As electronics increasingly become embedded in everyday objects, what kind of clothes will we wear? Will the techno garb of the future expand our awareness of our environment? Sense and communicate our emotions? Change color according to our surroundings? Warn us of impending danger?
For some idea of what tomorrow's closet might contain, have a look at "TechnoSensual: Where fashion meets technology," an interactive exhibition on display in Vienna through September that presents electronic textiles and wearable technologies -- some brand-new, others more well-worn -- created by international haute tech couture designers.
The brainchild of Netherlands-based designer Anouk Wipprecht, the show combines fashion and technology, with smart clothes equipped with electronic components like sensors, projectors, speakers, and LEDs. Wipprecht created this "Smoked Dress," which generates smoke to ward off enemies.
Copyright Anouk Wipprecht
Also on display at TechnoSensual is curator Anouk Wipprecht's "Pseudomorphs," a series of dresses that paint themselves. The dresses consist of thick white felt, plus ink-filled tubes that sit at the top of the garment, held in place by a neck brace. The ink drips down the frocks in a different pattern every time, meaning no two dresses turn out alike.
Copyright Ricardo O'Nascimento; photo by Peter Grillmair
Don't you hate it when you're walking the red carpet and all those photographers ignore you for some other celeb? Brazil-born new-media artist Ricardo O'Nascimento's "Paparazzi Lover" dress "helps the wearer to remind photographers who the real star is." It's not subtle, as 62 embedded LED lights turn on to draw everyone's eyes back to where they should be -- on you. O'Nascimento created the dress in collaboration with fashion designer Anbasja Blanken.
Artist Ricardo O'Nascimento also had a hand in developing the Taiknam Hat, which might look like traditional feather headwear, but is anything but. The feathers on the kinetic hat -- a collaboration with Ebru Kurbak and Fabiana Shizue -- react and animate according to changes in nearby medium-wave radio signals. The concept was informed by scientific findings showing that feathers may act as microwave sensors, says the Turkish-born Kurbak, who aimed to emulate horripilation, an instinctive reaction (think goose bumps) to sources of irritation and stress, seen and unseen.
Copyright Karina van Heck
Dutch artist Karina van Heck questions how far too far is when it comes to technical appliances for the body. Her "Body Speaker" has "sound-capturing membranes" placed on the skin that direct internal body sounds to a control system that lets wearers create their own body-sound remix. Soundtracks have never been so personal.
These 3D-printed polyamide Morphogenesis shoes from Dutch fashion designer Pauline van Dongen would be perfect for a party on the moon. Just don't get your heel caught in any craters.
Van Dongen will participate in an August 29 TechnoSensual symposium, one of a number of educational events taking place in connection with the exhibition at Vienna's MuseumsQuartier Wien art and culture complex through September 2.
Dutch fashion designer Maartje Dijkstra and Dutch electronic composer Beorn Lebenstedt collaborated on "Denzipfaden," a high-fashion, and high-tech, jungle-inspired men's outfit that functions as a music/DJ controller. The garment consists of golden, custom-made zippers that work like the fader controls used in DJ mixers.
Another musical number playing at TechnoSensual: Dutch designer Nicky Assmann's "Circuit Dress," which stitches together 35 old circuit boards to make a wearable instrument.
Skin Probe dresses by Royal Philips Electronics explore emotion-sensing technology through dresses that blush and shiver with the help of 18 miniature projectors located between the garment's layers. The dresses use biometric sensors to collect data like heart rate and respiration; that information then affects the intensity, shape, and colors of the projected light.
Don't expect to see the Skin Probe line at Macy's anytime soon. Philips calls the dresses a "far-future design concept."
Copyright Studio Roosegaarde
The Intimacy 2.0 dress by Dutch design group Studio Roosegaarde and development institute V2_ Lab also translates biological signals, using smart e-foil technology to alter the garment's level of transparency based on the wearer's heart rate.
Studio Roosegaarde says it's in the process of selecting haute couture designers to develop an Intimacy 3.0 fashion line for men and women.
Like living organisms
Talk about showing some skin. Dutch design team Local Android (Leoni Baauw and Cor Baauw) created "Like living organisms," a "breathing artificial skin" garment with simulated veins made to pulsate with air pumps. When another person approaches, the pulse increases. The neck piece deflates on touch as a sign of trust.
Morphogenic dresses by telepresence artist Graham Smith allow the wearer to change the fabric's color in relation to the environment. Perfect for fashion chameleons.
The collection includes three dresses with three different poems, with specific gestures triggering the speakers. To play a poem about death and remembrance, for example, the wearer embraces herself by crossing her arms over her chest and pressing the pressure sensors on the sleeves.
Copyright Bart Hess
Dutch visual artist Bart Hess, whose work combines material studies, animation, and photography, opened TechnoSensual in June with a performance of "Liquified," which he also dubs a "slime extravaganza." The piece is inspired by the Photoshop filter that allows users to "liquify" images. In this case, it appears as though a person is liquifying. Hess based the piece on his work as a stylist for Lady Gaga.
Early visitors to TechnoSensual also got to see a performance by Benoit Maubrey's Audio Ballerinas, who produce sound through the interaction of movements and light sensors (digital samplers, contact microphones, light-to-frequency controllers, movement sensors, MP3 players, and radio receivers also play a role). Maubrey is director of Die Audio Gruppe, a Berlin-based art group that builds and performs with electronic clothes.