Anything goes, as they say, in the world of fashion. >
And in this stressful modern age, people from all walks of life need to be prepared for any contingency, be it extreme weather conditions or just the daily grind of life.
In that sense, a fashion evolution, seemingly buoyed by a change in the way consumers -think clothes- is taking place.
The clothing industry is bringing high technology to fashion.
In a nutshell, fashionable, tech-inspired, feel-good gear is cropping up everywhere. The clothing is designed to keep the wearer warm and smelling fresh.
EVEN A DISASTER CAN PROVIDE INSPIRATION
Japanese fashion guru Issey Miyake leaves no stone unturned in his quest to find the right material. At the same time, he pays sharp attention to the environment. The theme for his fall-winter 2013/2014 menswear collection was -WINTER WISDOM & MOBILITY,- a line of menswear aimed at keeping the wearer warm on the most bitter and windy days.
Issey Miyake’s thermals retain heat, but are not bulky. His clothes are airy and light, and offer mobility.
His signature material is called -Extreme Film.- It is flimsy and light, just like foil. It was inspired by the emergency blankets used at disaster sites. Miyake worked the material into a sporty, urban outfit with heat retaining qualities comparable to five or six blankets.
Emergency blankets made from aluminum were originally developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for space suits. Miyake made it his own by laminating the material with film. The seams are sealed with special tape to keep out cold air. A full length coat weighs only 500 grams or so.
An insider at Miyake’s studio explained that the world-famous designer strives to -combine cutting-edge technology with traditional wisdom to create clothes for modern people who live in tough, extreme environments.-
Besides the Extreme Film line, Miyake also created a lightweight jacket made from an unusual homespun blend woven from nylon and -washi- Japanese paper. Miyake made use of Japanese ancestral artisanship such as -sakiori,- a traditional method of weaving using strips of old fabric, and -sashiko,- a stitching technique traditionally used to reinforce and patch up tears and wear. Miyake managed to bring back Japanese crafts with a modern take.
Items from the new line go on sale from early July.
SPACE-AGE MATERIALS FOR PRACTICAL USE
Textile manufacturer Seiren Co. came up with -Deoest,- a brand of deodorizing underwear to help beat the heat during the notoriously muggy Japanese summers. In May, the company launched five Deoest items, including camisoles and leggings for women, and underwear for men. The items each cost around 3,000 yen ($30).
Highly porous ceramic particles woven into the material absorb and trap unwanted odor; then metal ions break down the odorous elements. According to Seiren, Deoset underwear eliminates 80 percent of perspiration and body odors within 30 seconds. It also says the deodorizing effect will stay intact after 100 washings.
The company began developing the deodorizing technology eight years ago in cooperation with Hiroki Ohge, a professor at Hiroshima University, who has extensive experience treating patients who are highly sensitive about their body odor.
A Seiren official said: -It was Uniqlo’s underwear that became a runaway hit, and that changed things in a big way. Consumers began seeking functionality in clothes. Now we can compete using our technology, rather than wasting away in unrelenting price wars.-
Menswear maker and retailer Konaka Co. also developed an odor-free dress shirt. Called Mushon Fabric shirts, they went on sale in May priced at 3,990 yen at the company’s Suit Select shops, which target the younger set. The shirts retain deodorant effectiveness even after repeated washings.
The nanotechnology-based deodorant material was originally developed for astronauts at the International Space Station. The fabric is permeated with a solvent that neutralizes ammonia, the major culprit behind unpleasant body odor.
A Konaka official explained: -In addition to cool styling, consumers demanded a fresh clean feeling and quick-drying functionality. That’s how we arrived at deodorant material.-
It’s not only Japanese manufacturers that are into making down-to-earth good use of space technology. Luxury department store Barneys New York offers jackets and pants that feature “Outlast” technology, which absorbs stores and releases heat for optimal thermal comfort. The material was developed to better protect astronauts.
Microencapsulated paraffin gel wax is woven into the fibers. The capsules release heat when the temperature goes up, to retain the skin surface temperature at a comfy 31 to 33 degrees.
ATTRACTION OF MAGNETS AND BRAS
The quest for comfort has no limit. Underwear manufacturer Triumph is marketing undergarments that contain tiny magnets to help women suffering from stiff shoulder and back pain. The tops and bottoms cost around 2,000 yen to 4,000 yen each. The garments were developed in cooperation with PIP CO., a company that manufactures and sells medical hygiene products, including ELEKIBAN.
Pip Elekiban are tiny magnets sold as adhesives, which are said to help ease muscle pain by creating low-level electromagnetic fields. The garments are actually marketed as controlled medical devices under the pharmaceutical affairs law.
In April, Triumph released bra straps embedded with the tiny magnets. The pellets are less than 1 mm thick, so the straps are sleek and comfortable. A Triumph official explained: -For customers to choose our product, we need to showcase some function that is special and unique.-
Numerous companies cite Uniqlo, run by Fast Retailing Co., for -changing consumer consciousness.- Uniqlo is now busy marketing its newest line of functional undergarments called AIRism, made from ultra-fine fibers. The fabric offers excellent sweat absorption and dries quickly.
According to Uniqlo, layering is -essential—especially during Japan’s humid summer months. The company’s goal is to build AIRism into its next major item comparable to its signature winter staple, the heat generating Heattech line.
One after another, manufacturers are coming up with new desirable functions to create a -product of choice.-
High technology is spurring these special functions. And technology is what could propel high fashion, constantly in search of differentiation, beyond its borders.
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