As far as human expression goes, fibres and fabrics were one of the first forms to be explored in prehistoric times. At least that’s what Yoel Fink, director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, claims. Methods of textile production and treatment have more or less stayed the same throughout history. Now, Fink believes we are on the brink of a “fabric revolution,” and for good reason. He is a board member for Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), whose mission is to revolutionise traditional fibres, yarns and fabrics into practical devices and systems.
These functional fabrics elevate the status of fabric from mere fashion to items such as radiation detection clothing and fabrics that can see, hear and communicate.
Although fabrics are now benefiting from the development of new technologies, the tradition and craft of the object remains a seminal aspect of their production. Even in unconventional methods of textile manufacture, paying homage to the old with the new is an important aspect of innovation. One company called Orange Fiber is doing just that.
The Sicilian based duo, Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena, are re-evaluating a truly Sicilian industry, the citrus fruit. The region’s warm days and cool are perfect for growing oranges, lemons and limes, the harvesting of which produce around 700.000 tonnes of citrus by-product. This pastazzo (the technical term used by Italians for citrus waste) can be repurposed in several different ways, such as dried orange peels, but 700.000 tonnes still represents a lot of waste. Orange Fiber set out to repurpose this bountiful by-product by creating a sustainable textile from the cellulose fibres of pastazzo. The vitamin C from the orange peel textile may also have medical applications, including nourishing and healing skin.
Another company working in this realm, Sensitive Fabrics, creates textiles with features such as sunblock, chlorine resistance and body moisture systems.
These cosmetotextiles, dermotextiles and functional fabrics are beginning to see the light of day, opening up opportunities to not only facilitate a cyclical lifecycle of materials, but also to push human expression in beneficial and innovative directions.