Interactive Electronic Fabrics Could Create New Fashion, Change Color and Shape With Movement

First Posted: Apr 17, 2013 12:17 PM EDT

If you're looking for the latest fashion trend, check out these latest fashions, with a little help from science.

New research from Concordia University brings computerized fabrics that actually change their shape and color in response to movement.

Professor and chair of the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia, Joanna Berzowska, has developed interactive electronic fabrics that harness power directly from the human body, store that same energy and then use it to change the garments' visual properties.

"Our goal is to create garments that can transform in complex and surprising ways - far beyond reversible jackets, or shirts that change colour in response to heat. That's why the project is called Karma Chameleon," Berzowska said.

The major innovation of this research project is the ability to embed these electronic or computer functions within the fibre itself: rather than being attached to the textile, the electronic components are woven into these new composite fibres. The fibres consist of multiple layers of polymers, which, when stretched and drawn out to a small diameter, begin to interact with each other. The fabric, produced in collaboration with the École Polytechnique's Maksim Skorobogatiy, represent a significant advance in the development of "smart textiles."

At this time, though it may not be possible to manufacture clothing with new composite fibres, Berzowska worked with fashion designers to make conceptual prototypes that help us understand what the clothing would look like and how it would be in action.

 "We won't see such garments in stores for another 20 or 30 years, but the practical and creative possibilities are exciting," Berzowsk said.

These type of fashions raise questions about human behavior. Just like a mood ring apparently changes colors with different moods, what would it mean to wear clothing that changed according to the same sentiments and would people really want that?

Berzowska said she will explore these questions and others further and present her findings at the Smart Fabrics 2013 conference week in San Francisco. She has also written an article detailing her research for The Fashion Studies Handbook, forthcoming from Berg Publishers. An exhibit, to be held at the PHI Centre in the next year, will give the public an opportunity to learn about her research, and to enter the imaginative space produced by her futuristic fabrics and clothing.

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