David Lauren

WASHINGTON — David Lauren, executive vice president at Ralph Lauren Corp., will join Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and other industry leaders at the inaugural “Smart Fabrics Summit” in the nation’s capital in early April, with the aim of fostering more collaboration in the fast-growing and emerging segment of the textile industry, the agency said Wednesday.

The summit, slated for April 11 and hosted by Commerce and the Industrial Fabrics Association International, will provide a forum for public and private sector officials and executives in technology, apparel and textiles to highlight recent developments in the smart fabrics industry, discuss industry challenges and identify areas of potential collaboration.

“Ralph Lauren has a long history and commitment to being a leader in innovation, merging technology and fashion in a way that excites and enhances the lifestyle of our customer,” said Lauren, who is executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and communications for Ralph Lauren. “The introduction of the PoloTech shirt is just the beginning for us in how the brand can incorporate smart fabrics in products that profoundly impact the way we live our daily lives.”

Advances in technology have brought the diverse trio of industries — apparel, technology and textiles — together to develop new capabilities in fabrics that could transform how athletes, soldiers and first responders interact with their clothes and the environment.

Known as smart fabrics, the new high-tech products have a range of capabilities, including “tracking and communicating data about their wearer or environment to other devices through embedded sensors and conductive yarns.”

Applications for the new technology in fabrics are expanding in such areas as fashion, defense, fitness, health and public safety.

“The practical applications resulting from the marriage of textiles and conductive technologies are virtually unlimited,” said Mary Hennessy, president and chief executive officer at the IFAI, which represents more than 1,500 member companies in the advanced textiles industry.

“The high-tech fabrics produced by our member companies are helping to create new product possibilities all over the world,” said Hennessy, who will take part in the summit. “This is a vital growth market for textiles.”

The global market for smart clothing is expected to grow to $600 million by 2020 from $17.2 million in 2013, according to research from Tractica LLC, the Commerce Department said.

“As America’s innovation agency, the Department of Commerce plays a unique role in facilitating greater collaboration between the public and private sectors on emerging technologies,” Pritzker said. “Working together, we can spur advancements and address challenges with respect to new industries such as smart fabrics.”

Pritzker said the event will showcase new smart fabrics technology, foster new partnerships among industry leaders and encourage the creation of more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Several policy issues will also be explored, including research and development funding, intellectual property, standards, import classification and health regulations.

Josh Walden, senior vice president and general manager of Intel, who will also participate in the summit, said, “The miniaturization of computing and Moore’s Law is enabling the integration of smaller and more powerful technology across apparel, footwear and accessories. At Intel, we continue to invest in future technologies and in new market segments and believe there is great promise in adding intelligence to what we wear. The potential to improve our health, safety and comfort with wearable technology is truly exciting.”

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