In the first of a new series kicking off on Spindle, we explore the latest developments emerging in the intersection between fashion and technology. From wearable tech to clever gadgets, forward-thinking designers and innovative crowd-funded projects, we’re on the lookout for the smartest takes on style to hit the scene this side of the 22nd century.
Istanbul-based designer Ece Özalp has taken her debut collection Perception to the next level with a futuristic new audiovisual performance called What Is Real?, made in collaboration with Turkish media agency Bİ’ŞEYLER. Combining fashion with film and projection mapping, Özalp’s directional printed creations come to life when projected onto 3D-scanned dress representing the original design.
We’re big fans of secretive experimental studio The Unseen, known for combining fashion with science, technology, art, design and performance from their HQ at Somerset House. Their latest project takes the form of a standout accessories range called Air, with each piece able to visibly respond to changes in the environment using advanced colour-changing inks. Created for Selfridges‘ London store, highlights include devoré scarves with panels that shift shades when in contact with the wearer’s body, as well as a backpack made with 13 different inks that reacts to outside factors like temperature and sunlight. Nifty.
CuteCircuit x EasyJet
Located in the heart of Shoreditch, the CuteCircuit label is one of the fashion industry’s best-known pioneers of wearable technology. This time around, they’ve partnered with EasyJet on a brand new range of high-tech uniforms. Made to celebrate the discount airline’s 20th anniversary, both cabin crew and aircraft engineers get a next-gen makeover. For crew, LED-embedded garms with light-up hems have been designed with passengers’ safety in mind (in the event of an emergency), while illuminated data loops provide information on factors like flight numbers and destination time. Engineer jackets also feature built-in cameras for remote problem-shooting.
MIT Media Lab x Royal College of Art
This transatlantic collab sees teams from the MIT Media Lab join forces with the Royal College of Art on an innovative ‘bio-skin’ fabric, which physically responds to variables like perspiration and humidity to keep the wearer cool. BioLogic textures were created using a bacteria called the Bacillus Subtilis, traditionally used to ferment foodstuffs in Japan with properties that allow it to expand and contract when exposed to moisture. The clever folk at both institutions applied the microorganism cells to wearable garments with diamond-shaped cut-outs, which are able to peel back and ventilate the body if it gets too warm.
Kickstarter is a great platform to scope out the next generation of design stars. One project that’s currently smashing it is BLOCKS, the world’s first ever modular smartwatch. Using the watch face as a base, wearers can customise their timepiece to suit their lifestyle by selecting the clip-on modules they want to use. Still in prototype mode, the accessory’s creators maintain the potential for personalisation is endless – from add-on batteries, contactless capabilities and heart monitors to luxe materials like gemstones or 3D-printed precious metals. BLOCKS has attracted thousands of backers so far, who have collectively donated a whopping 606% of its original pledge ask. Move over Apple Watch, there’s a new must-have gadget in town (for a fraction of the price).
Upcoming Fashion Tech Exhibitions
If you live in New York, we have a couple of hot dates for your diary (and if you don’t, get ready to hit those January airline sales!), as the city will play host to two must-see exhibitions in 2016. The first is the Costume Institute’s Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, running from May 5th-August 4th at The Met. Exploring the impact of new technology on fashion, this exhibition will also provide the theme for the annual Met Ball extravaganza (expect to see the likes of Kimye and RiRi in tinfoil and wires come spring). Elsewhere in NYC, Pratt Manhattan Gallery will be opening its doors to a Coded_Couture exhibition from February 11th-April 30th, showcasing innovative clothing customised by coding. In the meantime, if you happen to be passing through Sweden, Stockholm’s Liljevalchs Konsthall is currently showing Utopian Bodies: Fashion Looks Forward till February 7th, featuring a range of tech-clever styles by designers like Pauline van Dongen and Iris van Herpen.