A group of trainblazers in the world of e-textiles offered ideas and fielded questions in a casual setting on IFAI’s EXPO show floor yesterday. Many of the audience were experts themselves, so the discussion was, one might say, among colleagues in this segment.
Standards for smart textiles was on the minds of many. One audience member asked if there were published standards and protocols for heating jackets and similar products. Yolita Wildman Nugent, director of Textile Program Management at FLEX, said there are component level standards, and it’s possible to pull standards from other industries that are relevant, rather than starting over. “If we go in that direction where everything’s custom, it’ll be chaos,” she said.
Gerry Elman, president of Elman Technology Law, offered a legal perspective, cautioning that it’s hard to insulation from liability without a standard. “The key is to minimize it,” he said, by creating “a portfolio of information” to show a customer and have on file to prove diligence in doing one’s best to think it through.
Discussion soon turned to environmental issues, which are not specifically related to e-textiles, but could be even more complex in garments made with e-textiles.
Nugent pointed out the difficulties in operating sustainably, even for a company as committed to it as Patagonia. Microfleece has been an enormous success in the active garment industry, but it’s been shown to be unsafe for the environment because it breaks apart and gets into the water sources. “You have to look at the life cycle of the product and what happens to the components as waste,” Nugent said.
Connie Huffa, president of Fabdesigns, said companies should also consider the waste in making a product. “Ask how it fits a life cycle,” she said. “Can the clothes go from one activity to another?”