Tech meets Fashion (Week)

As textile enthusiasts, our interest in fibres naturally does not cease after leaving Techtextil. Time and again, our interest in trends and developments attracts us to fairs and events that, at first glance, appear to have nothing to do with technical textiles. At the beginning of July, we were at the Berlin Fashion Week – and were amazed to see hybrids of ‘tech’ and ‘fashion’ parading past us among the hustle and bustle of labels and lifestyle. A new trend?

For example, there was Birgit Sophie Metzger, a Stuttgart-based designer who primarily creates and makes hats and accessories. After a brief chat about the latest headwear developments, during which we were able to impress the lady with our ‘expertise’ (yes, we admit, since ‘Sex and the City’, we know who Philip Treacy is), she revealed a very special creation: a hat made of spacer fabric (see photo above). ‘Hats off’, was our spontaneous reaction, because thanks to their optimum air circulation, these double-faced textiles with almost nothing in between are normally used in the automobile sector for seats and interior mouldings, as well as for medical and technical applications.

Birgit Sophie Metzger has five models of these hats in her current collection. The material comes from an English fabric manufacturer. Incidentally, the photo shows her wearing ‘Triangle’, her favourite hat that, she said, even turned heads in Berlin’s super-sophisticated Hotel Adlon. Moreover, hats made of technical textiles are ideal for taking on a journey because they survive being packed in a suitcase without creasing. And they are also machine washable. Then it was time to bid farewell to Birgit Sophie because we wanted to discover even more, for example, rhubarb leather.

Polygonaceae enter the world of fashion

Smartphone meets rhubarb: ‘Deepmello’ smartphone bag made of rhubarb leather

Mobile meets rhubarb:
‘Deepmello’ smartphone bag made of rhubarb leather

Dessert aficionados will soon see their stewed rhubarb in a new light because this member of the polygonaceae or knotweed / buckwheat family can do more than simply taste good: using an extract from its roots, it is now possible to tan leather with rhubarb. Behind this development is a team of researchers from Anhalt University who, at the Bernburg facility, analysed chemical compounds within the plant and developed the complex extraction process. The unequivocal advantage of the fashionable plant: rhubarb extract is completely natural and makes the use of chromium salts, the heavy metal normally used for tanning, superfluous. As a result, rhubarb leather is skin-friendly and even suitable for allergy sufferers.

Although the idea is simple, implementation is complicated: the final extraction process was preceded by no less than four years of intensive research. When the team first succeeded in obtaining an optimum extract from rhubarb roots in 2009, one of the team’s members, Dr Anne-Christin Bansleben, moved immediately into transfer mode in accordance with the principle, ‘from research into practice’. Together, the team and the food scientist, founded their own rhubarb-leather label, under which they produce garments, bags, shoes, accessories and even smartphone bags (see photo) in cooperation with several different designers.

Tech fashion. Teshion?

The transfer principle, i.e., the transference of known and innovative research knowledge into specific processes and products, also plays a decisive role in the field of textile research. And it appears to have resulted in an extremely functional hybrid of ‘tech’ and ‘fashion’. We asked Dr Markus Oberthür, Head of the ‘Supramolecular and Polymer Chemistry’ Working Group of the Northwest German Textile Research Centre in Krefeld, about this and he confirmed that more and more young designers were inquiring about ways in which to integrate active substances or fragrances into apparel via special carrier molecules. Indeed, the situation has evolved well beyond the inquiry stage with a number of projects between the institute and design students. One, for example, aims to abolish body odour permanently from outerwear through a special textile treatment.

We have been asking ourselves whether there is already a word for the combination of ‘tech’ and ‘fashion’. What about ‘teshion’? And would this mean that the ‘catwalk’ would soon be called the ‘techwalk’? Whatever, before we get carried away: all designers are cordially invited to imbibe inspiration for more exciting ‘tech-fashion hybrids’ at the coming Techtextil in May.

Ronny Eckert

Ronny Eckert

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