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The Melding of Technology and Fashion

Shape-changing dresses and music-playing sweaters were just some of the wearable technologies at the Seamless: Computational Couture fashion show.
January 31, 2008
“X-travagant X-pansionism” (above) is designed by Grace D. Johnson. The dress was inspired by the elegance of peacocks and the Baroque period, and it has a spring-loaded tail.
Credit: Brittany Sauser

Two fashion designers and sisters, Dana and Karla Karwas, have used novel materials to build a “party dress” that turns into an inhabitable structure. In essence, you can sleep in what you partied in.

This is just a glimpse at the Seamless: Computational Couture fashion show, presented on January 30 at the Museum of Science in Boston. Emerging designers from all over the world displayed the latest mesh of chic designs and technological innovation. Many of these “wearable technologies” are still in their infancy and hardly seem practical, but the designs were edgy and distinct, and they’re sure to provoke and inspire the industry.

Steven Rosengard, the show’s emcee and a recent participant on the reality series Project Runway, says that there is a movement in the fashion industry toward the use of technology. The technology at the show that Rosengard says has the most commercial appeal is a pair of jackets that have light-emitting diode arrays woven into the back of the fabrics. When the wearers touch jackets, a text message or design appears on their backs (see image below). The jacket can display whatever message the users choose.

Another collection at the show that caught my eye was “Solar Vintage,” by English designer Elena Corchero. She has incorporated organic solar cells into lace materials to make pieces, such as a handheld fan, a belt, and an umbrella. The solar cells charge light-emitting diodes, also embedded in the fabric, during the day so that the apparel can glow at night (see image below).

“It is very interesting how technology is approaching textiles and how they are coming together,” says Corchero. “But at the same time, technology does not seem to respect that textiles are a very antique medium.” Her pieces are very feminine, colorful, and delicate. Corchero says that she will start shipping items in March and April for approximately $2,000 per garment.

Other collections at the show included a shirt that uses kinetic energy to power gadgets, a garment that allows a wearer to feel the experience of a surgical incision, a ring that displays a wearer’s Google hits (modeled by Red Sox pitcher Manny Delcarmen), and a shirt that reflects Wi-Fi strength.

The show was entertaining and electrifying. Although many of these designs will never reach the market, they are making a statement.

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