"Consumer awareness of global environmental and ethical issues in the supply chain has tipped large clothing companies in to action," Sandy Black, professor of fashion and textiles, design and technology at the London College of Fashion (LCF), told nanotechweb.org. "New thinking is beginning to emerge on a much more comprehensive scale."

Wearable electronics that allow garments to change colour may grab the headlines, but nanotechnology's biggest benefit is likely to be more down to earth. "Laundry and care are the main polluters in the clothing cycle," said Black. "Nanotechnology can contribute most by reducing our cleaning needs."

Black leads LCF's Fashion Science Group and is looking at the relationship between craft practices and advanced technology. She will be a key figure at next year's Micro and nanotechnologies in fashion and textiles conference and exhibition scheduled for 23–24 January 2008. Organized by the LCF and cientifica, the event is an ideal opportunity for nanotechnologists to engage with the design community.

"The power of fashion is significant and this can be harnessed to get people on board," added Black. "It can be a catalyst for social change." Other concepts in the pipeline include spray-on fabrics, laminated clothing and biodegradable polymer textiles.

Sandy Black presented her work at Nanotechnology – Products and Processes for Environmental Benefit, organized by the Institute of Nanotechnology (IoN).