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The Tech of Fashion: 10 Ways Technology Drives Tomorrow’s Fashion

Like any other art, the long-term trends in fashion are often driven by advancements in technology.  New materials merge with the old and new needs drive innovation while fashion slowly evolves.  Which of today’s trends are driving the wearables of tomorrow?   Join us as we explore the high tech fashion of the future– from energy to protection to information directly within the clothing we wear.

This Exploration of the high tech fashion of the future is sponsored by our friends at Persol.

Protection in Fashion: Armor and Information

When we enter dangerous endeavors, from biking through the city to fighting fires, the clothes we wear can help keep us safe.  Take the airbag for cyclists, for example, as created by Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin.  This neck-worn system pops open with a fully-inflated airbag ready to absorb the shocks of impact.  When not expanded, the system provides for greater visibility (and avoids the stigma of those less-than-stylish bicycle helmets).  To protect us against a greater extreme, designers Ashwin Rajan and Kevin Cannon developed what they call the Frontline Gloves, a system of networked gloves that allow firefighters to communicate with simple hand gestures.  Use a specific hand signal to let your comrades know to evacuate, to recover a discovered victim or that everything is A-ok.

Protection in Fashion Gallery

Recycling in Fashion

As fresh materials become harder to come by and/or less sustainable, the need to recycle existing fabrics becomes more important.  Take for example the work of SegraSegra, a Hungarian group that recycles used bicycle inner tubes to create stylish, leather/lycra-like jackets and t-shirts.  Then there’s the work of New Zealander Emma Whiteside, who crafted a large, sculptural gown out of recycled radiator copper.  As resources become scarce, it will be the ingenuity of groups like this that have a strong hand in changing the face of fashion.

Recycling in Fashion Gallery

Kinetic Energy in Fashion

When we walk, run or dance, our movement can be converted into electrical energy.  A small collection of enterprising inventors have taken the task of using clothing to capture this kinetic energy, then using it to power a watch, an mp3 player, even a mobile phone.  An industrial designer named Soledad Martin is working on a prototype to place kinetic energy harnesses in common shoes, allowing the wearer to charge a cell phone battery while they walk or run.  Recently, designer Rafael Rozenkranz has built a jogging suit with an embedded mp3 player that runs solely off the kinetic energy produced during a jog.  The technology isn’t necessarily new, but it is making its way into fashion more and more each decade.  One early example of kinetic energy in fashion was with kinetic watches, which have ran off the movement of the human body since the 1980s.

Kinetic Energy in Fashion Gallery

Solar Power Fashion

Where a surface meets the sun, solar energy can be captured.  The human body is no different, and plenty of fashion designers have hopped on board this growing technology.  Designer Andrew Schneider understands this new solar real estate, having developed his solar bikini with a focus on sex appeal.  Design student Mae Yokoyama approached this technology in a manner of higher fashion with her solar panel necklace, one that would be a striking design even without the green element.  Last, the solar-powered handbag by Diffus continues the accessory approach to solar power, but delivers in a striking fashion.  While some solar designs are still in gimmick territory, others can charge a phone, mp3 player or similar device in a short time in the sun.

Solar Power Fashion Gallery

Environmentally Responsive Fashion

The environment around us is changing, and our fashion can respond to that in artful or informative ways.  Take for example the climate dress by Diffus, a system that monitors nearby air pollution levels and provides feedback in the form of LED light.  When the air is heavily polluted, the lights within this dress pulsate quickly to alert the wearer and those nearby.  A similar system by designers Nien Lam and Susan Ngo also monitors the air quality, yet doing so with a simple color change in the lungs on the front of the shirt.  Last, the work of Stijn Ossevoort is less functional but it remains beautiful– a dress that lights up as gusts of wind pass by.

Environmentally Responsive Fashion Gallery

3D Printed Fashion

3D printing technology is still in its infancy, but it has already made its way to the world of fashion.  Everything from shoes to bikinis have gone under the lathe of a 3D printer, with a notable example being the Invisible Shoes by Andreia Chaves.  These stunning, faceted shoes are carved by a 3D printer and then manually merged with a classic pump.  Others like Continuum Fashion have crafted bikinis using the 3D printing route.  Our friends at Ecouterre have been hot on the trail of 3D-developed fashion, and their 3D roundup captures a lot of this trend in action.

3D Printed Fashion Gallery

RFID Technology in Fashion

RFID Technology can have a sinister or stunning application in fashion, depending on the execution.  RFID tags have been embedded in products sold by some large labels and retail chains, tracking the use of their products for the purpose of marketing and store security.  Yet other designers have used RFID technology to aid stroke patients or to help people remember their keys when leaving the house.

RFID Technology in Fashion Gallery

Disability Friendly Fashion

In the years ahead, many human disabilities can be managed by our clothing, and some designers are already moving that direction.  The “Feel the Time” Watch by Anna Bieniek is a simple braille watch concept that allows the visually impaired to stay on schedule.  Inventor Pedro Nakazato Andrade has created a futuristic cast which uses a built-in EMG meter to track the healing of bone and muscle and report the progress to a community website.  Last, a special thimble has been created for the visually impaired that turns information in the world around them into braille feedback that is displayed upon the wearer’s finger.

Disability Friendly Fashion Gallery

Laser Etched Fashion

In contrast to many of these new technologies, laser-etched fashion may be the furthest along.  Mainstream designers and retailers have developed laser-etched products that can be found on the shelves in many stores today.  FashioningTech has rounded up a recent collection of laser-etched clothing that has already hit the market.  Design student Alba Prat may represent the remaining frontier of laser etched fashion, having released a conceptual series of laser-cut neoprene that is truly on the cutting edge.

Laser Etched Fashion Gallery

Illuminated Fashion: LEDs and Lasers

Some future designs won’t be as functional as they will be visually impacting, but such has always been true about the clothes we wear.  Designer Wei-Chieh Shih built a laser suit with multiple rows of lasers stretching across the wearer’s back.  The suit will only have full visibility in a smoky environment, so this one is built for the night clubs.  Mary Huang of Rhyme & Reason uses light as a primary element in her designs, reflecting a feminine sparkle in her already flattering illuminated clothing.

Illuminated Fashion Gallery

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