fashion: September 2003 Archives

a wearable by any other name...

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This past summer, I4U reported on a jacket being developed by Pioneer. The arm of the jacket has an organic film electro-luminescent (translation: thin and flexible) display.

In a 2001 Taipei Times article, the fashion designer behind the jacket said, "You can't just bring together existing things like a coat and all the machines with adaptors, batteries, and so on ... You have to invent new products..." In another article she said that previous wearable-PC attempts have flopped because "computer engineers focused more on chips than hips." Wanting to move away from the connotations of wearable computers, she has coined the term "media fashion," which I actually haven't heard used anywhere else.

In her Masters thesis, Megan Galbraith from MIT makes a similar distinction between wearable computers and computational garment design. "Computational garment design concerns itself with the aesthetics of garments enhanced by technology or innovative materials with reactive properties. ... Wearable computing, on the other hand, is concerned with the functionality, robustness, and usability of the technology as it inhabits spaces on the body. ... Wearable computers tend to be considered a fashion faux pas."

It seems to me that the differences we currently perceive between engineering and fashion as they relate to wearable computing are just a byproduct of merging these two previously disparate fields. Still, will the terms by which we refer to wearable technology make a difference in the acceptance and adoption of new wearable products? Sounds like a research study in the making...

P.S. A Japanese technology professor in the Taipei Times article compared the idea of merging electronics and fashion with the shift in thinking that happened when people realized that the earth revolved around the sun. Hmmm. A little melodramatic?

- Thanks to Kevin and Micah for the links!


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A few years ago Elise Co from the MIT Media Lab was working on a luminescent raincoat. It had panels that would light up when they got wet, mirroring the pattern of the raindrops.

Interactive rain gear has since made it out of academia and onto the runway. The June 2003 issue of Wired featured a transparent raincoat from Prada that becomes opaque when it gets wet from rain or perspiration. Miuccia Prada says, "Every piece of clothing shapes your body but also the space around you, the emptiness around you. This raincoat, from our 2002 winter collection, plays off that divide. ... It changes the relationship between what's inside and outside."

I'm not crazy about the perspiration thing, but I really like the idea of clothing responding to environmental factors like rain in a whimsical way.

electronic t-shirts

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Cyberdog, a company that appears to be devoted to progressive clothing and techno music, is selling electonic t-shirts. (To find them, click on "t-shirts" and then "light-tee s/s" or "light vests".) Their designs include one with a 32-character programmable scolling message on the chest and another with a sound-activated graphic equalizer. Unfortunately they only have a picture of the scrolling message tee, though there are animations for the rest. I can't decide if these shirts are cool or goofy. Maybe they're both.

Something I don't hear much about is how you wash this type of clothing. Cyberdog says that each shirt comes with a battery pack and plug in module, the removal of which I would assume makes the shirts washable, but I'm not completely sure about that.

If you visit their site, it's worth taking five minutes to look through the rest of their clothes. A few things interest me, like their long drape skirt, but clearly I am not in their target audience! Still, it's fun for a look.

BBC article rehash


Several people have sent me links to or about the recent BBC article covering the Eurowearable 03 conference. Roland Piquepaille pulls out snippets from the original article for those who don't feel like reading the whole thing.

A post on gizmodo was dismissive, stating "the biggest reason why wearable computing hasn't taken off is that the clothes are usually ugly." My friend Megan had the same reaction when she looked at the illuminating dress that I mentioned in a previous post. Yes, as excited as I am about this dress, I admit the fabric is not something you long for in an evening dress. Or a sundress. Or any dress really. But the illuminating dress is important because it's an attempt, and an excellent one at that, to bridge the gulf between fashion and engineering.

The BBC article says that "much ... does not make it out of the engineer's lab or off the fashion designer's sketch pad". Clearly this will need to change in order for the field to move forward and I get the feeling that it's already happening. This is actually where I hope to position myself when I graduate next year.

- from Micah, John, and Haven. Thanks! :o)

feeling good

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Megan Galbraith, from the Aesthetics & Computation Group at the MIT Media Lab, showed her illuminating dress in the Wear Me exhibition that was part of Eurowearable 03.

The dress, named Elroy, is shown in a short feel-good video (6.2MB) that will make you want to either buy one of these dresses or make one yourself! OK, well that's what it did for me. The captions read, "The panels rearrange patterns depending on the time. It's about a relationship between you and your wardrobe. It's not about computers strapped to your arm. It's about bringing the world of fashion into the 21st century. Because what we wear should make us feel good. And if it doesn't, it should change."

Megan has created so many amazing things and her website is a treasure trove for anyone excited about wearables and fashion. Especially worth checking out are her page on computational fashion concepts and her Masters thesis entitled Embedded Systems for Computational Garment Design. Go! Go Now!

groove bag

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Have an iPod? Want to blast your music out on the street? Concerned about what the local fashionistas might think? Worry no more! Dr. Bott is selling two speaker bags that let you "take your iPod out in Gucci-style".

These incognito boom boxes were featured on a few months ago. "When an accessory lets you flaunt your style, musical taste and tech skills and carry everything you need for the day, you know that form and function haveófinallyófallen in love."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the fashion category from September 2003.

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