Design Catwalk
Interactive Textiles: Real Easy and Fun


Interactive textiles are not theory anymore in case you haven’t noticed yet. There are so many platforms, forums, fablabs all over the world I could say and even Italy is not last in the field of 3D printing and “plugged textiles”

At Ied I met visionary and enthusiast expert of these fields  Troy Nachtigall and I took the chance to interview Riccardo Marchesi, founder of Plug and Wear, in occasion of a 2 days course held in Florence.

J-How did you start? where does this interest and research come from?
R.M.-We are a company with more than 65 years of expertise in textiles and textiles machinery. We have produced industrial knitting machines since 1949. When market had changed we had to think of new activities and new products. I am electronic engineer: it came to my mind the idea combining two old techniques: “old + old = new” I said. I put together electric wires technology with my knitting expertise and, with the help of my brother Lorenzo, we started a brand new firm called Plug and Wear. Nowadays, our manufactory merges Italian textile tradition with innovation and research on e-textiles and smart fabrics. We proudly developed and built 95% of our machines. We produce textiles sensors and actuators, conductive fabrics, and light emitting textiles. We entirely design and knit our products in our factory in Florence, Italy. You can find a lot out about our products in our online shop.

J-How is has the startup evolved and how is the business now?
R.M.-The startup is evolving now. We are focused on the DIY market and on the industrial applications of our sensors. We are building a distributor network for the DIY market, while we are in contact with companies for OEM use of our sensors and fabrics.

J-What do you think are the new roles and the relationship between technology and handcraft?
R.M.-If you think about the maker culture and the increasing amounts of fablabs and makerspaces you see a lot of interest in this mesh up of technology and crafts. The maker movement represents a technology-based extension of DIY culture, a wide community based on the idea of sharing, learning practical skills and applying them creatively. This is involving more traditional activities – such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts – as well as engineering-oriented pursuits – such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and CNC tools. We will be able see all the developments of all this in the near future.

J-How do you relate to fashion?
R.M.-The applications for our textiles spread from fashion to robotics, wearable technology and Internet of Things. Fabrics cover 80% of our bodies and they are everywhere, in our houses as well in public places. Fashion is good field for our materials.They are skin-compatible, flexible, low cost, transpiring and translucent. However there are still some unsolved issues we have to focus on. A lot of fabrics and sensors are washable but not all of them. But wearables are not just clothing or t-shirts so possibilities of research in the field are open and wide.

J-How do you see the future of interactive textiles?
R.M.-I personally see a big future for medical and industrial applications and wearables as well. Probably non-wearable projects will emerge before wearable, the second group being with more constraints.

J-How do you do your research?
R.M.-I usually have an idea and I start working on it trying to find the right materials and the right technologies to materialize it. With our limited resources sometimes it takes years, so I usually work to more projects in parallel.

J-What would you never give up?
R.M.-Inventing new stuff.

J-Which are the artists/makers/inventors you have discovered latest and where, and which ones have never disappointed you?
R.M.-There are too many artists and inventors that I admire. In particular I like artists working with technology. Lynne Bruning is a designer I like a lot. About the makers I like: the work of Hannah Perner-Wilson and Mika Satomi is interesting. You can find a lot of resources about e-textiles in their web kobakant.
About my latest meetings: Compagnia TPO

J-Future projects? Too many to list.
R.M.-Current readings, printed or/and online? I just finished reading Makers by Cory Doctorow.

juliana de nicola

juliana de nicola. Senior Fashion and Art Editor
Juliana is an italian-austrian artist and designer. After academical art-studies and fashion Ba she started working as a free-lance in fashion business covering different roles to feed her curiosity, while her personal projects are growing out of her mouth and ears restless. She was born in Vienna in the past century, loves her savage dogs, lives now in Florence, and travels every time she can.


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