Advances in Technology, Losses In Style

Reuters has an article on cosmeto-textiles — in which your lingerie (panties, hose etc.) provides, well, an ooze of herbal and I guess not-so-herbal product which is to treat everything from cellulite to tired legs.

The news breaks because at the annual lingerie trade fair in Paris on Sunday purveyors of cosmetotextiles were out in force peddling their underwear which helps women slim and men feel cool and fresh — most of which were bemoaning that the public wasn’t ready for the technology though it’s been available for several years. Some companies were even discontinuing these lines due to poor sales.

I can understand our collective reluctance for panties which are wet — especially if they are not made wet by our own means of arousal. They don’t sound very pleasant to wear. One imagines feeling perpetually cold and damp. My brain recognizes that these items aren’t likely to leave marks, stains or other evidence others can spot, but it just feels wrong.

Also, it seems these are somewhat disposable lingerie items for which the therapeutic bits of the lingerie last from three to 25 wearings/washings and since, as with cosmetics, daily use is recommended, this seems very expensive.

However, ‘our’ distrust of such advances can’t completely be blamed on attitudes like mine, for these products are not easily found. (This was the only website I found retailing any such products by Beautiva.)

Invista, who owns Lycra, launched the Lycra Body Care range two years ago. Along with the physical slimming of the Lycra, these fibres and fabrics that put toning, moisturising, and energising benefits into lingerie, hosiery and lounge wear — as well as cashmere, silk, viscose and, soon, denim.

Technically, this is achieved through “microencapsulation”. Yarns have tiny capsules attached to them containing ingredients such as aloe vera or vitamin C. These are then activated by friction from walking or moving and released on to the skin. Invista says the benefits can last for 25 washes, and they are working on a recharge system. (Others are also using Lycra in such a manner.)

According to the website, a large part of Lycra Body Care’s impact is from the smell: “Research has shown there is a strong link between the sense of smell and emotion. By incorporating different scents into fabrics at just the right level, garments can take on a whole new appeal and make the wearer feel better.”

Jenny Tillotson, a senior research fellow at the University of the Arts in London, is developing a “Scentsory Design” system whereby “wearable wireless sensor networks” and “microfluidic devices” for fragrance delivery create what she calls “emotional clothing”. It can be found at SmartSecondSkin.com.

Diana Irani’s Re_medi line of lounge wear is herbal-remedy-infused silk. Irani, prize winning graduate of Central Saint Martin’s and the Royal College of Art, says her line tackles chronic problems such as insomnia in a holistic way — by letting wearers take natural solutions like lavender or chamomile just by putting on their clothes.

Inspired by Indian and African traditions and encouraged by modern developments such as drug patches, the ‘Clothes That Cure’ range, which includes underwear and dresses, is made of fabric impregnated with miniscule beads of medicine and herbal remedies. As the wearer’s body heats the fabric, the substances are released on to the skin. Irani claims her method of application means the ingredients don’t get filtered through the digestive system, making them more effective. In addition, wearers can opt for a mild or a strong dosage, and buy the formula as a wash to reactivate the garments.

While Irani won a prize for this concept in 2002, there’s no visible sign of the line aside from this article.

According to French Lingerie company Lytess, “Intelligent Textiles will represent 80 per cent of textiles by the year 2020.” Which means they had best get on the ball and press us for sales. Be prepared to be bombarded with more news and education on these products in the very near future — I’m sure it will be enough to make the head spin and make us feel the need to buy anti-fatigue tights. Maybe even stress us out so that we need the moisturizing camisoles.

So far, my queasiness aside, none of the products look appealing. All are far too futuristic and lack romance — not to mention lace.

If the very point of all these products is in fact Beauty, why is there so little of it in the garments themselves?

Call me old-fashioned, but what’s to love? If smell is the key, I’ll stick with my vintage pieces and my favorite perfumes.

One interesting note, an Italian company, BioFarm, was promoting a textile comprising nano-particles of silver that kills bacteria on skin, among other properties, saying, “The difference between this material and micro-capsules is that it lasts for life and doesn’t release any active substance.” I’m rather sure this is already being done with City Mitts, gloves made by Emily Beck according to this interview. Here’s a company with the yarn.

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