CREATING TEXTILES USING VIRTUAL TEAMS
The hands want to see, they eyes want to caress - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Within our studio we love making, researching and experimenting. There’s nothing more rewarding and satisfying than closely working on new ideas with our engineering team in the Materials Experience Center. We love to do this onsite, collaboratively, and in a hands-on way. Textiles are developed round after round, being analysed, draped, stretched, twisted, touched and fine-tuned along the way.
A remote challenge
One question we have asked ourselves is: what do making, tactility and materialization mean in these uncertain times? Having both worked and lived abroad for longer periods of time we know that most creativity comes from being agile, staying connected and finding a balance between technology and the creative process. Now we have found ourselves in a situation where we can’t travel, meet up with each other or participate in our normal creative sessions, all of which presents us with a new challenge when it comes to collaborating on projects: creating textiles remotely.
During the current situation where we’re working remotely and cannot travel to the Materials Experience Center in China, we wanted to keep ourselves inspired and continue working on new ideas. We set ourselves a challenge to renew materials that are all around us. We focussed on materials like French terry, terry and fleece, which are used even more frequently now that lounge, street and sleepwear are increasing in popularity and are seen in many collections. These materials are, 95% of the time, used in a conventional way. However, we would like to see a personalized approach where structures can be engineered, refined, and detailed depending on the needs and desires of the wearer.
Our Engineered Fleece collection
This line of thinking has resulted in a collection called Engineered Fleece where we have developed the material around the ideas of comfort x beauty x tactility. During the making process we had several discussions with our engineering team about different sensations and how to create and integrate this into the textiles and the finished designs. Since we were unable to touch the textiles in person, the on-site team had to send us images and videos that were zoomed in, featuring plenty of draping and other ways of trying to convey the sensation of the material visually. Through this process we learned how to design and develop remotely and we were very pleased with the result.
The development process
We developed the engineered fleece collection by rethinking knit through a stitch-by-stitch construction. We asked ourselves: how can texture, pattern and color follow a layer-on-layer approach? This involved fine tuning from a micro perspective rather than working in a zoned way.
We also utilized seamless machinery as a continuous fabric length rather than from a piece by piece perspective. This meant we could make use of features like fine gauge, engineering and smart design. This approach not only creates new product opportunities such as upholstery and outerwear, it also creates finishing possibilities such as brushing. The characteristics of the finished fabric are: touch, refinement, warmth, a luxe feel, breathability and engineered loft created by automation.
What we learned
During the project we learned that we could make amazing innovations remotely whilst communicating 90% of the details virtually. When we received the finished textiles in the mail, they were even more incredible than we had envisioned, and touching them allowed us to imagine what kind of garments they could be used to create, and how the textile could also be used in interior design and upholstery. Although it is always ideal to have a physical connection with our textiles during the making process, it is not always obligatory and this new way of working with virtual teams has opened our eyes to the many possibilities for remote collaboration on a global scale.
The need for new textiles
Millions of people are now working from home due to Covid-19. According to newspapers like The Guardian, this could lead to a permanent shift towards working from home for many employees once the pandemic is over. Employers are realising the many benefits of working from home, such as higher productivity and savings of over $11,000 per person. Working from home allows employees to spend more time with their families, save money on commuting, live in cheaper rural areas and lower their carbon footprint. As a result of these insights, it’s estimated that 25-30 million US employees will start to work from home regularly over the next 2 years.
This rapidly growing trend means there’s a demand for clothing to wear when working from home. For efficiency and comfort, the majority of home workers tend to wear the same clothes throughout the day. But the day is still divided into different activities. This means there’s a need for clothing that is multifunctional and fulfils different needs at once.
With less occasions to dress up for, one of the major things people are now looking for is comfort. Sales of loungewear, one of the most comfortable clothing categories, have risen significantly since the pandemic started. According to the advertising company Criteo, who analysed 2 billion consumers worldwide, Australia saw a 184% rise in loungewear sales, Korea 80% and Italy 79% respectively.
But comfort isn’t the only thing on people’s minds; with a steep rise in video calls, we also want to remain presentable and feel beautiful. This isn’t only a prerequisite for online meetings, it’s also an important way to boost morale and mental health.
In addition to this, physical exercise is also an important part of the day. The scheduling platform Doodle reported a 100% increase in group meetings booked for virtual-only yoga, dance, exercise, workout, fitness, aerobics and Pilates sessions in March 2020. People are also prioritising fresh air, and time outdoors where they are exercising in parks and gardens. To cater for these activities, we need clothing that’s suitable for wearing both indoors and outdoors. The duality between indoor and outdoor needs means this clothing needs to be hybrid in nature and deliver modular uses throughout the day.
Wearing the same outfit for both sports and our everyday working life means we need our clothing to perform specific functions. For example, we need garments to offer moisture management, along with being resistant to bacteria and odour. If we pop outside to go grocery shopping, it would be great if our garments also offered protection from sudden rain spells or stepping in puddles.
