The Academics, Nonprofits, and Brands Creating A Textile Revolution

Of all the innovations disrupting fashion, technical textiles have to be one of the most exciting. Very soon, there will come a day where our clothing will be our phone, our doctor, our coach, our armor, our shower (gross, possibly; useful, definitely!) all in one.

Innovations in textiles are, at this point, seemingly unlimited and can range from materials that regulate body temperature to fibers that change colour to shoes that warn you of an impending injury. The latter is actually one of the latest examples that came out of a partnership program between MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). 

If there was ever a program to be jealous of as a fashion-tech fan, this is the one: a two-week course spent half the time at the MIT campus and the other half at FIT, with students from engineering, architecture, textile development, fashion design, and marketing. The program is run in collaboration with Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a non-profit group and a member of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Their mandate is to create a “manufacturing-based revolution” that involves “the transformation of traditional fibres, yarns, and textiles into highly sophisticated integrated and networked devices and systems.” 

FIT x MIT, MIT News, 2019

This year the students had a chance to create shoes for New Balance, with one team producing a sustainable (though-attractive-looking) lifestyle shoe, while the other creating a running shoe meant to help prevent injuries and reduce distractions. Between a combination of talks, workshops, and lab time, the students along with supporting profs employ a variety of experiments to lead them to the perfect materials and designs. While this isn’t the first example of technical textile innovation in academia, it’s one of the first programs incorporating all the necessary elements into a cohesive and interdisciplinary educational program.

Student from FIT and visiting students from MIT present projects from the Advanced Fibers and Fabrics workshop during presentation at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, FIT Newsroom, 2019.

If you’re still unsure of all that this textiles movement has to offer, just check out this list of SOME of the other things happening in this field:

Levi’s, Lifewire, 2019

With a program that also adds that touch of design and fashion to it, there’s no telling how far this industry will go towards solving some of our biggest challenges. For now, we can simply watch and learn, and maybe, join the revolution. 

Genevieve Wright
Genevieve Wright is a fashion-tech journalist focusing on the potential of tech in the field of sustainability. She’s the founder of genevievewright.com where she gets to explore this field through interviews with industry thought leaders, brand collaborations and event coverage, spanning both the fashion and tech worlds. She's written for Mercedes-Benz, Fairmont Hotels, Experience Magazine and Positive Luxury. You can follow her on Instagram @Genevieve.r.w and Twitter @Genevieve_RW.

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