High-Tech Fashion

By Elizabeth K. Bye and Karen L. LaBat

High-tech fashion uses advances in science and technology to design and produce fashion products. Methods used in high-tech fashion borrow from technologies developed in the fields of chemistry, computer science, aerospace engineering, automotive engineering, architecture, industrial textiles, and competitive athletic wear. Fashion projects an image of rapid change and forward thinking-a good environment for use of the latest technologies in production methods and materials. As technology becomes more integrated with one's everyday life, its influence on the fashion one wears continues to increase.

Historic technological innovations such as the development of the sewing machine, the zipper, and synthetic fibers have influenced how garments are made, how they look, and how they perform. Elsa Schiaparelli was a noted designer of the 1930s and 1940s who had an eagerness to experiment with synthetic fibers. She introduced the first zipper to Paris couture. World events delayed advancements in techno fashions until the race for space began to influence designers in the 1960s. André Courrèges's use of bonded jersey, Paco Rabanne's experimentation with metal-linked garments, and Pierre Cardin's pioneering vacuum-formed fabrics began to push the boundaries of fashion through experimentation with technology and innovative materials. Plastics, foam-laminated fabrics, metallic-coated fabrics, and a sleek fashion silhouette launched fashion into a new realm.

Technological advances continue to influence fashion with new developments in materials, garment structuring and sizing, methods of production, and the quest for fashion that reflects the look and lifestyle of the future.

Techno materials include fibers, textiles, and textile finishes engineered for a specific function or appearance. The U.K. designer Sophia Lewis believes that "the greatest potential for the future lies in experimental fashion using advanced synthetics to promote new aesthetics and methods of garment construction" (Braddock and O'Mahony, 1999, p. 80). While most synthetics of the twentieth century were developed to mimic natural fibers, the new synthetics are engineered to be strong and durable even when lightweight, transparent, or elastic. Blending natural fibers with synthetics in new ways to produce "techno-naturals" is adding to the aesthetic and performance advantages of textiles.

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