From clothing that can regulate body temperature to tech that can help friends connect in real life, the next generation of designers turns to their memories and technology to deliver new fashion possibilities.
Everyone remembers that perfect piece of fashion that changed everything. The acid-washed jean jacket that fit just right, the platform leather boots that rocked the dance floor, the gold and turquoise bangles that popped when paired with a little black dress at the cocktail party.
Today, as fashion continues to evolve, the next must-have garment is harder to predict than ever before. That’s partly because fashion has moved beyond traditional patterns and fabrics, integrating technology into everything from dresses with biological sensing capabilities that ward off annoying party guests to haptic feedback-integrated jackets that help wearers navigate their surroundings.
The connection between couture and technology is at somewhat of a tipping point, which means the next generation of smart garments and accessories are going to be much more sophisticated.
“I think it’s about connecting two different worlds,” said Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). “We’re at this time when fashion and technology feels more natural and integrated. Rather than two ideas or elements existing together, it becomes one idea informed by existing resources.”
To help foster technology’s increasing influence on fashion, Intel partnered with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, an industry development program that began in 2003 “to cultivate the next generation of emerging American design talent.”
Each year, the program picks 10 designers from thousands of applicants. This year, Intel worked with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund on the Intel Curie Design Challenge, which challenges designers to identify a meaningful personal memory or historical events and create a look based on that memory.
Finalists must use the Intel Curie module, integrating the button-sized technology to enrich the memory, enhance the emotional connection to the event or elevate the experience recalling it. Although the designers aren’t required to actually develop the look, they were encouraged to think about the technology’s capabilities and what might be possible.
In the fashion industry, Kolb explained, everything designers do is influenced by technology and it can play a role in how designers develop products or create a certain aesthetic. Although the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund recognized Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock of Brock Collection as the winners, many of the designers submitted truly futuristic concepts.
Finalist Morgan Curtis of Morgan Lane integrated Intel Curie into the strap of her silk sleeping masks in order to help wearers rest easy at night. Because the technology is located near the eye instead of on the wrist, Curtis said it can better track brain waves, body temperature and sleep stages.
Not only will the mask cool wearers who get too hot in the middle of the night, it will work with a Dreamcatcher app to help the user improve sleep quality and connect to an alarm clock that would gently wake the wearer after seven to eight hours of shut eye. This smart eyewear is also pretty glamorous.
“The mask is black with rhinestone moon-shaped eyes,” Curtis said.
“My look is inspired by my childhood memory of watching my favorite movie The Wizard of Oz. My outfit displays both the good and the bad emotions that happen during dreaming using a combination of cloudy black diamond stones and bright colorful stones and gems.”
Other finalists use fashion in different ways. Joshua Cooper and Laurence Chandler, design duo behind Rochambeau, used Curie to encourage social intimacy in an era where everyone is head’s down into their phones.
The business partners and friends first met in an elevator in downtown New York City in 2003. “If we would have been in the same elevator in 2016, we may have never spoken,” wrote Cooper and Chandler in their idea description. “We probably would’ve been heads down, totally immersed in our phones, checking an email, liking a post on Instagram…”
Their solution was to take technology out of the equation by embedding Intel Curie into one of the hidden pockets the clothing line is known for. The module starts by tapping wearers into social networks.
“When in the close proximity of another wearer of a Curie embedded garment the technology determines shared follows and followers amongst enabled social networks,” the duo explained, noting that when two wearers are within 5 feet of one another, the technology disables both of their smartphones for a certain period of time. “The garment is creating the platform for true conversation and interaction.”
Although each designer took the project challenge in different directions, a common theme emerged. Ji Oh envisioned a self-cooling blazer. Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg of Area imagine a bodysuit with glimmering colored lights that respond to certain gestures, illuminating in various patterns and brightness levels to create an effect.
Stirling Barrett of KREWE worked on smart frames that collect memories from social media and create a personal “sensory time capsule, and Chris Stamp of Stampd wants to develop technological assurances that the branded garment or accessory is an authentic product with a complete history, from country of origin to warehouse location.
In all of the finalists’ designs, the finished product focuses on the customer. It’s clear the next generation of makers and designers know how to make their creations work for the wearer.
“Many of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists grew up with technology; as such, technology is inherently in their DNA and they are innovating with technology in mind,” said Sandra Lopez, Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Business Development for Intel’s New Devices Group.
“Fashion and technology are at the heart of modern culture both serving as expressions of our individuality and items that we simply cannot live without,” she added. “To obtain insights about our body, we need to integrate technology into apparel, accessories, shoes. It is through this convergence that we will be on a path to improving one’s overall well-being.”
These sophisticated garments, however, are just the beginning. The next generation of fashion-forward customers are going to find new pieces that become part of their best memories. This time, however, those platform boots will track the wearer’s dance moves, sending cooling sensations when things heat up. Fancy footwear may never be the same.
Feature photo: Fashion futurist and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist Adam Selman would use Intel Curie to create a smart broach that would send customized alerts so wearers don’t need to constantly check their phones to stay connected.