Smart Fabrics Conference, 4-6 April, London

Dr Jan Zimmermann on tech embroideries

Smart Fabrics Conference gathers together people and companies from fashion, technology, electronics, research, academia, textile and diverse applications communities, to discuss what’s happening in the industry and to showcase what’s new and being developed, plus panels discuss and answer questions.

Smart Fabrics - day 2

The conference was fantastic, an excellent eye-opener to the commercial world of smart textiles and I met some really interesting people working in this area. The conference was in it’s 7th year and as a newcomer it was great to chat to people who have been working in this area for over decade and hear their stories, plus talk to students and start-ups. At the moment there seems to be a really good buzz in this area, and it feels like the time is right – driven by forces such as an ageing population, lifestyle, medical, sports, military needs and entertainment – for smart fabrics and wearables to take off.

Dr Jan Zimmermann - tech embroidery

My observations…


  • Smart fabric tech is still an emerging technology, but feels like it’s on the verge of an explosion of interest
  • Interest in sensing wearables for sport, medical, industrial, military and lifestyle interests is taking off and is where the funding opportunities are
  • Obviously lots of opportunity for innovation and room for more companies/creatives
  • I’m excited by fabric pick & place sewing machine that replaced traditional solder with conductive thread
  • Conductive embroidery with LEDs could be very exciting for fashion/textile artists
  • Performance & sporting events are a big driver for smart wearables


  • Smart fabrics technology is still looking for a killer app
  • Necessity for more standards and classifications
  • Sustainablility
  • Cheap disposables for medical purposes
  • Supply chain isn’t yet set up for wearable tech
  • “A lot of focus on the technology, but not enough on what the consumer wants”
  • Marketing focus
  • “Progress is usually slower than prediction”

My wish list:

  • Emerging tech could possibly thrive faster with some open source collaboration and sharing of ideas
  • Manufacturers should keep in mind emerging artists and designers for showcasing their products, as well as wanting to give to top designers
  • I’m really excited about developments in electroluminescent yarns, fabrics and films for artworks and wearables, though sadly I didn’t see much in development and available anytime soon in small quantities for artists like myself to buy
  • Would love to hear more about combining code with hardware prototyping, from hardware/code hackers like myself
  • Be great to explore some applications for smart fabrics use in gaming
  • I’d like to hear more user-testing examples, what do end users want/like?

I came away from the Smart Fabrics conference feeling very inspired and with a ton of knowledge. I hope it isn’t too long before some of the smart fabrics & tech discussed will be available to me, both as a designer and consumer.

Dr Uwe Mohring: novel illuminations

Dr Uwe Mohring: novel illuminations

HITEK: conductive fabrics



  1. Hi my name is Danielle sobik, and i was wondering if you would be able help me with regards to the name of the manufactuer who has created this textile. 4 years ago I designed an interactive light emmitting sofa using electroluminscent technology which reacted to weight and proximity as part of my final year project at university.(please google Danielle Sobik – couch counselling for image or follow the above link). I created a protoype and I was featured in a number of exhibitions over the UK. However at the time, the fabic which I wanted to use was not available as it was still in the early stages. I have had a number of interested parties wishing to purchase the product however I am still trying to find the right textile manufacturer? If you can help at all or provide a contact name I would greatly appreciate it.

    Kindest regards

    Danielle Sobik

  2. Hi thank you for getting back to me, i was mainly interested in the bottom two photographs Woven EL fabric.

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