How will innovative materials inspire the fashion industry?

What’s new when there is a new wave of fashion creators moving towards innovative materials? What is the task of the times? What is the inspiration for the fashion world today?
The fashion industry is an avant-garde, novelty-driven industry that gives its creators the freedom to think and create: to innovate on an aesthetic basis, to use their imagination and creativity. Materials, whether artificial or natural, define, change, enhance and shape the world we live in. Creators use these materials to express their views, record history, respond to the needs of the times, and illuminate style and taste, and we use them to express our personal style and find our identity.
The essence of innovative materials is “novelty”, a potent energizing agent for the fashion world that challenges stereotypes and serves to inspire followers accustomed to the old and the new. As we approach the end of the year 2022, it seems that material innovations, mostly used as “gimmicks” in the past, are subtly becoming a new point of victory for many fashion brands, with a wide range of challengers, each with their own logical and self-explanatory way of expressing themselves.
Balenciaga has embraced sustainable fashion with its Winter 2022 collection by using the cutting-edge mycelium material EPHEA™ as an organic alternative to leather in a coat made from a new fabric cultivated from mycelium, while for its 51st season Haute Couture collection, it boldly introduced Japanese limestone-based neoprene scuba diving fabrics for Haute Couture, utilizing new fabrics containing aluminum to create a wearer’s active self-consciousness. The use of new fabrics that contain aluminum to create T-shirts that are stiff while allowing the wearer to move freely, and the use of boned organza, cut silk, and “feathers” woven through embroidery …… Designer Demna Gvasalia is Demna Gvasalia, while overturning the stereotypes of haute couture, shifted the “rarity” and “craftsmanship” of haute couture into the realm of technological fabric innovations.
The use of innovative materials in Balenciaga’s two collections can in fact be used to categorize a number of purposes that many fashion houses are currently pursuing in the field of fabric innovation.
First of all, the use of innovative materials is related to the task of the times – the need for sustainable fashion development. Now that the call for sustainable fashion is on the rise, the adoption of bio-based materials, such as mycelium cultivation, is mostly aimed at replacing some of the traditional materials, such as animal furs and fabrics that pollute during the production process, in order to improve the environment and allow the fashion industry to enter into a more virtuous cycle.
In addition to the aforementioned Balenciaga, Peter Do’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection also utilizes bio-based materials. Designer Peter Do collaborated with biotech company TômTex – a manufacturer that processes discarded seafood shells mixed with coffee grounds to make leather alternatives – to create a leather-like fabric using a 100% biodegradable “new non-woven biotextile” developed by the latter. Using a 100% biodegradable “new non-woven biofabric” developed by the latter, he created an undershirt top that has the look and feel of leather, and is both tactile and visually similar to regular leather.
In the same year, Danish fashion brand Ganni collaborated with Spanish materials research company Pyratex to create a gray clothing collection using a waste material from the banana food industry – including leaves, trunks and branches – combined with organic cotton. clothing line.
Chinese independent designer Scarlett Yang, on the other hand, made a biodegradable, glass-like dress from a mixture of water, algae extracts and cocoon proteins, which can be broken down in water at the end of its useful life.
As recently as 2021, luxury brand Hermès teamed up with biocompany MycoWorks to transform the brand’s Victoria shopping bag into a handbag made from mycelial leather developed by the latter. The use of biomass as a raw material is in part about promoting the use of renewable raw materials, i.e., recycling materials that would otherwise be neglected and discarded, and achieving recyclability and degradability while at the same time realizing a forward-looking future of fashion.
Secondly, the possibility of new technological advances has pushed designers to experiment more with ways of utopian thinking. Material is the main basis for designers to form fashion, and as a figurative unit of the latter’s aesthetic proposition, it can provide more possibilities for creators along with more extensibility. Jonathan Anderson-led Loewe has expressed his vision of digital life in two recent menswear collections, such as Fall/Winter 2022, when he designed fiber-optic lights inside the collar and cuffs of a coat, inspired by the effect of light from an electronic screen reflecting on the face in a dark environment.
