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MIT, FIT come together to develop new clothing concepts
Courtesy: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A T-shirt that can change colour to complement mood (and help one pare down wardrobe), and an apron that transforms into a dress and has interchangeable pockets with high-tech functionality – are the new concepts presented by six students, three each from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and FIT, as part of the first FIT/MIT Summer Workshop.
Students are jointly exploring and developing clothing concepts using advanced functional materials that incorporate 3D printing or advanced knitting technologies. The students spent one week at MIT in Cambridge and one at FIT in New York City.
The workshop, held over two weeks in June, was organised collaboratively with Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based national nonprofit enabling a manufacturing-based transformation of traditional fibres, yarns, and textiles into highly sophisticated integrated and networked devices and systems.
Veronica Apsan, Fashion Design ’18, of Park Ridge, New Jersey, and Erika Anderson of Carlsbad, California, a rising MIT senior who is studying mechanical engineering with a minor in design, conceived a T-shirt that can change colour.
“We were really interested in colour and how it affects people’s moods and how they feel,” said Anderson. “Colour and clothing are part of a person’s identity and how they want to portray that to the world.” Anderson and Apsan started with a colour-changing filament that they 3D-printed into modular components. From there, they moved on to hollow fibres that can be filled with an ink that changes colour when an electrical current is sent through it.
“Many people own basic clothing or similar shirts and pants in different colours,” Anderson explained. “This takes up a lot of closet space and costs a lot of money.” A large wardrobe is also not environmentally friendly. With a T-shirt that can change colour, a person could radically pare down how many garments they buy and throw out.
The four other students in the workshop combined their ideas into a single wearable concept. David Merchan, of Bow, New Hampshire, a rising MIT senior double-majoring in materials science and engineering and physics; Melanie Wong, Fashion Design ’19, of Queens, New York; Calvin Zhong, of New York, NY, a 2018 MIT graduate who double-majored in architecture and comparative media studies; and Jesse Doherty, Fashion Design ’19, created a double-layer knit laboratory apron with reflective zippers that transforms into a dress or bag and has interchangeable pockets with customisable technological functions. For example, one pocket could have an energy socket that wirelessly charges a phone, while another could act as a hand sanitizer by working into the fibre antimicrobial chemicals or ultraviolet LEDs. The apron/dress itself could also be infused with conductive fibres that cool or warm the wearer.
“You could imagine that a lab tech would have different needs than a doctor, who would have different needs than a DIY hobbyist or a shop manager,” explained Zhong.
Using 3D printing, the students knit an open, fully twistable weave mesh for their apron/dress. Once the soluble supports were removed in a chemical bath, the mesh moved in every direction because of the flexible fibre. “The same structure in different materials would behave differently,” noted Doherty.
In addition to conceiving their projects, the students had a packed schedule of workshops, talks, and site visits. While at MIT, they learned about bringing their ideas to market through an intensive entrepreneurship boot camp. They also attended an AFFOA member networking event at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, where Apsan said she and Anderson received positive feedback about their ideas. “The fact that someone in the industry who is working on textiles is thinking the same thing was so awesome to hear,” she said. During their week at FIT, the students visited WGSN, a leading fashion trend, forecast, and analysis service, and met with Gabi Asfour, founder and creative director at threeASFOUR, a clothing design brand, about incorporating 3D-printed parts into garments. MIT and FIT faculty mentors assisted the students throughout the two weeks.
“We believe this is the future, so we want you all to be involved and help make it happen,” AFFOA chief executive officer Yoel Fink told the group.
Gregory C Rutledge, lead principal investigator for MIT in AFFOA and Lammot du Pont, professor in Chemical Engineering, commented, “It is exciting to see what happens when students from different fields of engineering and design, but with a common interest in advanced fibres and fabrics, come together and engage with new kinds of materials and manufacturing techniques. The collaboration and creativity is inspiring.”
“Combining the talents and skills of FIT and MIT is truly the future,” said Apsan as the two-week workshop wrapped up. (SV)