You might think that bespoke tailoring inhabits a rather old-fashioned, fuddy duddy world where respect for tradition and convention is more important than innovation and fashion. Well it’s true that I’ve posted several articles celebrating the traditions of the tailoring craft and fabrics made of natural materials. Fine tailoring tends to have a single objective – to make the person look and feel good and to reflect their status in professional or social circles. We’re stuck with certain given factors: two arms, two legs, a head, a torso. And it seems unlikely that this will change much in the near future. So there’s little room for radical innovation, certainly not in terms of shape, structure or form.
We’re used to fabrics which have many different properties – heat resistant, cold resistant, porous, impermeable, light, heavy, rigid, flexible, contour-hugging, loose. And of course man-made fibres have been around for almost a century already. But if you look at those, especially nylon, polyester, acrylic and polyolefin used in clothing textiles, their main purpose has been to imitate or improve on natural fibres. They weren’t invented to fulfil new functions.
On the other hand, the world of fashion has always had a weakness for the extravagant or the bizarre, such as garments made of glass, feathers, paper, or decorated with Swarovski crystals. Clothing materials can consist of almost anything, but the end result is still a piece of clothing – that’s all it does.
The best garments respond sensitively to movement and change of shape. And of course the secret of the tailor’s craft is to design garments which can anticipate many different postures and gestures using materials which will maintain a basic look no matter how contorted.
But recently I came across an article in The Economist and it made me realise that there could be a real open door to innovation after all. If textiles can respond to movement and manipulation why not also to other stimuli, such as changes in temperature, light levels – or sound? Why not a singing suit? The Economist report outlines some recent research by Dr. Yoel Fink and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have managed to create a fibre which can respond to acoustic or electrical waves, rather like a microphone or loudspeaker. Imagine a microphone in the shape of a length of thread.
The science is mind-bogglingly complex, but the idea is simple. Now we have the possibility of a textile which can not only respond to changes of shape and position, but which can ‘hear’ vibrations and sound waves. So far the fibres produced are rather too large to be able to weave into a wearable textile, but that’s only a matter of time. And the open doors? Imagine hosiery which could detect obstructions in blood flow in critical areas of the leg by ‘listening’ to the blood circulation, like a permanent stethoscope.
Sadly, TfW is not yet geared up to working with ‘intelligent’ textiles, but you can be sure that when they arrive, we’ll be the first to offer bespoke services with the intelligent fibres you can trust!