Then, for spring/summer 2023, he brought together “the organic and the man-made” – not only the “remains” of electronic devices and clothes, but also the “remains” of the electronic devices, in a collaboration with the designer Paula Ulargui Escalona. In collaboration with designer Paula Ulargui Escalona, she spent twenty days growing greenery on fabric, which was followed by several “turf coats”. There is, however, a precedent for “turf coats,” dating back to the turf coats made by British interdisciplinary artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey for their environmental campaign against animal fur, who revealed in an interview that the fabrics were customizable and 100 percent biodegradable. The long hours and randomness of the process, combined with the natural growth of plants, make these strange garments “worthwhile”.
One of the most talked about items on social media this season was Coperni’s Spring/Summer 2023 show, which featured “spray clothes” that were made to look like performance art. As model Bella Hadid walked onstage, nearly naked, and staff on either side of her sprayed her body with a spray gun, the liquid almost instantly solidified into a fabric that quickly formed a light, stretchy white dress over her body.
The show was reminiscent of the spring/summer 2012 show in which designer-scientist Manel Torres, who invented the “spray-on weaving technology,” presented a collection of garments made from the special liquid a decade ago. In an interview, Torres described the liquid as a non-woven material that quickly forms when sprayed onto the skin. The liquid is a polymer made from dissolved short fibers that dries and forms as soon as it is sprayed onto bare human skin. “The timing of the molding is in the formulation, and in the way the spray is applied,” he describes. They experimented with spray guns, aerosol dispensers, portable cans, and jet sprays, and found that the containers varied in texture, and that the solution in the spray cans could be sprayed on any surface they wished to shape.” He went on to found Fabrican, the company that Coperni collaborated with on the “spray garments” for this season’s show.
To a certain extent, material innovation is based on emphasizing the luxury attributes of a brand and is used to redefine luxury, often by creating “understated glamour” out of expensive materials through meticulous craftsmanship. Just as Balenciaga used layers of organza and silk to make seemingly ordinary “feathers” in its couture collections, so Bottega Veneta, under Matthieu Blazy’s tenure, has embraced the idea of “transforming the mundane into the magical”. The “magic of the mundane” is also in evidence at Bottega Veneta since Matthieu Blazy took over: from fall/winter 2022 to early spring 2023, he has “polished” soft, printed nubuck into everyday, yet fake, traditional shirting styles and casual pants, with the deliberate intention of creating the illusion of accessibility from the expensive, multiply-processed materials. –The main aim is to redefine luxury today.
As a rule, the most important attribute of the luxury brands of the past was to show their value in a conspicuous way: it could be the ostentatious shapes, the bulky dresses with sparkling gold and silver embellishments, the stitches and threads with silent flair, but in the new century, which is characterized by pragmatism and (extravagant) understatement, all the overly ostentatious elements have been intentionally undermined, and as the everyday gradually replaces the decorative, the pieces have to return to their original form. As the everyday gradually replaces the decorative, and pieces are forced to return to austere silhouettes, the question of how to embody “luxury” is a challenge for every creator, which is where Gvasalia and Blazy come in with their fabrics and details, which they maintain and embody through the process of “polishing” the fabrics and materials. This is why Gvasalia and Blazy are so meticulous with their fabrics and details, maintaining and reflecting the luxury of the brand through the “polishing” of fabrics and materials.
On the other hand, smart materials are becoming the mainstay of innovative fabrics, once considered the “future of clothing technology”. The aim of this type of material innovation is to provide new functions that go beyond the “fashion attributes” that we categorize as functional, decorative, and identity marking, but smart materials are providing functions that go beyond that and are If we categorize “fashion attributes” as functionality, decoration, and identity, then smart materials are providing functions other than those mentioned above, and are constructing the future of fashion.
