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Party wearable

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Following the lead of Vivienne Westwood, Diane von Furstenberg has teamed up with Samsung to design a fashion phone. It comes with the "girl-about-town" Cityband -- an arm, wrist, or ankle wrap that keeps "your phone and lip gloss handy while you're on the move." What more could a girl want??

Francine and I were discussing Cityband-like ideas when we did our research on the comfort and function of wearables a few years ago. We told our subjects that an armband they tried on was a "party wearable" and that it could hold a key, money, mints, or other necessities (use your imagination) for a night out.

I also saw something similar -- an armband caddy to use while jogging -- a few months ago at a women's store in Pittsburgh. Because of the potential for movement on the arm, it had a fixed (though stretchy) diameter and fit really tightly around my arm. A cool thing about the Cityband is that it wraps around the arm, which, although probably making a little more bulky, means that it will comfortably fit a range of arm and ankle sizes.

And I just can't let it pass without saying that I wore a much less stylish terrycloth version of this product -- sans cell phone of course -- when I was a kid and used to hang out all summer at the local amusement park with my friends. It held a few bucks and my season pass. (Oh how I wish I had a picture of that thing.)

- Seen in the November issue of Vogue.

This is corny

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If you like fashion and reality TV (like I do), have access to the Bravo channel (like I do), and have always wanted to see the inside of the Parsons School of Design (like I have), you should check out Project Runway. On this new reality series, twelve fashion designers compete for a New York Fashion Week runway show and $100,000 to launch their own clothing line.

I caught the show last night, and was instantly hooked. The challenge for episode one was to design an outfit from materials found at a grocery store. The winner made a dress out of cornhusks, which the judges deemed much more innovative than the outfits made of garbage bags, shower curtains, lawn chairs, mop heads, candy, pantyhose, and cupcake foils. Huh? Yeah, go watch the show. Its regular time is Wednesdays at 10pm Eastern.

Is that a hair in your coffee?

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I love observing how people "dress" their personal technology: bedazzling cell phones, wrapping ipods, toting laptops in stylish bags.

But how far will this trend go?

Now you can dress your paper coffee cup... XS Couture has designed the Fur Cozie -- a fur, leather, and suede java jacket that will keep you from burning your little paws. "The fur provides a luxurious sensual experience, indicating one's distinguished refinement while enjoying their to-go latte." Hahahahaha! Even more laughable is the $85 price tag.

- seen in Dwell magazine


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Tibor and Maira Kalman's book (un)Fashion is the result of Tibor's desire to "catalog his giddy obsession with mankind's ingenious expression". With only a handful of words and hundreds of photographs of clothing and costumes from around the world, I get something different out of this book every time I pick it up.

The pictures are grouped into high-level categories based on:

  • parts of the body (eyewear, footwear, etc.)

  • type (accessories, underwear, uniforms, body art, etc.)

  • function (garments used to carry other humans, modesty, etc.)

  • context (work, play, death, etc.)
  • The variations within each category, as expressed through different lifestyles and cultures, are fascinating. "Work" includes photos of traditionally-dressed chimney sweeps in France; a Samoan businessman dressed in a shirt, tie and skirt; a Peruvian man carrying what must be a 150-pound fish on his back; and two French cocktail hostesses wearing black leotards and dresses made of translucent tiered serving plates holding tiny cakes. "Body Art" includes a picture of a tribesman from Papua New Guinea wearing traditional face paint across from a photo of a Nigerian soccer fan who has painted his face and chest with his team's colors.

    These and other visual pairings in the book probe questions of what is appropriate to wear, how we place value on clothing and accessories, and why we adorn ourselves. But if you're not in the mood to do any deep thinking, just toss the book on your coffee table and enjoy the beautiful pictures.

    If you're reading this, then you haven't yet been distracted by the eyeball picture. I applaud you. I also applaud the merging of technology and fashion that resulted in this limited edition phone (only 99 are being made) from Motorola and designer Vivienne Westwood.

    This is exactly the type of product I've been waiting for, and I'm extremely excited about the possibilities that this type of partnership may lead to in the future as we move beyond gadgets and on to garments.


    My interest in wearables is mostly limited to things worn on, not in, the body, but I just couldn't resist including the "JewelEye". God help me if I ever decide to have jewelry implanted in my eyeball, but apparently there's a waiting list of people who are up for it. The procedure takes only 15 minutes (!) and is said to have no side effects. I can only imagine that this will pave the way for more functional eyeball implants such as miniaturized displays. Eeesh.

    - Both items via notes from somewhere bizarre, a very cool site.

    iPod accessories

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    The iPod and its smaller sibling, the iPod mini, have designers vying for a chance to dress them up.

    Apple's own armband lets you wear the mini on your upper arm. (I have issues with simply strapping a rectangular object to the body, but I'll save that for another post.)

    From MARWARE comes the SportSuitô Runabout, also for the iPod mini. This neoprene and terry cloth case is designed to be worn on the wrist. Although the attachment looks sturdy and comfortable, this case suffers from the same problem as the LAKS MP3 player watch does -- a cord reaches from the wrist to the ear.