Lastly, when people’s lifestyles force them to spend more time at home, they tend to focus on attractive, comfortable and functional furniture. We envision, along with clothing, a range of new fabrics for interiors that combine stain resistant and water repellent properties engineered with features such as loft, design, and support.
With all this in mind, we have developed a series of materials that fulfil the following important functions:
B) Visual Amazement
C) Safety & Protection
D) Health & Wellbeing
Key elements in these material stories are waterproof yarns, Dyneema, heat expansion yarns and anti-bacterial fibers.
On both the single and double jersey materials, we have chosen to explore lighter weight textile versions that are more suitable for mid-layer to outerwear garments when compared to what is currently in the market. On the single jersey this has been achieved by using a coarser gauge of 22gg. On the double jersey, the fabrics have been made on 20gg machinery. This is the finest available range within Santoni’s seamless double jersey technology.
Top2 Fast, 22GG
Single Jersey - Santoni Shanghai
The work from home lifestyle demands clothing that can deliver several functions at once. This requires a new kind of hybrid material that, for example, is not only waterproof but is also breathable, combining areas that are stretchy with areas that are more rigid.
Usually knitted materials are stretchy and suitable for draping over the body. With this textile we did something different: we made the material rigid and non-stretch, giving us the option of engineering both non-stretch and stretch areas.
By combining the right yarns, structures and machine set up we created a dense, woven-like, water repellent material. While retaining breathability, the material provides cover for light rainfall when outside or drink spills during a conference call.
This yarn has been engineered from the core, resulting in a longer lasting water repellent effect when compared to the usual method of creating water repellency by adding coatings in post processing. Our approach leads to a higher value product, built from the yarn up, that results in a true design element.
By utilising the engineering capabilities of the seamless technology, we can further extend the idea and areas that are partly rigid and water repellent (as per swatch), moving to more flexible and stretchy areas.
Due to the smart interplay with micro structure, the inside and outside show a slight 3D effect. This gives a beautiful embossed appearance whilst, at the same time, helping to further improve breathability.
For visual amazement, a more sustainable approach and a lighter weight result, we have been working with yarn-dyed materials and a smart utilisation of the machine’s plaiting function. The micro structures used also allow for easy personalisation and a single-piece bulk production process.
This approach leads to a versatile mid-to-outer layer material.
Other areas where we see possibilities are: indoor and outdoor furniture / home textiles, lightweight easy-to-carry shopping bags and footwear.
Engineered Visual Amazement
Double Jersey - Santoni Shanghai
Working from home shouldn’t mean we have to sacrifice feeling good about how we look. We want our clothing to feel beautiful and look visually amazing, whilst at the same time catering for practical requirements like temperature regulation.
We therefore developed a heat-tech material that could be an investment piece for the season. Featuring thermal regulation properties,
this material can accommodate both cold conditions and warming up situations.
The areas we focussed on were lightweight elements, insulation, density and form, as well as engineered water-repellent yarns to create a durable weather-proof material.
This material offers an understated, functional and comfortable solution. Both sides use water-repellent yarns with a clean surface on one side and a pixelated graphic on the other side. The pixelated graphic creates the appearance of a responsive material, with colours that give a sense of vibration and movement.
These qualities make the material suitable for reversed products that could be used for running, warming up and loungewear.
When creating the form and shape from a seamless tube, the result is an all-in-one product that avoids the need for complex processes and post engineering. Other industries this could be applied to include interiors and automotive.
Double Jersey - Santoni Shanghai
We need to feel protected by our clothing, whether it’s being shielded from bad weather or from falls and accidents. Since we’re wearing it all day for every activity, material should be durable and long lasting.
In response to these needs, we engineered a graphic focussed material with water repellent yarns on the outside that create a weatherproof layer. The inside is developed with Dyneema yarn.
Dyneema yarn creates a durable, lightweight, and versatile material.
It is extremely hard-wearing and is potentially even suitable for military or security protection with an anti stab function.
The fine gauge technology can create an image-like graphic.
Due to the stitch-by-stitch construction, this can be easily tailored into a personalised solution via a single-piece bulk production method.
The material could be suitable for applications such as outerwear, protective gear, outdoor furniture, and the automotive industry.
Engineered Well being
Double Jersey - Santoni Shanghai
To enhance feelings of wellbeing, we need to feel warmth whilst remaining comfortable via thermal regulation. At the same time, the wearer wants to feel beautiful. Since we also want to consider our health, the material should ideally protect us against bacteria.
We therefore engineered a fabric that was water repellent with anti-microbial properties, whilst at the same time incorporating a natural “second skin” feel with soft padding for insulation.
This material is created by combining a quilted structure and forming an intriguing loft pattern. It includes engineered areas of higher and lower loft. Also incorporated is a body mapped pattern that can create areas with higher or lower levels of insulation and breathability, along with areas that have a higher density or a stretch structure.
