The evolution of fabrics in the fashion world
For thousands of years, our species went around the world completely naked.
The human species’ need to cover the body has, however, very ancient origins. Initially, the only raw material available was animal skin with which they made, very roughly, tunics to shelter from the cold.
It is only much later that our species discovers a penchant for aesthetics and, hence, the need to create its own identity through clothing.
An important step in the history of fashion is certainly represented by the first weaving creations. We know that the first looms were very simple artefacts, made from branches or wooden poles. The warp threads are tensioned by means of stone or terracotta weights.
For the sake of synthesis, let us take a millennial leap in time, with all its evolutions in the ways of dressing and the materials used, to arrive at the topic I would like to explore in depth, that of technological and scientific research in the production of the fabrics used for the fashion of our times.
In the post-war period, economic poverty and material needs led to a decline in interest in haute couture. There is a move towards American-style industrial production, based on a different concept of fashion and female beauty, more standardised and more ‘domestic’. The Italian textile industry was taking its first steps, catching up with that of the more advanced European economies, already offering a wide range of quality and price diversified fabrics.
Great importance was attached to research and new technologies (in the sense of product technology) used in fabric production. Product technology essentially concerns the design of a product and is based on the combination of three factors, such as the physical characteristics, function and meaning of the product.
It was the period when a new wave of class and style was born; a more personal, more intense way of living.
The production of increasingly refined and high-quality fabrics expanded, especially in old Europe, offering light yarns that were cool in summer and warm in winter; the first petroleum-derived fabrics also made their way in, and the first technological innovations were born.
A turning point came with the invention of plastics and their derivatives. Nylon replaced silk in hosiery and later polyester, which made it possible to create a strong, elastic and stable fabric that is water-repellent, does not absorb stains and is therefore easy to wash; it dries quickly and is resistant to mould and insects.
The eco-technological breakthrough: research for the production of eco-sustainable fabrics in fashion
According to a United Nations report, the fashion industry is the second most polluting after the oil industry. In particular, 20% of global water waste and 10% of CO2 emissions are due to the textile industry. In fact, after the oil industry, the fashion industry is by far the most polluting and the industry’s challenge is increasingly focusing on the search for innovative fabrics ecological and natural, zero-impact, and on the production of alternative and less polluting raw materials from recycled materials, for increasingly ethical clothing. The changing skin of fashion has also come to fast fashion, i.e. ready-made fashion for everyone. It is moving towards the so-called slow fashion of buying fewer, more quality garments with innovative fabrics.
Large industrial groups have therefore, over the past decades, taken steps to make their own contribution to sustainable fashion, investing large sums of money in research. Hence, fabrics made entirely from 100% organic cotton, recycled polyester and new-generation materials such as Pinatex, a vegetable leather made from the waste of pineapple leaves, have been used for several years now.
No less committed are also the big Italian brands. Italian fashion houses, in fact, have long since started research and production aimed at the recovery and enhancement of innovative natural and sustainable fabrics. Armani, for example, used, fabrics such as hemp, linen and cotton treated in a natural way at all stages of processing. Miuccia Prada, who was one of the first designers to speak about innovative fabricshas created an environmentally sustainable alternative to its iconic fabric, the nylonwith the recycled nylon or regenerated, leaving all its characteristics intact and made from plastic waste recovered from the oceans, or destined for landfills.
Another great Italian brand in the is Loro Piana, which has introduced the Clima System, an innovative graphene membrane, the world’s largest thermal conductor, into its collections. It is a material of natural origin capable of collecting body heat and redistributing it evenly over the garment worn.
The watchword of the large foreign and Italian groups is therefore ‘innovation’, with a new culture aimed at protecting the environment and the health of planet Earth.
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