    Borderline wearable, the leather iPod cases from Vaja, which come with an optional belt clip, certainly win the style competition. You can even customize the case by picking from an array of color combinations. The fashionistas who run Daily Candy say, "You wouldn't be caught dead in cheapo nylon. What makes you think your gadget should?"

    - Thanks to Haven for the link to MARWARE.

    Update on March 17, 2004:
    Gucci's now in the game! If you thought the Vaja cases were expensive at $35 - $70, don't choke when you hear that the classically styled Gucci iPod case is $195.


    first couture wearables?

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    Today is the last day for the Elsa Schiaparelli exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before it moves to the MusÈe de la Mode in Paris. Schiaparelli may not be widely known today, but from the late 1920's through 1954 she was a top couturier and rival to Coco Chanel. Her designs were practical and forward-thinking (in 1931 she developed a divided skirt for female tennis players), artsy and edgy (she collaborated with Salvador Dali to design a printed pattern that resembled torn animal flesh).

    In what may be the first example of mixing technology and couture fashion, Schiaparelli placed music boxes into bags, belts, and hats to entertain guests during a 1939 fashion show.

    Strangely familiar

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    The Carnegie Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibit called Strangely Familiar: Design and Everyday Life. From the exhibit brochure: "Design is a paradoxical presence in our lives, both invisible and conspicuous, familiar and strange. It surrounds us but fades from view, becomes second nature yet remains seemingly unknowable. Broadly conceived as the world of human-made artifacts, design is literally everywhere. Despite this ubiquity, we seldom experience objects, messages, and spaces to provoke deeper questions about how we choose to live..."

    The projects in Strangely Familiar rethink the traditional role of design in everyday life. A few are particularly relevant to the topics of fashion and technology.

    The Transformables line of clothing from C.P. Company consists of protective rain garments that transform into items such as a tent, kite, or inflatable armchair. (To view the line, click through their homepage to the archive.)

    From the Fortune Cookies design group comes Felt 12x12, small gray felt squares that consumers can combine in ways that suit their own needs or styles. The group believes that "a designer's role in society is to create a framework, within which consumers can define shape and form for themselves." Watch their movie and see creations that range from aprons and hats to hot dog holders.

    The Placebo Project is an investigation into people's attitudes towards electromagnetic fields. The Nipple Chair has two protrusions in the back that vibrate when the chair is in an electromagnetic field. The 25 compasses set into the top of the Compass Table spin when a cell phone is placed on it. The Electro-draught Excluder, though it looks like it might protect you from electromagnetic fields, actually does nothing but induce strange behavior as you try to hide behind it.

    If you're not able to experience this fantastic exhibit in person, buy the book.

    Burton strikes again

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    At Mac World in January, Apple and Burton Snowboards unveiled the now infamous Burton Amp Jacket, an electronic jacket with integrated iPod controls. Less than a year later, they've released four additional products: a backpack, a women's jacket, and two additional men's jackets.

    All of the products contain SOFTswitch technology, which enables electronic components to be built into soft, flexible textiles. The backpack's controls are built into the shoulder strap, while the three jackets wear their controls on their sleeves.

    I hate to be critical because I think these are really exciting products, but I can't help saying that I just don't like the style of the jackets. The men's jackets are ok (and I admit they bear a resemblance to my own less-than-stylish sporty black winter coat), but the women's jacket is really awful. Granted, I'm not a snowboarder, and I'm sure the jackets will sell out regardless, but I still think there's an opportunity for these products to expand outside their original target audience.

    - Thanks to Abe for the link to Cool Hunting

    thoughts on bags

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    The B-Mention line of bags from Isaburo fit closely around your torso, neck, waist, or arm. The designers seem to have found a balancing point on the very fine line between carrying and wearing these bags. I consider it an important line too, as many functional "wearables" these days involve a substantial (and usually non-ergonomic) "carry-able" component.

    I question why I like the torso bag better than the ScotteVest that I mentioned in a previous post. (Though I actually wouldn't want to buy or wear either!) Both the bag and vest allow easy storage and access to items, so is it just the aesthetics of the Isaburo bag that make it more appealing to me or does it have more to do my perceived wearability of the bag? I think it's the latter, and I find it strange that a bag would afford better wearability than an actual piece of clothing.

    Two other bags worth quickly mentioning...

    The Isaburo Turtle bag can worn around the waist like a fanny pack or on the back like a backpack, hung from a cross-shoulder sling strap, or carried like a briefcase. Very cool that they showed concern for how bags are actually worn/carried and built in this type of versatility.

    And if you're not fond of black utilitarian pseudo-fabric, check out Talene Reilly, where you can get a gorgeous pink or purple leather trim laptop bag for around $300. Just a friendly reminder that all this computer stuff doesn't have to look like computer stuff. :)

    - Thanks to Helle for the Isabura images. Talene Reilly link via DailyCandy.

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