Designers are always looking to create interesting and dynamic pieces to add to their collections. It goes without saying that when it comes to fashion, innovative design is imperative to the creative process.Technology is something that has always been a part of that process. Fashion designers have been able to push the boundaries of design through the evolution of tools and the incorporation of technology. Fibre optics are one of the many technological innovations that have unlocked a new level to apparel design.
As of right now you may be asking yourself, “what are fibre optics?”. Fibre optics are tiny strands of fibre made with glass or plastic in the form of a pipe so fine it looks close to replicating a strand of hair. These fibre optic strands transmit LED lights from one end of the fibre optic strand to the other powered by a battery. You may now be wondering, “wouldn’t the light shine through the tube since it’s transparent?”. The answer to that is simply no, due to the structure of the pipe. The pipe is made of two parts; the core and the cladding. The core is the internal part of the pipe where the LED lights travel and the cladding is the outer layer of glass that wraps around the core and maintains the light signals within the core by reflecting it off its glass surface.
If you’re still a little confused as to what I am describing you might wanna recall actress Claire Danes’ 2016 Met Gala gown that was designed by American designer Zac Posen. The entirety of that gown was made using fibre optics.
Now that you have a basic understanding of fibre optics, let’s dive into how different kinds of fibre optic strands can impact a garment based on the different characteristics and properties they have. While the end emitting and side emitting are the most recognized fibre optics it is important to note that fibre optics are not exclusive to these two types alone.
Exciting and innovative design in the fashion industry is one of many ways brands engage consumers with their product. In a time where sustainability and ethical consumption of clothes is at the forefront of a lot of consumer’s minds, both brands and consumers must consider factors that go beyond how aesthetically pleasing a garment looks. Now that designers utilize fibre optics, they too are a part of that thought process.
Traditionally, fibre optic wires were to go directly into landfills after their short life spans. Due to the complex structure of the cables, it is far too challenging to separate the different materials they are made from to recycle effectively. This has resulted in an excess amount of fibre optic cables sitting in landfills for at least the past 40 years and possibly 500 years more.
Given the spectacular and dazzling features of fibre optic fabric, one can be sure to find it being utilized in the luxury fashion market. Being embraced into the luxury market by the likes of designers like Zac Posen or Richard Nicoll, fibre optic fashion adopts the novelty of luxury fashion despite its accessibility. Luxury fibre optic fashion speaks to its novelty not only by the luxury price tag attached but by being regarded as a piece of art. This is most evident with Zac Posen’s 2016 Met Ball gown design as it has since been archived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
However, in more recent times, fibre optic fashion has found itself within the fast fashion market of the industry. More specifically in the genre of techno fashion also known as rave fashion. This market has given fibre optic fashion a purpose that serves beyond aesthetic. In addition to the music, other aspects of rave culture contribute to the overall experience that fans get excited for. Rave fashion is known for being loud and abstract so it is not surprising that fibre optics found a place to call home in a market that champions everything bright and stimulating.
The life cycle of the cables itself has an approximate life span of about 2 to 4 years depending on how often you wear the garment and the quality of the cables. The fabric itself is not the issue but the performance of the cable does have a tendency to quickly deteriorate.
A popular way to extend the life cycle of a garment is through the reconstruction of outdated or previously worn garments. This unfortunately cannot be achieved with fibre optics fabric for a couple of reasons. One being the once the cables are worn out, they typically do not serve a chance at being able to produce light again. Another reason being that due to the cables being manufactured into the fabric in a linear design, one cannot cut new patterns to alter the shape of the garment unless cutting precisely parallel to the cables.
The handling and care of a fibre optic garment requires a bit more attention than your average cotton t-shirt. Due to the fact that fibre optic cables are crafted using both glass and plastic, ironing and tumble drying are not an option. Although fibre optic cables do have some resistance to water its best to hand wash as it is not entirely waterproof.
As always, the choice is in the hands of the consumer. Fibre optic apparel has only scratched the surface when it comes to its performance in textile design. As it evolves I imagine it has the possibility of serving a more interactive purpose. Until then enjoy the bright lights and have fun brightening up any space you find yourself in!
Via ÀLA.HAUSSE‘s Multi-functional and Multi-purposeful Fashion Ecosystem- BUY/SELL/RENT/LEND/ (swap BETA 2021) mobile application, INDIVIDUALS & brands ( BETA 2021) are encouraged to REBUY, RESELL, REUSE and UP-CYCLE their personal “Clossets” aka Clothing Assets, along with overstock inventory and samples. Through this consumerism habit shift we indirectly slow down the urgency on fashion’s carbon footprint, aiding sustainability as a whole.
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