context: technological tools and devices are more and more improved. They become better and smaller. Yet, the ultimate dream is not to have easier tools: it is to not have to bother with tools at all! The step forward then is the integration of functions into objects that we feel do not clutter, that are part of our life. The idea of integrating technology into clothing is a step in this direction, which the recent development of conductive textiles, embroidered sensors, fabric switches, fabric wiring, and flexible fabric displays has made possible to explore.
the exhibition: consider an entirely new fashion concept - wearable electronics - a marriage of technology and clothing. Imagine garments with temperature sensors, air filters, satellite positioning, and all that new technology has to offer - traveling with you as part of your clothes… Held in 2002, ‘New Nomads’ exhibition offered a visionary glimpse of what might become possible over the next decade or two. Hosted by the Fashion Design Gallery at the Phoenix Art Museum, it featured five prototypes on loan from Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands. Unlike other electronics designed to be worn within our clothing, Philips’ wearable electronics contain no wiring. The newly developed textiles used as the fabrics for these garments conduct the technology themselves, so the entire piece of clothing is totally integrated with the electronic environment it provides.
new nomads’ garments… The designed prototypes – that reflected the considerations of an entire research team, made up of psychologists, fashion designers, textile scientists and consumer product designers- targeted different groups and needs. Some examples:
challenges: the merger of electronics and clothing is difficult to achieve, since it is not just a question of combining technologies, but also mingling two entirely different cultures. It requires the electronics industry to have the capacity to understand issues such as style, design, materials. On the other side, it forces the fashion designer to think beyond the cut and drape and to adapt the aesthetic drive according to functional requirements. To make the matter even more complex, the introduction of conductive fabrics will not only bring about a change in the fashion industry, but also in all industries in which textiles are used - in transportation, home finishings and furniture. The potential is enormous and the exploration of clothing is only the start…
- Techno Surfer: specially thought for participants in high-risk extreme sports, this outfit contains electronics that provide both fun and safety on the slopes. Equipped with electronic ski passes, radio links, satellite positioning, warning displays, temperature sensors and heating materials, it enables the dedicated snowboarder to cope with any conditions. The integrated thermometer detects and regulates body temperature. An orientation sensor signals to rescuers if the wearer has suffered a fall. A proximity sensor on the back of the jacket detects if another skier is getting too close and a warning hand icon lights up to tell them to back off. And, motion detectors monitor the rhythm of the wearer’s movements, feeding back and constantly re-shaping a music track being mixed by the snowboarder’s body movements.
- Other functions of the prototypes are purely for fun and mobility. The best example is Surround Sound, a jacket with headphones in the hood, special pockets containing an MP3 player and a compartment for downloading extra song files, control buttons on the sleeve, and a big spectrum analyzer on the back of the jacket, which lights up to the beat of the music.
Hopefully, this integrated approach between fashion and technology will push consumers and designers towards consumption patterns more focused on apparels’ performance and updating rather than on throw-away.