Cover: Clothtech (Source: Bleed)

Techtextil set to show us a “fashionating future”

It was the US American science-fiction writer William Gibson who said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”. With its trends, innovations and stimulating ideas for the fashionwear of tomorrow, the upcoming Techtextil will make its contribution to proving this wrong, at least as far as the textile and apparel industries are concerned.

Did the construction of a new logistics centre cause the insolvency problems of the Gerry Weber fashion house? That, at least, is what the founder of the company, Gerhard Weber told the news magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ at the end of February, with regard to the new building. “It was the crucial factor in our getting into difficulties,” – as he was quoted as saying in the magazine. The fact that an international fashion company, with an annual turnover of € 881 million (2016/17 financial year), can lose the economic reins because of the construction of a new warehouse is, for Joachim Rees, not without a certain symbolic significance for the current changes in the textile and apparel industries as a whole.

“The insolvency of Gerry Weber was no great shock and the problems that Esprit and Tom Tailor are experiencing don’t surprise me either,” says the Managing Director of Multi-Plot Europe GmbH, suppliers of digital (textile) printing systems. Rees sees the causes in a variety of factors: fast fashion, the constant desire for innovation, changed purchasing behaviours and a desire to hang on to outdated (logistics) structures. “The sector is in transition,” he says.

Materials Mecca and platform for new product ideas

Above all, it is major trends like sustainability, digitalisation and individualisation that are radically weaving signs of change into the fabric of the textile and apparel industries. Whilst few other sectors are as dependent on change as this one, many are wondering what the future will look like for fashionwear. Techtextil seeks to give answers to this question, for “Innovations don’t begin with the final product, but with the materials, the machinery and plant, processes and procedures”, says Dominik Fuss. He has worked for brands like Vaudé and Zimtstern and helped the Bluesign quality mark for environmentally friendly production processes such as dyeing, printing and coating to gain wider public awareness. One thing is clear to Fuss: the future of the fashion industry, too, begins at Techtextil, as it is this trade fair that brings together all the players in the value creation chain for textiles. “It is a Mecca for materials and a platform for new product ideas,” says Fuss, who is currently working with Greenpeace on the development of fabrics made with fibres from renewable sources.

Micro-factories demonstrate macro-trends

One of the most important questions of our time is how we respond to our customers’ changing (online) shopping behaviours. Up until now, fashion ideas have always begun with the product. Nowadays, however, the focus is increasingly on the consumers, with their rapidly changing requirements and wishes that are difficult to predict in advance. Yet fashionwear of the kind involved in a ‘pay by piece’ and ‘fashion on demand’ approach, where production does not take place until after the order has been placed, demands a ‘smarter’ production style. What such a modernised (and digital) value creation chain might look like will be demonstrated in Frankfurt with five micro-factories covering areas such as customising, sustainability, production management and robot-aided manufacture.

The ‘Smart Textiles Micro-Factory’ (Exhibition Halls 4.1/5.1), which is being set up by the Institute for Textile Technology at the RWTH University in Aachen, together with partners from industry and research institutions, is a world first. It is set to demonstrate that it is now possible to mass-produce intelligent textiles, which involve the integration of fabric and electronics, thanks to the latest machine technology, automation and digitalisation. And it is no accident that smart textiles are playing a major role in the planning for the fashionwear of the future: according to a study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and conducted by the Centre for European Economic Research, market volume worldwide is set to grow to almost five billion euros worth by 2022. For Germany alone, intelligent textiles are predicted to represent potential sales of € 4.2 billion by 2030.

Inspiration, innovation and stimulation

“Techtextil offers an opportunity to acquire up-to-date knowledge of the background relating to textile materials, machines, processes and products”, says Michael Jänecke, Director Brand Management Technical Textiles & Textile Processing at Messe Frankfurt. Insight into the various manufacturing and processing stages of apparel and into the variety of textile materials and their possible applications helps, he suggests, to understand how clothing can be produced both efficiently and in environmentally friendly ways. “The trade fair provides inspiration, innovation and stimulation for designers, product developers, wholesalers and retailers alike”, adds Jänecke. +++

Photo: bleed clothing GmbH

Ronny Eckert

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