Smart textiles: Where tech meets fashion

Smart textiles: Where tech meets fashion
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Have you seen the video of a digital dress which recently attracted so much attention on social media. Well, if not, then here is what you are missing out!
Adobe has revealed an awe-inspiring, interactive dress, and to showcase its high-tech marvel, they enlisted the creator herself, research scientist Christine Dierk, as the model. In a video debut, Dierk flaunts the seemingly ordinary strapless cocktail dress, which, with the press of a handheld remote, transforms into a mesmerising display of shifting patterns reminiscent of a sci-fi fashion extravaganza.
Developed as part of Adobe's "Project Primrose" initiative, this avant-garde "digital dress," as Dierk described it at Adobe's MAX conference, is designed to "bring fabric to life." The seemingly ordinary sequins are, in fact, "reflective light-diffuser modules," utilising reflective-backed polymer-dispersed liquid crystals (PDLC) commonly found in smart lighting. Essentially, each sequin doubles as a tiny screen, creating a wearable piece of interactive art. While the specifics of this particular garment are yet to be disclosed, Dierk and her co-researchers previously detailed the innovative technology behind smaller Project Primrose creations, such as a handbag and canvas, in a presentation at a tech conference last year.
This is an example of smart textile - a digital dress which changes forms!
The integration of technology into fashion is not a new concept, but smart textiles take it to a whole new level. Wearable technology has become a ubiquitous part of our lives, from fitness trackers to smartwatches. Smart textiles seamlessly merge technology with clothing, eliminating the need for external devices and offering a more integrated and aesthetic solution.
Designers are now experimenting with smart fabrics to create garments that not only look stylish but also serve a functional purpose. From dresses that light up in response to music to jackets with built-in navigation systems, the marriage of fashion and technology is creating a new genre of clothing that is both practical and visually stunning.

What are smart textiles?

Smart textiles, also known as e-textiles or smart fabrics, refer to materials that incorporate electronic components and technology to provide added functionality beyond traditional textiles. These textiles are designed to be interactive, responsive, and sometimes adaptive to changes in the environment or user inputs. The integration of technology into fabrics opens up a wide range of possibilities for various industries, including fashion, healthcare, sports, and more.

Scope of smart textile

The scope of this book is focused on smart textiles that are classified according to their main fields of application: (1) medical, (2) transportation and energy and (3) protection, security communication and textile electronics.
The smart textiles industry has been witnessing significant growth over the past years, mainly owing to the advancement and implementation of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) in smart textiles and expanding wearable electronics which is expected to grow in the coming years.
New smart apparel is being manufactured integrated with AI, bluetooth low energy, edge computing, and cloud data, which can monitor and communicated the weaver’s information, including blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration, and temperature. AI can access and collect historical and real time operational data and provide insights, which can enhance the wearer’s efficiency.
The use of Ai has enabled the production of smart apparel that leverage IoT and electronic sensors to create an excellent user experience providing a more health focus experience.


  • Lack of standards and regulations. The production of smart textile can pose serious environmental and health hazards. Textile industry operations such as dyeing, printing etc.
  • High manufacturing costs
  • Data and privacy concerns
  • Competing technologies

Types and applications of smart textiles in fashion design

Passive and active smart textiles
Passive - Passive smart textiles are those that have functionality beyond that of a traditional woven textile. However, let it be known that passive textiles generally do not adapt as a result of the information they sense. In other words, the textile is not altered when environmental conditions change. Take for example, a cooling fabric that can help to regulate your temperature; but it does not actively provide coolness. The fabric simply helps you to evaporate liquid more quickly due to the construction of the textile. The same goes for apparel and other goods with UV protective, antimicrobial, and conductive/anti-static nanotechnologies.
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  • UV protective - Passive elements, such as optical brighteners and UV absorbers, are added to fibers to create sun-protective properties. When used in combination with other technical components, these materials can be very effective at preventing skin damage and other related conditions that are the result of sun exposure.
  • Antimicrobial - Antimicrobial composite coatings are a popular commodity in the textile industry, especially in the manufacturing of activewear. These coatings are effective in preventing the growth of bacteria that is produced from perspiration. While these coatings may be saving your clothes, they are certainly not saving the planet. One would think that the chemicals in the coatings are a concern, but the problem actually lies in the disposal of these textiles.
Active - Active smart textiles are those that adapt and change their functionality in response to changes in the external environment or in response to a user  input. These materials may change shape, store and regulate heat, and be applied to a wide range of flexible applications.
  • Thermoregulation - Among the most common applications of active textiles is in outerwear; specifically, wearables that regulate the body’s temperature. For example, a heat producing jacket for providing a subtle, yet comfortable climate for the wearer. This is a particularly exciting development, as this technology could one day be used to help the elderly and those with medical conditions stay warm (and, for a relatively affordable price).
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  • Seat sensing and heating - The automotive industry is, perhaps, the largest to implement active smart textiles. There are several concepts currently in the development process, but one that stands out most is the ability to distinguish a car’s driver by their size and weight through pressure sensors. However, one application that several of the world’s largest car manufacturers (and consumers alike) are particularly fond of is heated seats. Yes, that wonderful setting that warms your soul after shoveling out your car is a product of smart textiles!
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