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Connected Threads – Fabric Technology and Workwear

09 March 2018

E-textiles open up an exciting future for Corporate Uniform Design

Smart fabrics was one of the biggest talking points at the recent Paris Fabric shows – Premiere Vision and TexWorld. The upcoming WEAR 2018 conference in New York will also focus on emerging trends in smart fabrics and wearable tech. While these areas are still quite new, they present opportunities for uniform design in the near future. These are exciting times. Let’s take a look at some of the latest developments.

An Invisibility Cloak for the Military?

The military have led the way in the smart textiles market, developing technology built into uniforms that includes sensors, energy harvesting, heating, luminescence, protection and mobility as well as healing. We’re talking about fabrics that can potentially turn soldiers invisible, adjust the temperature levels in clothing, contain antimicrobials and healing agents, all kinds of tracking functionality for position, movement and health, and garments with integrated, hands-free communication devices. All fitted within the uniforms, improving the survivability, agility and mobility of soldiers in the field.

Uniforms to Make You Fitter and Faster

Outside of the military, it’s the fitness, sports and healthcare sectors that are driving revolutionary progress in wearable tech, bringing together function, form and fashion. As medical and health devices get smaller, thinner, more portable and even printable, there’s more scope for incorporating them into clothing. But it’s in the textiles themselves that real strides are being made.

Heated Jackets for Winter Olympians

At the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the US team showcased their new official Ralph Lauren-designed parka that contained a unique heating component. Made from electronic printed conductive inks, this heating system was printed onto the interior of the jacket in the shape of an American flag in carbon and silver ink. The inks are flexible and stretchable and connect to a battery pack.


Healthcare Uniforms that Cut Infection Rates

Soon, healthcare professionals could be wearing uniforms that reduce the spread of infections. Like silver and gold, copper is a metal with antimicrobial properties, just more cost-effective. Researchers have recently discovered a process called ‘Polymer Surface Grafting’ that binds copper nanoparticles to cotton and polyester, giving the fabrics good washable properties and durability. Innovations like this could lead to the mass manufacturing of copper-coated, antibacterial uniforms in healthcare and beyond.

Smart Fabrics and the Workwear Sector

So what, if anything, does this mean for the corporate uniform and workwear sector? While it all seems a long way off, businesses will increasingly start looking towards smart uniforms as a means to improving occupational safety, personal protection, health and the comfort of their employees. Garments that can auto adjust heat to the outside temperature, a shirt that can sense and remind sedentary workers to correct their posture, a beauty uniform designed to reduce the spread of bacterial and viral infections, a jacket that senses when a driver is tired and can vibrate to wake them up – are all possibilities.

What will it take for this to be used in mass production? Firstly, for there to be demand, it will require wearable tech to be seamlessly and easily integrated into garments. Much of the tech should be imperceptible for the wearer and the garment must be comfortable. Interaction with the tech should be intuitive, accessible and convenient. Garments need to be durable and easy to wash and care for.

In terms of manufacturing, production costs will need to come down significantly. Manufacturing practices need to be compatible with existing operations. Designers and suppliers need to be convinced by the efficiency and wearability of conductive yarns and fabrics, for instance colour fastness and washing durability. And one very important aspect will be meeting existing standards and regulations or establishing new ones.

Smart Garments Coming Soon to the Workplace?

Smart garments are still in their infancy. We have seen designers embed RFID tags and NFC chips into clothing as brands use it to interact with their customers, However, with more designers experimenting with and adopting smart fabrics like Iris van Herpen, Ralph Lauren, CuteCircuit and Wearable Solar, and a growing demand for smart clothing from a generation of millenials and younger consumers with expectations of tech-infused lifestyle choices, it won’t be long before we start seeing this as commonplace both in staff uniforms and on the high street.

In the meantime, conventional fabrics have evolved significantly. Bespoke corporate uniform designers like JSD work with companies to identify the best fit fabrics to suit your uniform needs. Whether it’s high vis, breathable, wickable, lightweight, natural fibres or opacity of the fabric, it can be incorporated into your uniform design.

We’re always happy to discuss your needs and will research the latest technologies and fabrics to make sure your workwear not only helps build your brand and represent your company professionally, but also makes sure your staff are happy to wear their uniform and that it does all it can to help make their lives easier and more comfortable. Do get in touch if you have an idea, however futuristic, that you would like us to look into.


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