Design for fashion’s future is being flipped on its well-coifed head with the introduction of innovative new yarns and textiles. In addition to these new materials, being made from a number of sources including fermented yeast, mycelium and regenerative fibers, fibers are also being developed that can capture biometric data, deliver active ingredients, react to changes in the environment, and even turn textiles into interactive surfaces.
These new materials have incredible potential to transform the function of fabrics and make our lives healthier, safer and more productive and the Pratt Institute Brooklyn Fashion+Design Accelerator is committed to the design and manufacturing of responsible technology. The BF+DA is member of AFFOA (Advanced Functional Fabric of America) a national network of research institutions, industry and manufacturers committed to advancing the role of the US in this emerging sector.The unique nature of the BF+DA being able to design and manufacture in the same space makes supporting it very attractive to businesses and universities who might not have access to production and materials.
TEK-TILES team member Pedro Galvao Cesar de Oliveira says in most cases wearable tech solutions are designed in a silo, far removed from the development or manufacturing facilities where they will be produced.
TEK-TILES team member Pedro Galvao Cesar de Oliveira in a recent BF+DA presentation
“This creates an obstacle for both the designers and manufacturers once R&D is complete and ready to be handed off making the entire process much longer and more expensive, which can be very frustrating for both parties. Designing the materials and products inside the prototyping facility, using the same expertise and machines that will eventually be used for manufacturing, removes the hurdles that would otherwise be inherent in a segregated situation. Another benefit of doing both in the same space is the education it provides to both the design team – in our case the Masterminds – and the production facility, who are able to communicate throughout the design process and problem solve along the way rather than after the fact,” says de Oliveira.
As part of the three year, federally funded, TEK-TILES project, a new cohort of 17 “masterminds” from eight universities are working alongside the BF+DA’s Apparel Production team to invent products that integrate technology into smart garments and functional textiles. The BF+DA is connecting the power of design with the power of manufacturing in one space. Surrounding creative-tech innovators with production equipment to realize a scalable product is an idea many are watching nationwide, and they should be.
TEK-TILES team members Carly Kvietok and Joshe Ordonez
TEK-TILES team member Courtney Lee, senior at N.C. State University’s College of Textiles says being in one space with team members hailing from different design perspectives has helped with her own creative process.
“The BF+DA is such a great space for prototyping and moving along the creative process. It helps give us real life applications to manufacturing,” says Lee.
Designers seeing and being part of the manufacturing process was once the norm in NYC. But grim statistics show that New York City’s garment manufacturing industry has lost 95 percent of its workforce since its peak in 1950. In fact, the WSJ notes that of the 9 million square feet of space within the 1987 zoning regulation’s boundaries in NYC, only 700,000 to 900,000 square feet is being used for manufacturing today. Much of New York’s manufacturing base has already shifted to Brooklyn where fashion and tech in places like the BF+DA are beginning to thrive and get investment. But it’s not only the buzz words of tech and textiles that have people paying attention to these materials to manufacture, it’s the add-on of sustainability that is unique.
TEK-TILES team member Keanan Pucci is currently a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts., majoring in Game Design
For responsible design to matter, the TEK-TILES team is being asked to answer bigger questions designers don’t typically factor in such as: what is the compelling problem their garment will address, how will this product improve lives and what kind of labor and industrial waste will this product create, does this product exclude or include people. With a team made up of designers, engineers, social scientists, computer scientists and gamers, this is a whole new way of looking at apparel design.
TEK-TILES team member Carly Kvietok is a senior at N.C. State University’s College of Textiles pursuing a B.S. in Fashion & Textile Design
In a traditional fashion manufacturing setting where textile waste is accumulating at a rate of twenty-seven billion pounds of textiles landfilled just in the U.S. every year, the opportunity to ask deeper questions about manufacture is prime.
While the BF+DA Technology Lab (t.LAB) will provide the BF+DA’s 17 Masterminds workspace and access to advanced production facilities for the design and manufacturing of smart garments and functional textiles, it is up to them to think outside the box and to inform the team what they think the future might be.
All images and audio from TEK-TILES team member Chloe Falkenheim