The use of smart materials can be traced back to the late 1990s when Philips and Levi’s launched a wearables program for the “New Nomads,” most notably the Levi’s ICD+ collection, which stands for Industrial Design Clothing. ICD+ stands for Industrial Design Clothing and includes jackets with voice-recognized cell phones and MP3 players that include microphones and built-in headphones in the collar. Polish fashion designer Iga Węglińska has launched a collection called Emotional Clothing, which features sensors that can be used to reflect changes in the wearer’s heart rate, body temperature, and galvanic skin response, which can cause changes in the lights designed into the fabric’s surface, which is made from a variety of materials such as neoprene, thermoplastic or polyurethane synthetic leather, leather with a high degree of adhesion to the skin and a high degree of adhesion to the skin. polyester or polyurethane synthetic leather, PLA plastic and other combinations of materials.
Such attempts are closer to the possibilities of “wearable tech” through the medium of fashion, as seen in the short-lived and enthusiastic wave of smart fashion following the launch of the Intel Curie mini-module by tech company Intel in 2015, when apparel brand Chromat embedded Intel Curie modules into smart sports underwear and smart dresses, which synchronized physiological data such as the wearer’s heart rate, pulse, and body temperature, and combined with the clothing’s memory alloys, adjusted the silhouette of the clothes to make them fit better, and a year later, at TOME’s Spring/Summer 2017 show, the leather bracelets and handbags that models wore were also equipped with Intel Curie modules. A year later at TOME’s spring/summer 2017 show, models wore leather bracelets and handbags also equipped with Intel Curie modules, which can detect harmful substances in the environment, temperature and atmospheric pressure in time to alert the wearer.
At the same show, Hussein Chalayan put Intel Curie into sensory glasses and a belt that reads and collects the wearer’s brainwave state, heartbeat, and respiration data from a variety of sensory elements, which are then processed by the belt and converted into a moving image that corresponds to the wearer’s emotional state – allowing the wearer to be completely in tune with their emotions. -The case of the wearer’s emotions being fully visualized seems to draw parallels with Węglińska’s “Emotional Clothing” six years later.

However, just as innovative materials are delivering endless freshness and vitality to the fashion world, and the buzz around them is helping them to gain traction, they still have many limitations that cannot be ignored. Take Jonathan Anderson’s “fur coats” for example, he admitted in a press interview that because of the long (at least twenty days) and special process required to produce the raw materials, “they will not be commercialized, they will just be installed in the stores with videos of the planting displays,” he said. We will only install videos of the planting demonstrations in our stores and sell the associated seed gift boxes”.
In the same way, whether it’s Hussein Chalayan’s technological fashions on the runways of the millennial era, or the whimsical ideas of his current successors in innovative fashion, there’s still the dilemma of how to mass-produce them, which is revealing a problem we have to face – there are still many challenges to be overcome if we want to use innovative materials in large quantities. There are still many challenges to be overcome, starting with the need for sufficient scale and a mature supply chain to keep things on track. Without effective mass production, the use of innovative materials on the runway is often a flash in the pan.
However, the fashion industry is indeed on the move. According to incomplete statistics, some brands will make long-term purchase commitments to support the research and development of innovative materials through minority equity investment or to support these companies, in addition to luxury brand giants to join the fray, but also to allow these emerging companies to get more opportunities, such as Kering Group will be through the opening of the “Kering Pioneer Award for Sustainable Innovation” awards to For example, Kering Group has created the “Kering Sustainable Innovation Pioneer Award” to encourage and fund Chinese start-ups that are advancing the sustainability of the value chain in the fashion boutique industry.
On the other hand, from the consumer’s perspective, there is also a long way to go to change the mindset from traditional materials to accepting and embracing new materials.
What we need to realize is that design led by technological innovation alone will bring us to adore and crave for the new and the future, but it will take more time to get used to it, and it’s not enough to get there fast.
What about the fashion world?


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