The need for new textiles in post COVID-19 era is explored in a fascinating new Water-repellent Seamless Textiles project, a collaboration between seamless knitting machinery manufacturer Santoni Shanghai and design consultants Studio Eva X Carola.
In the project, which explores the impact of home working on clothing needs post coronavirus, a series of new materials is developed for seamlesswear, that fulfil the functions – hybridity, visual amazement, safety and protection, and health and wellbeing. As the world starts to get back to work, from home or otherwise, Knitting Industry spoke to Shanghai based Eva de Laat and Carola Leegwater of Studio Eva X Carola about the project.
Working from home
“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,” Eva de Laat begins.
“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.”
The figures for the increase in home working post pandemic are staggering, especially in large populations like the USA. Living in the ‘new normal’ is already having a massive impact on the clothing we wear.
Eva de Laat continues: “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.”
Feeling comfortable, looking good
“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,” Eva enlightens.
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, Eva says. This isn’t only a prerequisite for online meetings, it’s also an important way to boost morale and mental health.
Indoor and outdoor exercise
Carola Leegwater continues on the subject of excercise: “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,” Carola Leegwater adds: “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, the collaborators developed a series of materials that fulfil the following important functions: Hybridity; Visual Amazement; Safety & Protection; and Health & Wellbeing. Key elements in these material stories are waterproof yarns, Dyneema (high modulus polyethylene), heat expansion yarns and anti-bacterial fibres.
Lighter weight fabrics
On both the single and double jersey materials developed on Santoni seamless machinery, the researchers chose to explore lighter weight fabrics, which are more suitable for mid-layer to outerwear garments, when compared to what is currently in the market. On the single jersey fabrics this was achieved by using a coarser gauge – 22 gauge. The double jersey fabrics developed were made on 20-gauge machinery, the finest available gauge in Santoni’s seamless double jersey technology.
Santoni Top2 Fast, 22 gauge
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,” Eva de Laat explains.
“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,” she adds.
By utilising the engineering capabilities of the seamless technology, the team further extended 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 microstructure, 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,” Eva explains.
“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 microstructures 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
Santoni SMDJ2T, 20 gauge
Double Jersey – Santoni Shanghai
According to the research team, 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.
The design team, accordingly, developed a heat-tech material that it says, could be an investment piece for the season. Featuring thermal regulation properties, the material can accommodate both cold conditions and warming up situations.
The areas focussed on were lightweight elements, insulation, density and form, as well as engineered water-repellent yarns to create a durable weather-proof material.
The material is said to offer 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, Carola Leegwater says, adding: “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.”
Santoni SMDJ2T, 20 gauge
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, the team engineered a graphic focussed material with water repellent yarns on the outside that create a weatherproof layer. The inside is developed with Dyneema yarn, which creates a durable, lightweight, and versatile material. It is said to be 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,” Carola concludes on Engineered Protection.
Engineered Well Being
Santoni SMDJ2T, 20 gauge
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,” illuminates Eva.
Consequently, an engineered fabric was developed that was water repellent with anti-microbial properties, whilst at the same time incorporating a natural ‘second skin’ feel with soft padding for insulation.
The 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,” Eva concludes.
In addition, the material uses a sophisticated graphical design to create a feminine look and feel.
All of the above-mentioned materials in the project were made in collaboration with Santoni and its seamless technology at the brand-new Material Experience Centre at Santoni Shanghai. For more information about the Materials Experience Center, Santoni Shanghai or Eva x Carola, contact [email protected] or [email protected].