AHEAD OF THE NEXT TEX INNOVATIONS SHOWCASE AT MUNICH FABRIC START, WE SAT DOWN WITH SOURCEBOOK CEO MARTE HENTSCHEL TO UNPICK THE FUTURE OF THE FASHION AND TEXTILE INDUSTRIES.
Looking at the bigger picture: Industry 4.0 – aka the fourth industrial or digital revolution (named after the German government project promoting the computerisation of manufacturing) – how are new technologies transforming fashion production?
Industry 4.0 has brought automated custom production to our desktops – both virtually and physically. Using design software that connects to increasingly compact and affordable 3D printing or knitting machines, we can become our own micro-factories, creating unique one-off pieces at the touch of a button. Prototyping can even be done through augmented and virtual reality technologies, saving on material, production and labour costs, and if you’re working with factories overseas, then digital design data can also eliminate the need for samples and tech packs.
How do you think this will affect the industry in the long and short term?
For the industry overall these production technologies mean shorter lead times, increased energy efficiency and transparency along the production line, less resources going to waste, cutting down on cheap labour and excess stock. Looking to the future, the possibility of a fully automated, AI takeover could perhaps ignite a universal Neo-Luddite rebellion(!)
Before we start bowing down to our robot overlords, how are typical Industry 4.0 systems such as IoT (internet of things), big data and cloud computing currently being used to transform the fashion landscape?
HTW’s proto:n research lab brings the university’s game, industrial and fashion design programmes together to unlock the possibilities of wearables and IoT, which could transform the way we shop, while software developer Triple Tree Solutions ensure that workers are treated ethically via their cloud-based quality monitoring systems providing real-time audit and data analysis from textile manufacturers around the globe. Technologies that enable transparency like blockchain-powered smart tags can also empower the end customer by providing insights into their purchases – such as product provenance and manufacturing conditions – allowing them to make more informed buying decisions.
What other exciting manufacturing trends are emerging in the industry?
Biotechnology is playing a growing role in textile innovations, for instance MycoTex by NEFFA is cultivating entire garments made from mushroom mycelium: the root network of fungi. The 100% biodegradable lab-grown material doesn’t require farmland, chemicals or pesticides, isn’t affected by the seasons, uses little water, and can simply be dropped in the compost bin after wearing. MycoTex can even be combined with 3D modelling processes to produce seamless, custom-fit clothing. Other eco-smart textile processes such as ozone washes, UV and ultrasonic dyeing – as utilised by Expert Fibres’ IndiDye – not only achieve a new level of colour fastness but significantly cut down on water and chemical usage too.
Finally, what else shouldn’t be missed at Next Tex?
Well, the ZSK Functional Sequin Device machine will be hard to miss as it will be “performing live” – embroidering sewn circuits and LED lights onto textiles with the help of Madeira’s Highly Conductive (HC) threads, made from Statex silver fibres. Soft circuits release tech from its usual hard casing, turning the fabric itself into electronic hardware, making for a truly wearable computer that maintains the flexible, drapable, and even washable characteristics of cloth – something that all three of our Next Tex Innovator Winners utilize in their fashion tech garments. We also have a series of talks, workshops and a Press Lounge in collaboration with FashNerd.com where we will deep dive into future topics one-on-one with Next Tex and Keyhouse exhibitors – certainly not to be missed!
Go to the Next Tex Programme for the complete list of exhibitors and speakers along with the full activities schedule.