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Through the Looking Glass

Latest looks in performance fabrics, from left to right: A. Sampaio, Jet Metal Group and Sofileta.
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Have you ever wondered what Alice felt when she went through the looking glass? To enter a fantastical world, recognizable yet different? If so, then Techtextil Frankfurt is the place to go, as it does have the connection to the performance textiles we source and pursue for the sports and outdoors sector, but it also takes that familiarity of fibers and fabric to a whole other dimension.

And not only the traditional apparel sector, ranging from performance attire through to personal protection equipment; the trade show spans across industries, featuring everything from automotive, medical, architectural and agricultural to the Space economy. 

Techtextil Frankfurt serves as a textile telescope for what we can do now, but also what we can achieve in the future, and, oh boy, the drive, development and innovation that featured at the latest show, held this summer, created a resounding energy throughout the exhibition halls.

While Techtextil hosts the textile developments, Texprocess, a co-located trade fair, is home to the machinery, at all stages of the textile and manufacturing sector. Held every two years, five days long, due to the time of shipping and assembling these mammoth machines, this summer was the first time these shows went live since pre-pandemic, as fiber, textile processing, automations, and digital processes became a reality. The return to personal exchange, sorely missed during lockdown fueled the show, making for an upbeat atmosphere.

A Mixed Bag of Performance 

New developments in the performance textile sector varied. Inherent Flame Retardant (IFR) featured, as did diathermic power – the ability of a fabric to block the heat. Wind resistance, water repellency and UV protection brought us down to earth, as functional familiarity emerged. With performance value upping the stakes, especially for PPE, you have to think that as global temperature soar and weather patterns change, could this be a staple part of future apparel?

What’s interesting is that many suppliers feature high performance and protection qualities but also showcase their innovations and developments within the lingerie sector. Sofileta is a good example, having developed a 100 percent polyester double layer woven fabric, in addition to fabric suitable for intimates. The same can be said for Portuguese mill A. Sampaio & Filhos, which dominates the outdoors sector with its stunning range of sensual natural-based fabrics. 

Delivering on a higher level of protection for PPE is an area to watch. The personal protection equipment industry does generate lifesaving products, but at times the level of comfort doesn’t reach the level of safety. That may be changing. For example, A. Sampaio & Filhos offers a super-soft, double-sided, fire resistant retro reflective fabric.

In a digitalized world and a hacker’s paradise, Jet Metal Group has developed a hacking shielding composed of fluored aramid. Accessories and apparel can be protected from magnetic hacking, and it is also antimicrobial. 

Wearable technology continues to develop with NTT New Textile Technologies developing a smart textile with electrodes for muscle stimulus (EMS). As simple transfer technology allows for a permanent bond between the NTT electrode and the textile. From a design point of view, this process can also add customized details to garments.

Sustainability a Key Factor in all Categories

There was an emphasis towards a “waste not, want not” attitude at the show, supported by a focus on recycling cellulosics and eco-friendly chemicals, as well as advancing sustainability through enhanced efficiency and precision in reducing waste at all levels of textile processing and apparel manufacturing featured in a new generation of smart machines. 

Commercial offering of mushroom leather, and pineapple fiber, produced from the leaves of the tree has already taken hold. But have you considered the skin of a pineapple, being an alternative to leather, a valuable commodity rather than just waste? Francesca Nori has created an innovative patented production process that converts waste vegetable into a material for the fashion and design sector. 

Called Verabuccia, the process enables the peel to become a flexible, robust, stable and a rot-proof sheet. Unlike other vegetable leathers on the market, where the manufacturing process involves shredding, kneading, extrusion and lamination, the pineapple process from Verabuccia ensures the peel remains intact. 

Performance Spans Across Industries

Techtextil can be regarded as the heart of the industry, although at the recent show this can be interpreted as a double-entendre: Researchers at ITM TU Dresden are using jacquard shuttle technology to weave a heart valve. Winning the Techtextil Innovation award, for this very complex 3D structure, the researchers succeeded in a patient-specific structure in a fully-digitalized, CAD-based process change. 

This woven development could be a replacement treatment to artificial and biological heart valves that have a significantly shorter lifespan, and as such an important step forward to what can be achieved in the near future. With cardiovascular disease and defective heart valves the most common cause of death in today’s society, the spark has been lit through the innovation and engineering by the research team to make this innovation a normal part of tomorrow’s world in solving health problems.

Although pared down in size compared with past events, due to continued quarantines and ongoing travel challenges, Techtextil Frankfurt maintained a fair level of internationality. The overall mood was that it was good to be back, to interact, discover new innovations and cross-connect in a business we all love: textiles.

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Sep 30, 2022

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