February is Fashion Week worldwide, and whether you’re enjoying the catwalk shows in New York, London or Milan you’ll notice a key trend. The rise of high tech fashion has never been hotter, and designers are using the latest in technology to create clothes that are more than just cool- they double as Bluetooth garments/ remote controls and can change colour depending on the temperature. We take a look at ten of the top names in high-tech fashion.
It’s very easy for designers to take fashion technology a tad too seriously, but Rainbow Winters sticks a finger up to that notion and creates something decadent and girly. Looking like something an eighties kid might swallow down with soda, her collection is a breath of fresh air amidst a world of blacks and neutrals. Created by British designer Amy Konstanze Mercedes Rainbow Winters , the line is called Rainbow Winters and focuses on how clothing reacts to the elements around it.
Her collection features thermochromic and hydrochromic ink which alter in rain or sun, providing stunning visual effects, such as appearing and disappearing flowers and patterns. Her background actually lies in the theater and it is this sense of spectacle that is prevalent in the designs; a certain showmanship that shines through. She aims to combine discipline such as art and science in a visually appealing way, and I’d say she succeeds.
Diana is a doyen in the fashion tech world, as not only has she been in the biz for a serious number of years, but she has also published a book called Fashion Geek which provides a useful how to guide for aspiring high tech fashionistas.
She creates delicate pieces that merge ideas with reality, such as her Jack Frost scarf, which uses thermochromatic technology. As the wearer gets colder, tiny snowflakes get bigger on it- a neat way of harnessing the elements and making something new and exciting. . Her strapline is ‘fashion engineered from daydreams‘, and the delicate ethereal pieces she makes echo that feel. She was the leading designer in the CES Fashionware show and you might also recognize her from her stint on Project Runway.
Seeing as I have fewer than 100 pairs of shoes, the word fetish would be a little extreme, but my mouth does start to water when I look at the creations of Anastasia Radevich. Her shoes have been created using fiber optics to give them a dazzling quality which draws you to them immediately- and then your eyes take in the artfully shaped heel and the curvature of the foot…
A black mesh has been placed over the fiber optics to diffuse the light into a more subtle glow, and it’s activated by a switch at the ankle. Radevich trained at the London College of Fashion and footwear is her specialty. Her work uses aerospace engineering to create intricate heels on the shoes, and the finished result is a mix of futuristic style and design know how. I love how she focuses on design first and gimmicks second, and hope we’ll see more in this vein.
Vega Wang (not to be confused with Vera) is a Chinese based designer who earned her stripes at the Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London (a common occurrence amongst designers). She creates delicate dresses and floaty chiffon designs that utilize electroluminescent lights to give the outfits a lightness that LEDs lack. She uses Elmin 8 lights to give her Into the Deep outfits (her university project collection) a Tron like quality that still manages to convey delicacy and femininity. When asked about what she sees as the future of technology themed fashion she says, ’I think technology is helping to bring the handmade back.’ Amen to that. Watch this space!
Syuzi is an LA based designer who specializes in looking at the intersection between culture, technology and craft. Hey, she did her MFA Thesis on it, and has since published a book- Fashioning Technology- where she shares the practices of soft circuits and technology, and gives people helpful how to tips on getting started. Her range of designs covers everything imaginable and shows her passion for fusing technology with wearable garments- and her love of playfulness.
She says, ‘DIY techniques typically aren’t as reliable as manufactured techniques for the obvious reasons. I think if we had textile-based sensors available at an affordable cost we would not need to craft them ourselves. I feel it’s derived out of necessity. On the other hand, by making your own sensors for example, you learn a lot more about how these simple technologies work. This hands-on knowledge is invaluable.’
This has led her to developing many interesting items, and I love the Tron glowing suit she recently designed, as well as the more aesthetically pleasing Wearable light leather cuff (details on how to make in her book).
Solar panels are a great way to get free energy- and keep the planet healthy at the same time. Combining solar panels with fashion though is not so appealing. Silvr Lining aim to change that public perception with their GO collection, which features modern looking apparel which harnesses solar power discretely. Whilst they won’t win any catwalk designs for trends, they look comfortingly like the type of clothes you’d find in Gap or American Apparel, thick bright colours, soft fabrics and removable solar panels.
The garments are all made from Ultrasuede, a polyester fabric that resists stains. Each item houses special pockets to fit solar panels in, and can be used to charge your mobile devices. All are USB 2.0 compatible, and can actually be removed if you want to be totally tech free. Prices start from $920 up, but it’s hoped costs will come down as they go more mainstream.
This London based company specializes in creating wearable technology that gives the user far more than just a design led experience. Founded by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz, the company sells a plethora of pretty twinkly looking designs; from their excitingly named Twirkle dress (a concoction that runs on coin cell batteries and glows as you move ) to a stunning LED creation that Katy Perry wore to the Met Ball. Their remit is all about style, they don’t just throw LED lights around for fun, and all their designs are beautifully thought out- clothes that excite both the fashionistas and tech heads alike.
Jennifer Darmour’s Zip
Jennifer Darmour is heavily involved in the world of fashion design, with years of experience in the industry. Her graduate product focused on wearable computing, merging textiles with circuits and she currently runs the great high tech fashion blog ElectricFoxy. Her love of wearable technology is visible in everything she does, from the enthusiastic but informed way she describes products that she finds, to the fact that she has created objects of her own. One of her latest creations is the ‘Zip’, a coat which integrates controls for a music player.
Similar items do exist, but Jennifer chose not to hide away the controls- as is the norm- but to make them part of the fluidity of the garment. You can now control the sound of your music with gentle gestures and strokes (sliding the zipper down adjusts the volume), making it an intuitive interface rather than dedicated controls- a new way of thinking about how form and function merge.
Helen Storey is not your typical professor. Her full title is Helen Storey MBE, Professor of Fashion and Science, Co Director Centre for Fashion/Science at London College of Fashion, and her projects include many interesting pieces. Her work looks at creating sustainable fashion using the latest technology and her Disappearing Dresses epitomize her methods. These dresses are made from soluble material that react differently to water- one dress will turn the water vibrant colors whilst another will create underwater fireworks when lowered into a giant goldfish bowl. Helen’s clothes are far more than fashion- they are artistic statements that make people address the disposable nature of clothing and how the environment is affected by our fashion choices. She describes the work she does as ‘a journey from fashion to future’ and it’s great to see someone so talented challenging our understanding of the terms style.
Catalytic Clothing is a new British brand that takes an entirely new slant on the mixture of fashion and form. They’ve created a dress which doesn’t just adorn the wearer- but actually effects the environment. No, not from basking in the glow of a beauty, but from clever air purifying filters that the dress has been fitted with. It’s a collaboration between two British universities (Sheffield and the London College of Fashion- with help from Helen Storey) and the gown is part of the new Catalytic Clothing collection which aims to make people aware about the science of pollution. The dress is called ‘Herself’ and is designed to show how fabrics can reduce air pollutants- the human form of Febreeze.
Details are unclear about how the dress works, but rumors that it is created with sprayed concrete abound. The potential for this style for dress is endless- could clothes be made that help asthma sufferers, or prevent kids from getting colds? Truly mind boggling discoveries are being made here.