By GRACE HURLEY
What if our clothes could be designed to protect us from diseases, regulate our temperature or filter toxic gases? Through the work of the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation, these have become very real possibilities in the near future.
The Institute, launched on Oct. 9, has brought together fashion designers, business professionals and textile scientists to merge their areas of expertise into a market that will combine fashion and function in the production of smart clothing.
According to Jintu Fan, the director of CIFFI, the work of the institute is motivated by the sustainability and overall life enhancement that functional clothing can bring people.
“Only by merging function with fashion [can] clothing be accepted by consumers and last for longer. Ultimately, it will improve our living,” he said.
Alan Mathios, dean of the College of Human Ecology, said in a University press release that “by working with industry partners, CIFFI can take cutting-edge research at Cornell in fiber science and fashion design and accelerate its application into clothing and goods that improve people’s lives.”
The institute aims “to advance knowledge and foster collaborations between academia and industry in the areas of fashion design, marketing and culture, fiber science, technology and materials testing,” according to a CIFI brochure. It also aims “to translate state-of-the-art sciences and technologies into implementable technologies, products and systems for the benefit of the fashion, fiber and textile industries.”
The CIFFI’s strategy of combining fashion and technology is evident in its core competencies, which include functional fibers, smart, protective clothing, sustainable fashion, fiber and textiles, officials say.
Some projects currently underway include moisture management fabrics and garments, functional sportswear with next to skin cooling effect, multilayer cold protective garments, self-decontaminating fabrics and garments, fire-fighter turnout gear, body massage garments and cooling vests, according to Fan.
In addition to engineering functional clothing, the CIFFI aims to promote mass appeal for the clothing. According to Fan, this can be accomplished through the institute’s convergence of industry professionals from multiple fields.
“Through CIFFI, we can promote partnership between retailers, manufacturers, and researchers. This will help gain market appeal for the clothing we are developing,” he said.
In a University press release, Tom Nastos, chair of the CIFFI advisory board, echoed the significance of the partnership, saying, “The fashion industry needs an outlet to provide feedback on what technology they are looking for, to test new ideas and materials and to determine what research they are willing to fund.”
“When you put the researchers together with people in industry, it’s a great combination – not just for the clothing of today, but for looking to the future,” Nastos said.
In the future, Fan said he and other members hope to see “more innovative products into the market, new business opportunities for CIFFI members, and real-world experience for Cornell students.”