If you've been following along on social media, you may be aware that I went to a number of seminars recently, including several on textiles technology + sustainability. The best thing to come out of these seminars is the knowledge that 'technical textiles' are no longer just for big name brands + that smaller labels can buy into this as well. Not only are sustainable and/or organic textiles becoming more + more available, but also fabrics with special features or properties that add extra benifits + value for your customers are now in the marketplace. These are a great way to promote your product + give you a point of difference when trying to pitch your designs to bloggers + media outlets. So what are 'technical textiles' exactly?
A technical textile is a textile product that has been manufactured to give functionality, rather than being purely aesthetics based (that's not to say that they can't be nice to look at!). Some general examples would be things like;
- Heat protective fabrics that are used for fire fighters uniforms
- Medical uses such as implants
- Car parts (did you know that textiles are used to make up the body of cars?)
- Protective fabrics used for things like bullet proof vests + spacesuits
These are very specific properties used by various industries to solve a problem, or at least improve it. The fashion industry is very much about the visual aspect + there hasn't been much use of technical textiles, certainly not in the mainstream. But, there are a lot of properties that you can consider + you may have seen starting to pop up at other labels;
- Stain resistant
- Anti bacterial
- Flame resistant
- UV protection
- Moisture wicking
These types of fabrics are known as 'Nano fabrics', which basically means that the fabric has been engineered with small particles that provide particular benefits. This is high tech development - for a fibre to be classes as a nano fibre it has to have a width of less than 1000 nanometers!
So, what can you do as a small business owner to take advantage of these developments in textiles technology? The good news is that you don't have to spend a fortunate developing your own fabrics. Fabric development is really pricey, so the better option is to work with manufacturers who are already creating fabric with these properties. What you're doing essentially is letting someone else pay for all of the development + you just buy the end product (the fabric) from them. Sure, this means that you'll be a little behind companies like Nike, because they will have the technology first, but as long as you keep up to date with what the textile mills are creating, there's no reason why you can't be ahead of your competitors. For example, you may know that I work with a lot of swimwear companies, many of whom do competitor research (as they should + so should everyone!). A lot of brands out there don't offer any special features in their fabric, which I find crazy! There's so many great swimwear fabrics out there that are open to small minimums. Think of how great it would be to tell your customers (+ the press) that your fabric offers UV protection, or it's recycled from old fishing nets that are harmful to wildlife, or it's fade resistant + won't be damaged by chlorine? How much perceived value do you think that would add for your customer? + the best part is, these fabrics aren't crazy expensive, as you probably thought they would be!
Let's look at some other examples, from the sustainability side. Did you know that currently fabrics are being made from;
- Orange peel (the leftovers from making orange juice)
- Old fishing nets
- Cow poop (yes, really!)
- Sea kelp
- Pre industrial waste
The exciting thing is that all of the above are either sustainable, or using recycled materials, which really minimises the environmental impact of apparel production + they are all available in the market place. They also have great performance + handful - you wouldn't recognise the source of the fibres at all! In fact, I have a lot of the swatches at the office + find many of them to be better than 'conventional' fabrics.
I hope this article has opened your mind up to the possibilities + opportunities created by advancements in technical textiles. More posts like this are planned, if you're interested to learn more you can sign up to the mailing list below to receive occasional updates on new posts + you'll also get access to my free resource library (full of free downloads to help your fashion business).
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