Clothing Gets Smart

It looks like a sweater. It feels like a sweater. It does not, however, act like a sweater. The Fallline jacket from clothing manufacturer Voormi may feel like a fleece, but it functions like a soft-shell that wicks away snow and wind. “From the beginning, what we said we wanted to do was figure out how to basically work from a natural fiber platform and start developing these unique constructions,” says Timm Smith, the Colorado company’s marketing director. Voormi isn’t alone in its innovation. A handful of organizations are studying ways to blend technology and textiles to create apparel that can respond to outside weather conditions. At the University of California at San Diego, for instance, researchers are creating prototypes of clothing that would keep wearers’ body temperature at a comfortable 93°. “HVAC uses 40% of energy consumption in buildings,” says Renkun Chen, an associate professor in UC San Diego’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “If we can extend the set point of our thermostats, we can save energy. To do that, we need to have a garment to keep the wearers comfortable.”