Cork, Pineapple and Aquatic Fern
FOUNDER AND SENIOR KNIT ENGINEER, ATHENS KNIT LAB
Vasilios is a knit specialist with 40 years of experience in technical knit design, development, programming & engineering. He has worked extensively for high-end fashion brands, sports brands & technical textile companies in Greece, Europe, Asia, and the US. He is specialised in advanced knit development for apparel & product collections, programming, and also machine & production facility set-up. Vasilios has been extensively involved in the development and production of 3D knitted footwear in Asia, Italy and the US. He has also worked on the making of digitally enabled software solutions for knitting. In 2020 Vasilios founded Athens Knit Lab a knit design & development studio in Athens, Greece together with his daughter Marianna Fasoi.
As a global expert in digital knitting, renowned for your contributions to Nike’s iconic Flyknit, can you share insights into any breakthroughs or developments in materials that you find promising as we go into 2024?
– Over the last two decades there has been a significant evolution of textile technologies, allowing textiles and 3D knitting to be used as an additive manufacturing process in applications and fields that we had never dreamed possible. Medical textiles, automotive, architecture, footwear, fashion, sports gear, and many more.
– However, the need for technological advancement in material science has finally become equally important as we fully understand how materials impact the environment. There has never been in history such a period of acceptance of the need to produce more sustainable materials. Although many would argue it’s not enough in my mind this shift in mindset might be the biggest breakthrough so far and it’s more than evident within the textile community.
– Research and development in the field of sustainability at universities is enabling a new generation of designers, textile engineers, scientists, and chemists to create solutions we had never imagined possible.
– Interdisciplinary collaborations are bringing together experts from diverse fields to tackle the complex overlap that exists and needs to be addressed for solutions to be found.
– Consumer awareness, regulatory initiatives, open access between universities and industries, seminars, and innovation hubs are all contributing to the much-needed change and awareness we need to have if we have any hope of saving the planet. My favorite examples have to be the great strides that have occurred in our two most beloved and sustainable materials, wool and cotton! These two examples include eco-processing methods, reducing water usage, improving dyeing, spinning processes, and minimizing waste. New blends with enhanced properties for form, fit, elasticity, breathability, traceability, and most of all a major reduction to the environmental impact.
Athens Knit Lab / Client work for Serapis FW23
What advancements would you like to see within material science to take us closer to making the fashion industry more sustainable?
– The fashion industry as we know is one of the largest polluters of all other industries. We have found sustainable fabrics but the mass production of these and adoption in the manufacturing process of textile products has not yet reached any significant level. Natural sustainable fabric examples should be considered; cotton, hemp, linen, cork, and piñatex made from pineapple leaf fiber! Following in their footsteps but semi-synthetic would be Lyocell from Wool, Econyl from recycled fabric among many others. So it seems there are solutions to the problem of sustainability but what is missing is the funding, focused manufacturing direction, laws, and political willingness to overcome the status quo.
Looking back at the past year, what project in the field of knitting or material innovation stood out to you the most in 2023? This could be a creation from your studio or another.
– Quoting directly from knittingindustry.com in my mind this project is one of the most interesting projects and technological breakthroughs for 2023. I love the concept and turning fashion pollution on its head by using textiles to save the oceans. “Researchers in Germany from ITA Aachen and the University of Bonn, working with technical textiles manufacturer Heimbach, have developed a new method for removing oil spills from water surfaces in an energy-saving, cost-effective way and without the use of toxic substances. The method is made possible by a technical spacer fabric that is integrated into a floating container – a single small device can remove up to four liters of diesel within an hour, corresponding to around 100 square meters of oil film on a water surface.
– For many technical applications, unexpected solutions come from the field of biology. Millions of years of evolution led to the optimised surfaces of living organisms for their interaction with the environment. A long-term examination of around 20,000 different species has revealed that there is an almost infinite variety of structures and functionalities, but some species stand out for their excellent oil adsorption properties. The leaves of the floating fern Salvinia molesta, in particular, very efficiently adsorb oil, separating it from water surfaces and transporting it on their surfaces.
– It is this effect that has been mimicked in the development of the new technical textile – a superhydrophobic spacer fabric that can be produced industrially and is therefore easily scalable. The bio-inspired textile is integrated into a floating device for oil-water separation and collection unit, the Bionic Oil Adsorber (BOA). The oil is separated from the surrounding water by the surface properties of the textile and transported through the textile driven solely by capillary forces – even against gravity. When it reaches the end of the textile in the collection container, the oil desorbs without any further external influence due purely to gravitational forces.“
If you could freely fantasize, what materials, currently nonexistent, would you like to see developed in the coming years?
– If I could fantasize about a future material that does not currently exist it would be a biobased product that would mimic nature and after a certain amount of time (based either on the manufacturer or the consumer ) would undergo a completely biodegradable combustion with no effect on the planet!
– As we approach 2024, several promising trends and breakthroughs in material science are poised to redefine the landscape of fashion. First and foremost is the unprecedented surge in sustainable materials, reflecting a conscientious industry shift towards eco-friendly alternatives and circular design principles. This includes the exploration of recycled fabrics, organic fibers, and innovative textiles derived from agricultural waste. The integration of advanced smart textiles stands as the second pivotal trend, with ongoing breakthroughs in wearable technology, such as fabrics embedded with sensors and responsive functionalities. These materials offer a symbiosis of aesthetics and utility, transforming clothing into dynamic, interactive interfaces. Lastly, there is a notable drive towards the development of materials that are not only biodegradable but also easily recyclable, addressing the critical issue of textile waste in the fashion ecosystem. These three trends collectively underscore a dynamic era of innovation, where sustainability, technology, and ethical considerations converge to shape the future of materials in fashion.
Emi the Magic Fabric AI Oracle:
–The main trends that I see shaping the industry in 2024 and beyond are the increased use of sustainable materials, the integration of technology into textiles, and the rise of biomimicry. Sustainable materials are becoming more accessible and affordable, and consumers are demanding more eco-friendly options. Brands are using recycled materials like recycled polyester and nylon, as well as plant-based materials like hemp and bamboo. Technology is also playing a larger role in textiles, with innovations like smart fabrics that can monitor vital signs or adjust temperature, and digital printing that allows for custom designs and reduced waste. And biomimicry, which involves using nature’s designs to create new materials, is also gaining traction. For example, researchers are studying the way spiders spin their webs to create new materials that are strong and flexible.