Textile design is one of those fields that seems like it never changes all that much. Wallpaper is wallpaper. A rug is a rug. Right?
Wrong. A new crop of tech-minded designers is adding futuristic spins on everything from carpets to clothes and more. The book Textile Visionaries: Innovation and Sustainability in Textile Design (Laurence King, 2013) rounds up some of today’s most innovative projects, including textiles that can detect heat in humans, change colors in response to electrical currents, and light up in the presence of a threat.
Some of the designs might be too weird to ever go mainstream–does anyone really want to wear a dress that looks like a shattered vase?–but the takeaway is clear: The textiles of tomorrow won’t just passively pretty up our environment; they’ll actively help shape it. Here’s a gallery of our 10 favorite projects.
Barbara Layne stitches clothes–like these jackets–with LEDs, so they can light up with words. “Stop staring” would be a good one.
For the Living Wall project, Leah Buechley embedded wallpaper with conducive paints. When people interact with the wallpaper, it lights up.
Engineer and artist Maggie Orth is the director of International Fashion Machines, a company specializing in electronic textiles. What you see here are rugs printed with heat-sensitive thermochromic ink. When electricity is run through them, they change from dark colors to light ones.
Personal Space Protector
Big on personal space? Perhaps you would be interested in this jacket, designed by Nancy Tilbury. Called the Spike Jacket, sensors inside detect when someone comes too close, then it starts flashing.
Carole Collet mixes science and textile manufacturing to create biology-inspired materials. The plant-like Bio Lace design here imagines what plants would look like if if they were genetically engineered to grow textiles.
Fast-Learning Robot Blocks
Hayes Ruffle creates materials that can “remember” movements, making them interactive. The Topobo robot is one example. You can, say, twist its legs and it’ll start walking.
Here’s another thermochromic ink project. Designer Kerri Wallace created a shirt that responds to body heat. Like a mood ring for your chest.
Dsign studio NunoErin added sensors and LEDs to felted wool, so it could detect conducive stuff. Know what’s conducive? People. Which means this is possible. There’s also, hilariously, a similar design done with a stool.