When we started working on our textile future study "Perspectives 2035" a year ago, none of us realized that the future was so close. Sustainable, resource and climate-friendly textile solutions, including those with additional benefits in the medical sector, were an important trend that we identified even before corona.
Less than a year later and enriched by the experience of the first pandemic of this millennium, we see and feel that corona will accelerate the megatrends we are researching. What at first glance appears to be a huge disaster for the global fast fashion industry turns out to be an opportunity for valuable fashion brands and all those who are working on building the future with textiles as a material.
This is not only shown by our future study “Perspectives 2035 in the field of antiviral and smart textiles in the medical and healthcare sector“. Yes, the German textile industry and its small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can produce protective masks and protective clothing, and they proved this during the corona crisis, when no more supplies came from China and doctors and hospitals declared a material emergency. However, that alone will not be the future when it comes to protection against viruses. Filter technology, antiviral substances, smart textiles that digitally transmit information to users, recyclable masks instead of disposable products. What we outlined in our study of the future as new business models and potential for textile research and innovative textile SMEs that have won awards in Germany is no longer just dreams of the future, but basic textile knowledge for the 21st century.
This applies equally to the mega-area of climate protection. Whether in construction, air and wastewater filtering, climate-neutral transportation by bus, train, car or plane with climate-neutral clothing, in textiles made from renewable resources or other solutions for a functioning recycling economy; our Perspectives 2035 contain the blueprints for solutions and business models that will carry the German textile industry into the future.
The city of the future also demands new technical solutions that make life in urban centers healthier, more sustainable and more worth living. The city of the future will not arm itself against global warming with even more air conditioning systems. Smart air conditioning, shading and filtration with smart textiles will also be the future here.
Exciting textile applications can be found when it comes to clean water and the cultivation of food for a growing world population. These range from drip traps in the desert to agricultural textiles that enable the space and water-saving cultivation of vegetables in the middle of cities.
One megatrend however is likely to catapult the textile future forward particularly quickly due to the corona pandemic. If there were still any doubts about smart textiles and their added value, these should have been dispelled by the experiences during the corona crisis. It’s good to know that cardiovascular patients can be closely monitored by their physicians from a distance with an ECG shirt. It’s good to know that smart masks or protective clothing will warn us on smartphones in future when viruses have tried to penetrate the fabric.
Our future study also describes market opportunities for textile solutions for an aging society in which we live and work longer. There are applications here not only in a smart home when it comes to assistance and early warning systems for people in need of care, but also for everyday working life, where clever textiles help with heavy lifting, for example.
In our study of the future, we have also shown how digitalization will ensure greater sustainability along possible new supply chains and new online distribution channels. Not producing on stock, but tailor-made for the customer saves material, time and money.
It is already clear for the future of the textile industry that digitalization will also change our industry more strongly and faster than the first industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century, when the steam engine and the mechanical loom were invented. The corona pandemic has shown us many of the opportunities of digitalization. It is important to stay on top of this without ignoring the risks. Only a future-oriented, technology-oriented textile industry will successfully make its way in the 21st century.
German textile research is very well positioned for this. The acceleration of mega-trends as a result of the corona pandemic therefore does not frighten us, but rather encourages us to continue to work with full vigor on the implementation of our “Perspectives 2035”.Link to the study