Intelligence, interactivity, and integration were key ideas at matériO’s exhibit at Decotec, as Smart Fabrics stole the show this year, fabrics on show could guide robotic cleaners, fight vandalism, ward off mosquitoes, repel and hold moisture, remember, light up a room, create sounds, amplify sound, muffle sound, and give the illusion of water flowing, ice melting, fire burning, or a tropical forest.
Despite the high technology involved, the fabrics were friendly, warm, and cheerful. There was a definite trend towards shiny finishes and metallic fabrics, but even the metallics were less “metal” in look and feel than liquid and opalescent, taking the consumer away from the hard edges of the industrial landscape to a more natural-feeling environment—without the annoyance of nature.
The Bekaert Depla fabrics, for example, with their whimsical patterns, are designed to help you find peace outdoors or in, despite the most persistent and evasive predators—mosquitoes. Treated with Flocare they are anti-mosquito, and reported to reduce mosquito bites by 90% in a protective environment.
Protection from the elements was a high priority for many textile makers. Pintail International Dept. Wetcare’s Prato has created a nanotechnology fabric for upholstery in public and private applications. 3M’s Nomad, durable, high performance backed PVC mats hold dirt and water within the mat until it is cleaned, and are recommended for low to high traffic areas and interior and exterior uses. Also fire resistant, these mats come in a variety of colors and sizes and are available in mats and rolls. IPC’s DS2 plastic film is a reservoir that absorbs water, moisture, prevents wetness, and limits the development of bacteria and stale odors. Recommended first for footwear (insole, upper...) and sports applications, it is also a valuable material for the home, it is entirely recyclable, and can be thermoformed and printed.
New fireproofing and retarding technologies on display include Mayser’s 3D-TEX three-dimensional formed fabrics, impregnated with a stabilizing resin system. 3D-TEX has been especially designed and developed to be used as a flexible core material for the production of sandwich components, and is used for the production of metallic façade systems.
But its flexibility extends its uses to the designer milieu for the creation of lampshades or for lighting elements in exhibition installations.
Other protective fabrics take in Sioen Coating Distribution’s Bio-Steel, a patented composite of PVC coated to polyester fabric to create bright anti-vandalism fabrics. Foin is known for its for Chainex, a light chain mail fabric used in gloves and protective aprons, and now adapted as a fluid cloth formed of individually welded rings of stainless steel that play with light - for curtains, wall and ceiling coverings. Gantois Toile is another product converted from industrial use—a metallic mesh primarily used for industrial filtration—to decor, with a tight and silky mesh fabric that dances in the light.
The interaction between—and integration of—fabric and light, and fabric, light and color, was a major trend this year. Electroluminescence by Elumin8 is a paper-thin, long-lasting, reliable light source used in component industries for illuminating computer screens, portable phones, control panel backlighting and signage. With improved brightness and specificity-enhancing, it provides a low-energy reactive light source that can be cut, folded and formed to open up creative opportunities for artists, architects, designers, in small or large scale formats. Fibertex’s Tape PE/Fiber Optic Yarn produces a special effect when connected to light source. Souffle by Lily Latifi is a reflective textile industrially pleated to create intriguing light effects, ideal for screens and curtains, made out of PVC with a microbeads layer. Dichro from American Supply is dichroic (the property of exhibiting different colors by reflected or transmitted light) laminated film, available in thin films, sheets or rolls, that can be embossed, printed or screened. Backing influences the color and softness. IllusionFlex from American Supply is a lenticular film fabric that becomes alive when applied - some colors give illusion of water flowing, ice melting, fire burning, a tropical forest, which show up best in backlit environment. And Flocart Textile Design gives us a screen fabric with aluminum ribbon woven through knitted polyester that operates much like a two-way mirror: you can see through it from the inside to the outside, but it is reflective from the outside to the inside.
The marriage of fabrics and sound technologies was also an important feature at Decotec a section within Decosit, with super thin acoustical fabrics called Acoustone for acoustical panels, speakers and amplifier from Newcastle Fabrics. For Anne Kyyro Quinn sound-proofing meets sculpture and the walls come alive with Quinn’s sculptural 3-D wall panels and wall hangings, suitable for domestic or business. Reminiscent of cheery orange sea flowers, soothing lime green landscapes, and folded wool caps. these panels are fire-retardant, acoustic, noise absorbing and sustainable, and meant to be touched.
Vorwerk’s Smart Floor textile floor covering deserves a category of its own. A one of a kind electronic guidance system on the basis of RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology, “Smart Carpet” enables robots equipped with an RFID reader to navigate automatically and intelligently across the floor. Robots of this type can be deployed, for example, as an automatically controlled transport unit or a self-propelling automated cleaner. The secret lies in its backing. Invisibly placed RFID tags are integrated into the carpet’s basic construction.
Old-fashioned and natural materials showed well too. Frogskin by NatureTouch is just what it sounds like, pieces of frog skin made with a tanning process that has no environmental impact, using biodegradable products. Available in limited quantities for shoes, skirts, bags, jackets, furniture... Cattle stomach and belly leather available as well. Annemette Beck Design Studio showed intriguing 3-D blinds, panels, room dividers made of 100% paper yarn, using a honey comb weaving technique. And Comersan’s fabric wall covering consists of paper plus any fabric brought together through lamination. Naturtex brought us the glitter of snowflakes on the ground by putting new finishes on a basic fabric; cotton + linen + metallic coatings for interior decoration and upholstery applications. Supracor combined the structural geometry of aerospace honeycomb with the flexibility of thermoplastics to give Supracor Honeycomb unparalleled versatility and performance. Strong, yet lightweight, it has memory and is anisotropic. Applications: footwear, sports protective gear, floor and seating.
Other fabrics that caught the Trendease Team’s eye this year were Epengle’s intriguing jacquards, the subtle sparkle of the jacquard velvets by Romain Maes, and Pyrasied’s Xtreme Foglio Rame 29 (small size acrylic sheets with special effects for lettering, displays, small decorative parts and lining of furniture and walls). Enjoy the visuals!