Digital textiles are the future in fashion

The machines have taken over, as ‘digital’ is the buzzword at this year’s London fashion week. The new digital schedule, which features live catwalk streaming and a screenings of fashion films, has allowed more than just dedicated followers of fashion front row seats at the hottest shows. 

But it’s not the just the runways that are digitalised this year, some of the clothes are as well. Melanie Bowles, senior lecturer at Chelsea College of Art & Design and a specialist in digital textiles design, says, ‘There’s been a boom of digital fabrics, especially in the psychedelic mash-up of the spring/summer collections.’

Melanie highlights Erdem, Christopher Kane, Paul Smith and the late Alexander McQueen as champions of the form. ‘The collections we’ve seen this season have been a bit more restrained but it’s just a short-term reaction,’ she says. ‘Digital textiles are the future.’

In creating textiles digitally, prints and motifs are scanned or devised from scratch, manipulated on a computer, then applied to fabric using a digital printer. Aside from creating visual treats for fashionistas, the development of digital design could provide some exciting collaborative opportunities for graphic designers.

A recent study by graphics industry research group  Pira International seems to agree with Melanie’s prediction of growth. The report forecasts that digital print for textiles will increase from £100m in 2009 to nearly £900m in 2014.

Though currently more expensive than traditional methods of roller and screenprinting, there are great benefits in digitally-produced fabrics. Smaller test samples of just 2m can be printed, which drastically reduces waste, and digital production is better for the environment.

‘The process is like a big inkjet printer, so it takes up half as much space as traditional methods. It’s environmentally friendly too as it uses less electricity and there’s less water wastage,’ Melanie says.

Good for the environment and good for graphics, let’s hope digital textiles matches up to the predictions.

For more information see Digital Textile Design by Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac, Laurence King Publishing, £22.50.

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  • John Ingraham November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Great article highlighting the digital textile trends both for direct to garment and direct to fabric applications.

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