Fab Fabric? Spray on Cotton


An engineer and a fabric designer have recently teamed up to create cotton fabric that comes in a can.

Imperial College of London’s particle engineer Paul Luckham teamed up with fashion designer Manel Torres to launch Fabrican Ltd. to create a spray on fabric. The company is working on mass-producing this fabric in a can.

Could this new fabric help the industry become closer to a zero waste fashion ideal, or do the product’s drawbacks outweigh the potential benefits? Let’s take a look at the spray on fabric and talk about its pros and cons.

The fabric consists of tiny cotton fibers dissolved in a solvent which quickly evaporates after you spray it on, leaving a seamless piece of fabric right on your model or mannequin. The fabric comes in an aerosol can, probably to help create an even application of the fabric. It looks quite versatile, but I definitely have some concerns about it.

This video from New Scientist gives a little peek at the fabric and talks a bit more about how it works:

The Pros

There are a couple of benefits with this new technology that immediately spring to mind.

  • When you’re cutting out fabric for a pattern, there’s always going to be waste. Even if you use those scraps, you’re going to end up with tiny pieces that are too small to use. With spray on fabric, there’s no cutting, and therefore no waste.
  • The other neat thing about this fabric is it can be reused over and over, also without creating waste. In a world of fast fashion, this could significantly cut back on wasted fabric in the form of landfilled clothing and I’m not just talking about clothing discarded from personal closets. Big box stores often toss unsold clothing that’s gone out of style. With this new technology, they could send those items back to the manufacturer to be remade into something new and current.

The Cons

  • The biggest concern for me is the product’s ingredients. I couldn’t find any information about the solvent used to apply the fabric. Water is a solvent, so it could be something as innocuous as that. Or it could also be a nasty chemical solvent, which have their own concerns.
  • It looks like the plan is to mass produce this fabric in aerosol cans. The propellants in these cans are not great for the environment, though they have come a long way from the CFC-laden cans that were destroying the ozone layer. Aerosol cans are also a hassle to recycle, so I do wonder if we’d be replacing fabric waste with empty cans in the landfill.

So what do you guys think? Is this new spray on fabric hot or not?

[Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by amagill]

5 thoughts on “Fab Fabric? Spray on Cotton”

  1. Not. It’s got plastic and who knows what other chemicals and I don’t want to be breathing that.

    It’s kind of neat but overall I think it’s a bad idea.

  2. Setting the environmental concerns aside for a moment, I just wonder how comfortable that would actually be to wear–it looks like it would make for extremely form-fitting clothes, and I wonder how sturdy they’d be to actually move in. Not to mention that I’m not sure I’d want that stuff sprayed directly on my skin. (That, and I’d miss sewing!)

  3. Though I appreciate the obvious concerns about this new fabric, I can see that it could be of great benefit in certain areas. I was just amazed to read about this – incredible stuff. Thanks for letting us know of this stunning invention.

  4. Ok…. So, I can see it being an amazing breakthrough towards ending mass consumer-ism; but, like mentioned before, what is in the stuff besides cotton (&there’s NO way the solvent is gonna be water if the clothes created are washable! Hopefully it is just a lubricant or something that has a high evaporation rate)? As well as, when the scientist says it can be broken down and resprayed…. HOW? I didn’t know that aerosol cans were refillable….? They better not start a whole new “service” of having to send in your used solution to be reinserted into another aerosol can, otherwise what the article says about the empty cans will become an understatement!

  5. One of my biggest concerns regarding this amazing product is the particulate matter. We already have people suffering from brown lung (a by-product of working in cotton mills, brown lung is caused in part from the minute particulates inhaled) and asbestosis (same as the latter, but caused by asbestos particles). What steps are being taken to avoid these and other debilitating problems?

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