How will innovative material textiles play a significant role in impacting well-being for people and the planet?

“Materials play an emphatic role in our current understanding of what makes fashion and textiles sustainable. They are, more often than not, our starting point for change and a key commodity for farmer, designer, manufacturing industry, consumer and recycler. (Fletcher, 2014, p. 3).

As designers, it is important to understand our responsibility to design for the future prosperity of our planet and the people who inhabit it, rather than for our own self-interest. Each decision we make can have a direct impact and repercussions. This can be based on the materials we select or the manufacturing process we choose. If it impacts our planet in a positive or negative way, then it can have that same impact on us as humans.

This essay will explore the impact new technological advancements in material textiles will make on the future and well-being for people and the planet. The main perspective looks to decisions made by designers and the respectable positions they have taken to design for social well-being. The examples will share exemplars of innovative textiles and materials that critique some of our societies uneconomical choices and standards. Research has been gathered from personal interviews, symposiums, lectures, material libraries, as well as further printed and online texts. Many of the discussed materials provide future thinking of the construction, fibre variety, finish, manufacturing process, and end of life of current textiles.

The ideals Victor Papanek (1971) shares in his book, Design for the Real World, explains that as designers we should not give in to market pressures. Rather, it is our responsibility to design for areas of human well-being and need, and directly in relation to that, is the importance of the environment (Papanek, 1971, p. 232). Well-being can be defined as, “welfare, health, good health, happiness, comfort, security, safety, protection, prosperity, profit, good, success, fortune, good fortune, advantage, interest, prosperousness, successfulness” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017).

Textile innovations are quickly becoming important for addressing physical and mental health. They can offer aid and support for those in need such as the elderly and disordered to being a replacement for conventional medical applications. This potential shows a contrast to the current impacts the textile industry often has. Not only does the current textile industry contribute to harming the health of people by the ingestion of chemicals through contaminated air and soil but it also damages our environment and its natural resources (ECOTEXTILENEWS, 2017, p. 41). This creation of a toxic environment directly effects the well-being of people and the environment. In the UK alone, the approximate amount of clothing and textile waste is 2.35 million tonnes per year (Fletcher, 2014, p. 98). To address these issues, we shall delve deeper into Cradle to Cradle® and its guidelines. The Cradle to Cradle® (Fig. 1) approach looks at the entire lifecycle of a product and how they should be designed to live in a circular economy where there is eco-effectiveness (Braungart, M. and McDonough, W., 2009, p. 68), diversity (Braungart, M. and McDonough, W., 2009, p. 118), and waste does not exist (Braungart, M. and McDonough, W., 2009, p. 92).

In order to increase well-being for both the people and the planet, collaborate efforts between scientists, researchers, and industry alongside the designer can be instrumental in creating breakthrough material textiles.

The current landscape of future or innovative materials include properties such as; insulation, cooling, ultra-lightweight, sensory technology, transformative structure, sustainable production methods, and regenerative repair methods, to name a few (Pailes-Friedman, 2016, p. 6). These improvements on existing materials only scratches the surface of material innovation.”