The anti-bacterial layer acts as a second skin that feels good against the body. The result is a unique material that provides us with a new source of health and wellbeing.
The outer layer uses water repellent yarns, making this material suitable for both indoor and outdoor purposes.
In addition, the material uses a sophisticated graphical design to create a feminine look and feel.
These materials are made in collaboration and with the technology of Santoni Shanghai at the Material Experience Centre.
We’re delighted to announce that Eva x Carola in collaboration with Santoni Shanghai are finalists in this year’s Future Textile Awards, in the Best Innovation in Sport Textiles category.
The Future Textile Awards occur every two years and are dedicated to finding the most innovative and cutting-edge developments within the textile industry. Awards are given to material experts, product developers and designers around the world who have demonstrated the most ground-breaking work. We are excited to be part of this important initiative. As part of the awards application, we showcased our Personalized Performance collection which is a collaborative project with Santoni Shanghai. In this post, we’ll tell you a little bit about the collection and why it has attracted attention from industry leaders.
Why: modern problems, cutting edge solutions
With the global market for activewear predicted to reach US$231.7 billion by 2024, there has never been a better time to find future-facing solutions and new approaches to activewear. However, with the demand for sportswear at an all-time high, consumers are faced with a never-ending supply of new sportswear brands. Garments have fallen victim to the throwaway culture that modern life has created, making them disposable and unsustainable.
There are solutions to this very modern problem, and those solutions lie in technical and digital innovation. With the Personalized Performance collection, we are creating a new breed of garments that stand out in a sea of conventional designs. This new type of clothing holds true value for the wearer because it has been tailored specifically to their needs. Designed from an intellectual perspective, each garment is customized so that it enhances a person’s experience and the way they move their bodies during sports.
Seamless technology, 3D knit and careful engineering are key to achieving this. With these techniques we can create a garment that fulfils several functions such as cooling, support, and comfort. We can also add exceptionally beautiful elements and graphics which make the garment psychologically pleasing, distinctive and unique.
How: personalised performance
Producing this new type of garment requires a completely fresh approach to the design process. We carefully analysed the body to determine which functions are needed and where. We thought deeply about aspects such as compression, shape and touch and how these might benefit the wearer when exercising. Each of these benefits can be delivered by creating a specially designed texture on a stitch-by-stitch level. Taking a scientific approach, textures are then rigorously tested and measured for their performance levels, including:
• Power: the performance delivered by the garment’s fabric
• Energy: the energy exerted by the body as a result of garment composition
• Comfort: the “second skin” effect
This is a fascinating process that can have many different outcomes. Adjusting machine settings and using different yarns can produce different results. For example, increasing or reducing restriction levels within the material allows us to create garments that are suitable for different sporting activities, such as cross fit training or competing.
Santoni Shanghai’s seamless 3D knitting technology has been instrumental in this process; not only can we create second skin garments with an unparalleled level of comfort, we can also create textures that can be knitted together all in one go.
It’s also important to bear in mind that this technique goes beyond clothing and footwear; we can use the same approach to produce other products such as a car seat or a travel pillow. This idea has huge potential and we are currently exploring different concepts for development.
What: the future of making
Building on the fantastic results we have seen with our current work, we have an exciting goal for the future which has attracted the attention of the Future Textile Awards. It involves digitalisation, machine learning and programming benefits into the materials rather than the machine.
We can create a new kind of manufacturing where, using 3D knitting, the material itself can be programmed. Using specially designed algorithms, we can program the machine to make specific adjustments to garments based on the needs of individual wearers. Parametric algorithms will generate the pattern, and this will be directly compiled into machine-readable knitting files. Instead of working in 2D, the design process will be based on 3D visualisation and even “4D” simulations where the movement of the body and the reaction of the textiles can be manipulated.
This has far-reaching implications for the future of activewear, how we use textiles and how we deliver value to the wearer. With a user-friendly digital interface, the consumer will be able to specify which functions or benefits they would like a garment to deliver, and the knit technology will immediately know how to produce this and what settings to use.
With the ability to personalise and visualise their own products, the consumer is empowered and a new consumer experience is created. This will also create a relationship between the machine manufacturer and the consumer that does not currently exist, whereby they can connect directly with each other. The manufacturer will gain new insights into the needs of the market. Perhaps the best part of this is that the digital system will be self-learning; with each input from the consumer it will gain more intelligence.
The winners of this year’s Future Textile Awards will be announced in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Wednesday 7 November. We will keep you updated! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the kind of garments we are producing using the techniques mentioned here, you can read about our Essential Bra via https://www.evaxcarola.com/blog/the-essential-bra.
We’re always delighted to talk about our work. If you have any questions or comments about this project, don’t hesitate to get in touch via email@example.com.
Special thanks to Martijn ten Bhömer, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and Saxion University for their continuous support, research, analyses and testing.