Monday, June 17 2019


Style & Technology

Bridging the gap between fashion and art, technology is the new mode of making fashion interactive. Riddhima Nagpal uncovers an exciting new world of garments that light up, runways that are projected in 3D and dresses that change shape based on your emotions.
For his Spring-Summer 2012 collection, designer Hussein Chalayan once again awed the audience by his imaginative use of technology to enhance the presentation of the garments. With the idea of self-image as inspiration, Chalayan made models the focal point of his show and projected their image on the canvas behind the catwalk. Using his virtuosic aptitude for technology, he placed tiny cameras inside champagne flutes, which captured the models’ projection.
But Chalayan is no stranger to technology. He has always crossed artistic boundaries and presented something new to the world of fashion. His Spring- Summer 2000 collection ‘Before Minus Now’ brought to limelight a dress made of materials used in aircraft construction, which changes shape by remote control. That was the beginning of this visionary’s journey. Later, his Fall-Winter 2000/2001 collection ‘Afterwords’ explored the notion of wearable, portable architecture in which furniture literally transforms itself into garments. One cannot forget the feeling of fascination after seeing his Spring-Summer 2007 line of animatronic dresses which zipped, flipped and reconfigured right before one’s eyes, or the pixelated LED dresses consisting of Swarovski crystals and over 15,000 flickering LED lights from Fall-Winter 2007’s ‘Airborne’. His Spring- Summer 2009 collection ‘Inertia’ explored the concept of speed and moment of collision. He is a true genius when it comes to exploring movement and voyeurism.
Then again, in the forward-thinking world of fashion, designers are going all the way in experimenting with technology. After all, as Chalayan says, “Technology is really the only thing through which you can do new things.” Be it selling the dream or taking the viewer to a fantasyland, in this age of digital media, fashion has turned into an interactive art. New materials come together with the old and this fusion drives innovation while fashion slowly evolves, creating wearables for years to come.
The so-called ‘environmentally sustainable fashion’ is the new tech of fashion. The garments respond to sound, motion or light by changing their shape and style elements. These designs are highly conceptual – and obviously not as practical as we might wish – but such design and technology explorations are one of the stepping stones for the ‘must-have’ of tomorrow’s fashion.
With advancement in technology, what once seemed unimaginable is also possible now; amongst a few artworks that are exploring the idea of embodiment is the concept of electric skin, a wearable garment that responds to the breath of the wearer with pulses of light. As the environment around us constantly changes, in the same way fashion also responds to it in artful and informative ways.
Take for example the ‘Climate’ dress; it has a system that monitors nearby airpollution levels and provides feedback in the form of LED light. Or consider the ‘Skin’ dress, which shows emotive technology and how the body and the near environment can use pattern and colour change to interact and predict one’s emotional state. Though textile illumination has been around for a while, from the wearable electronic community’s point of view, this trend is quite welcoming as it helps to communicate as well as visualise the possible potentials of technology-infused clothing. Illuminated fashion has always been visually impactful; a number of artists have made use of technology-enhanced clothing to add a new visual dimension to their appearances. Super-star Lady Gaga has been in the forefront when it comes to experimenting with fashion. She showed one of the most sophisticated stage outfits, the ‘Living Dress’, while performing at the Liverpool Echo Arena. Singer Katy Perry wore an LED gown at the Met Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010.
Amongst wearable artefacts, on one hand, there is the ‘Pneumatic’ dress, which takes in the challenge of maintaining the fluidity of volume while textile flows softly around and down the body thus making inflatable clothing appear to virtually breathe. The garment is designed to come to life when triggered by movement thus adding a magical touch. Inspired by air, the aesthetic form transforms into interactive clothing that is playful and sensual. On the other hand, there is the ‘Kinetic’ dress that transforms itself based on one’s ever-changing mood swings. Everyone loves to transform themselves according to the lifestyle or the mood but with such innovations, things are practically possible the other way round too. This dress functions as a wearable tactile display, visualising the wearer’s emotional state by sensing heart rate and body movements and thereby altering the dress appearance.
There are other aspects too where technology is leading the fashion world. Digital fashion film has gained real momentum over the past couple of seasons. Using sound and movement, they communicate fashion in a way that’s emotionally charged and also easily distributed. It is like a dream, taking the viewer far away from reality by putting a live photographic studio to the world thus bringing a global revolution in digital imagery. Pioneering in digital imagery, designer Alexander McQueen had stunned the fashion world by his 3D holographic image of model Kate Moss at the end of his Fall-Winter 2006 runway show.
The same format has nowadays been adopted for online editorial and fashion week presentations alike. It is not just an expression marking the beauty and glamour of the fashion world but goes beyond the traditional role of fashion in film, as was played by Hubert de Givenchy in creating the iconic ‘Little Black Dress’ for Audrey Hepburn. It indeed plays a new role, which is of fashion house as auteur.
Be it Gareth Pugh’s ready-to-wear shows, which are conceptual videos showcasing the inspiration behind the collection, or short films showcased on website funded by the luxury conglomerate LVMH; the idea is to embrace fashion in a rather unconventional way, a way that communicates emotion and evokes desire. With the biggest names in Hollywood to directors on board for such projects like Mike Figgis for H&M Loves Lanvin, Zoe Cassavetes for Miu Miu or even James Cameron for Lady Dior saga, fashion films are a new rage. Be it a deliberately produced surreal vision of the black and white floating fabric blurriness of Pugh’s product or inspiring moving media as seen on, or even a storyline that is a nothing less than a fairy-tale such as Christian Dior’s Lady Dior series accentuating actress Marion Cotillard’s beauty with Dior accessories – it all brings in the harmonious blend of pictography and fashionable collection. It is truly an expression of the designer’s vision in a three-dimensional augmented reality.
The role of social media in making the latest in fashion accessible cannot be overlooked. From fashion blogs, to the live streaming of catwalk shows from fashion weeks, social media tops the criteria to be a fashion enthusiast today. Designer Christopher Bailey added another first to its repertoire when he announced that the Burberry show would be preceded by Twitter coverage of his Spring-Summer 2012 collection even before it hit the ramps. Burberry was not only the first label to stream its runway shows live but also to sell directly from the runway in-store via iPad. With the ever-growing trend of applications beings launched by various fashion houses, designers today are aiming to use this technology as a medium to project an image of fashion that leaves one wanting for more of this ‘new accessible art’.
‘Climate’ dress with LED lights
Animatronic dress from Hussein Challayan’s Spring-Summer 2007 collection
Portable furniture transforming into garments from Hussein Chalayan’s Fall-Winter 2000/01 collection
Hussein Chalayan’s Spring-Summer 2009 collection ‘Inertia’ exploring the concept of speed and moment of collision
‘Skin’ dress
Garments made from aircraft material controlled by remote, by Hussein Chalayan

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