Textiles of the Future
You can’t have fashion without textiles; fabrics of every shape, colour, texture, and material. As science and technology improve, fabric doesn’t have to stay within the traditional bounds anymore. Beyond denim and cotton, let’s expand our imaginations of what a fabric can even be! As the world looks to Japan for innovations of the future – both part of the west’s fascination with Techno-Orientalism and by its own industries’ merits – here are some textiles of the future that seem straight out of a science fiction movie!
Wearable Solar Cells
After a busy day checking out fashion shows, the last thing you need is for your phone to die! But if you were wearing a fit made from solar-cell fabric, all you need to do is stick it into your pocket to charge. Developed in 2012 in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, this futuristic fabric is made of a thin weave of tiny wafer-like solar cells that use the sun’s power to generate energy. The exciting part is that it represents more than just clothing – it is a part of a sustainable energy movement. Although still in development for commercialization (just needs to be a bit more durable!) solar cell researchers are already contracted to create more.
“[Clients] come to us for materials with properties that simply don’t exist anywhere else,” says Amaike Mototsugu. Amaike’s past projects included titanium coating and netting fibres. When originally requested to come up with shielding for plasma television, Amaike came back with even more – inventing the lightest fabric in the world. Standard organza is light, translucent fabric with a subtle shimmer. But Amaike’s Super Organza has threads five times thinner than human hair, it’s positively ethereal! Subtly shimmery, it trails gently over the wearer like watercolour brought to life. At a weight of just five grams per metre, it’s so light the wearer never even feels it. Super Organza is made from an unexpected combination of silk and steel, yet tests the limits of textile imagination. It’s the superman of fabrics!
Wooden Yarn Fabric
Become one with the forest with Washino Nuno’s Mokuito fabric, a fabric specially woven from tree fibres. It all starts with raw wood, straight from the forests of Osaka. Using mostly Cedar and Cypress trees, Nuno’s company recycles trees cleared by the Government Forest Agency in order to maintain the forest’s health, and prevent landslides. If it weren’t for Mokuito, those wood chips might have gone to waste. Instead, Nuno turns them into a light hemp-like textile that can be both crocheted into hats, or weaved into crisp button downs. Next, the company hopes to begin working in vegetable dyes, continuing their sustainable initiative.
Japan levies itself up to take the reins in athleisure technology. Many are already familiar with Uniqlo’s Airism technology, known for light and comfortable sportswear. But what if you could take that, and make it even more high tech? Pieclex Co. is the collaboration between two leading textile companies, working to spread piezoelectric fabric to a wider audience. The name “Piezoelectric” comes from the fabric’s ability to generate electricity through movement, such as when it’s stretched or moved with the wearer, even having antimicrobial properties that decomposes sweat – natural deodorant. With this versatility, this fabric can be used beyond athleisure into innerwear, antibacterial sanitation, and more!
The Science of Nishijin-Ori
To Masataka Hoosoo, connecting to your roots is essential. With HOOSOO Studies, a small-family run textile manufacturer and research project based in Kyoto, he seeks to explore the connection between 6th century fabrics and 21st century technology. Hoosoo is the 12th generation of his family to continue creating kimono fabrics (nishijin-ori)! In his small atelier of 14 artisans, each mastering one step of the complex production process, some are even recognized as Japanese Living National Treasures. However, his family’s long history doesn’t stop him from innovating, whether by researching computer-generated crystal weaving, or incorporating nishijin-ori into lifestyle products beyond kimonos. To Hoosoo, fabric and beauty will always be relevant.
Others might devote their craft to specialising in one masterful textile, but you can have it all with Yuima Nakazato’s work. Going plant-based and recycled, his pieces are an array of organic cotton, hand-dyed indigo lace (aizome). His take on traditional Japanese kimono fabric (nishijin-ori) is inspired by the structure of spider silk, but even if you’re arachnophobic it’s no problem! Instead he uses ‘Brewed Protein’ plant-based fibres, made out of sugarcane and corn starches. With this original technology, Nakazato’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection “Blue” showcased the possibilities of “Biosmocking”, with its mesmerising drapery and natural colours. As Nakazato puts it, “fusing innovation with tradition”.
From fabric inspired by spider-silk, to fabric lighter than air, we’ve explored what the possibilities of futuristic fabric are like! Here, fashion, industry, and technology overlap. One person’s new sustainable energy source can be another person’s artistic vision. What would you create from these fabrics? Let us know what you’d wear!
Written by Selina.