Widely adopted by various industries and predicted to be worth $130 billion by 2025, the textiles industry is evolving. It is becoming smarter, thanks to technology. Innovation has introduced us to tech wonders like, fabric that can protect us in ways we never imagined, new materials that can be grown in labs and sustainable ways of creating materials using our waste.
Currently, the conversation centred around how new fabric technologies is slowly but surely affecting apparel manufacturing, and it’s reinventing the textile industry. Although quite a few startups are paving the way in the smart textiles space, there are a few innovators that stand out, here are five women bringing change to the textile industry.
Millennial, Regina Polanco, is the founder of Spain-based Pyrates. Bringing functionality sportswear to the mainstream since 2014, Polanco set up Pyrates with the goal to find a fashion solution to health and environmental challenges. She has managed to do this by bringing to market a range of nature-derived smart fabrics that she called Pyratex. The performance streetwear brand has become an expert on the future of smart textiles and the growing emphasis on functionality in sportswear.
Victoria Geaney is a conceptual and interdisciplinary fashion designer who examines the intersections between the worlds of fashion, art, science and technology. Embracing emerging bio-design, Geaney’s practice-led research theorizes the production of multidisciplinary work merging synthetic biology and fashion.
Bringing bioluminescent bacteria to fabrics, Geaney created a dress that has photobacterium, which means that it is capable of glowing for 72 hours after application. Geaney’s previous work includes pieces formed from a self-cleaning nanotechnology fabric for the Women in Science, Engineering and Technology exhibition at Imperial.
Pauline Guesné is the co-founder of INDUO®. It is a French startup that has been busy introducing high-end shirting material to the market. Both repellent and breathable, the cotton fabric is resistant to stains and sweat. “It prevents underarm rings and the odours often associated with them,” confirmed Guesné when I last saw her. The natural cotton fabric has been manufactured with patented technology. Although the material brags unique properties, they amazingly do not change the feel of the fabric; it is still soft to the touch.
Enrica Arena has been making waves alongside her partner Adriana Santanocito with their innovation- a fabric created using orange waste. The sustainable material was driven by the fact that in Sicily, the citrus industry waste amounts to about 700 million tonnes. A shocking truth that spurred the duo to find a way of spinning the cellulose to extract all the fibres that are discarded from the pressing and processing of oranges. Thanks to nanotechnology, the citrus fruit essential oil are then encapsulated and fixed to the fabric. The material obtained is also able to leave the skin soft, not greasy.
In the last few years, Aniela Hoitink has been making her mark with a fully biodegradable textile made from mushroom mycelium. With an extensive background in the commercial fashion industry (15+ years; Tommy Hilfiger, Gaastra), Hoitink has been busy translating (bio) technology into a marketable, easily manufactured, fabric. Exploring the possibilities of technology while making textile organic and alive, her most well known project is MycoTex. It was based on fully biodegradable textile made from mushroom mycelium which she believes could create textiles that are much more alive. The founder of NEFFA is currently helping companies, research institutes and universities with the integration of their (bio) technology into textile prototypes and designs to make them more appealing for a specific target group or a wider audience.