What if your clothes were smart enough to understand the weather or your emotions?

Not many people know about Jacquard, a small side-project from Google’s labs that aimed at designing a ‘smart fabric’. The project, which was announced years ago, culminated in something pretty elementary… a jacket that let you play or pause music on your phone. Designer Irmandy Wicaksono’s KnitX smart fabric aims at doing much more.

Imagine if your clothes could respond to certain stimuli? Imagine fabrics that were smart enough to know when it’s cold or hot outside, or interactive enough to be able to respond to your actions? Boston-based designer Irmandy Wicaksono believes that fabric has the unique ability to be more than fashion… it can be an interface too. A PhD Student in the Responsive Environments department at MIT Media Lab, Irmandy is working on interweaving (quite literally) fabrics with tech in unbelievably complex and innovative ways. By relying on computerized knitting machines that are capable of creating customized, complex 3D weaves, the KnitX can integrate functional yarns, such as resistive, conductive, thermochromic, photochromic, and thermoplastic fibers with polyester, nylon, spandex, mink, and other synthetic yarns. This results in being able to create fabrics that respond to physical stimuli such as proximity, pressure, touch, and stretch, or environmental conditions like light and darkness, or cold and heat. Irmandy’s current explorations include a strip of cloth that’s capable of functioning like a musical keyboard, allowing you to play notes just by touching the cloth, as well as responsive cloth backpacks that change color when exposed to UV light, and even three-dimensional, thermo-formed responsive knit textiles that can instantly change shape on command. Future explorations of this unique series of digitally knit functional textiles even includes clothes that can become warmer in the cold or more breathable in the heat, and even change appearance based on your personal mood or sense of style!

The possibilities of the KnitX are literally endless, as they provide the ability to completely transform how clothes are made, and how clothes behave. By turning fabric into a digitally capable product, the KnitX has the potential of truly changing the world and making tech more accessible to and beneficial for everyone. Since it possesses the ability to quite literally alter and upgrade the ‘fabric’ of society, the KnitX finds itself as a finalist in the LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2021. Currently in their 9th year, the Lexus Design Awards are on a mission to ideate and innovate for a better future for humanity as well as for the planet. With their underlying theme of “Design for a Better Tomorrow”, the awards program looks at solutions that have a uniquely positive impact on society, humanity, and in the process, to reward a new generation of designers for their impactful ideas. Creating the perfect environment for a design to grow, LEXUS helps engineer ideas into real, impactful solutions. Apart from accelerating, developing, and promoting design projects, the Lexus Design Award helps kickstart design careers too, with exclusive mentorships from international design stalwarts like Joe Doucet, Mariam Kamara, Sabine Marcelis and Sputniko!, as well as funding for prototypes (up to 3 million Japanese Yen or $25,000 per project) and the opportunity to have your work judged by the biggest figures in design in the final Grand Prix competition. This year’s judges include Paola Antonelli (Senior Curator at MoMA), Dong Gong (Founder and Principal Designer at Vector Architects), Greg Lynn (Architect and CEO at Piaggio Fast Forward), and Simon Humphries (Head of Toyota and Lexus Global Design).

The KnitX is one of the six finalists of the LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2021. Stay tuned as we feature all the finalist designs following the Grand Prix Winner Announcement here on Yanko Design!

Designer: Irmandy Wicaksono

Click Here to See All Six Lexus Design Awards Finalists!

KnitX – Responsive Textiles

KnitX is a set of functional textiles computationally-integrated with digital knitting. The use of active and electronic fibers in the design enables garment and interior fabrics that dynamically respond to gesture and sunlight, change their appearance, and provide thermoregulation.

Irmandy combined conductive, thermochromic, and composite yarns with high-flex polyester yarns to develop KnittedKeyboard, both with its soft physical properties and responsive sensing and display capabilities. The individual and combinations of keys could simultaneously sense discrete touch, as well as continuous proximity and pressure. The KnittedKeyboard enables performers to experience fabric-based multimodal interaction as they explore the seamless texture and materiality of the electronic textile.

Three-dimensional, thermo-formed responsive knit textiles that can actuate through capacitive touch for intelligent interiors/lighting.

Hybrid fur textile by digital knitting of high-flex polyester and mink fibers in checkered pattern.

Click Here to See All Six Lexus Design Awards Finalists!