Yoel Fink of MIT pitch this one: "Think about pedestrian safety and self-driving cars. Tremendous investments are going into cars. How about the pedestrians? Do we as pedestrians or bikers get to know if the car has detected us? With fabric optical communications your baseball cap can not only alert a car to your presence but importantly let you know if the car detected you. Fabrics for the self-driving future." Alternately, those cars could just honk?
Look good, feel good
Obviously, any new materials designed for fashion need to be attractive, workable, and feel good to wearers in order to gain any traction, and these goals are very much elements in the development process. Will they be the comfy, loose-fitting fabrics of Star Wars, or will we be parading around in metallic armadillo-like facemasks? Who knows? Given our past track record, the odds are that we have no idea. We'll just have to wait to see what we'll look like when we control our personal universes from our intelligent pineapple jumpsuits.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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