Techno Couture

Discussion
Aug 02, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


The worlds of fashion and technology are beginning to synch up, albeit it at a snail mail pace.


Recently, for example, Apple Computer and Nike came together to combine the technology of an iPod nano with an athletic shoe to enhance and track the workout performance of exercisers.


Levi’s new line of RedWire DLX Jeans for men and women, available this fall, are reported to come with a built-in iPod docking cradle, retractable headphones and a special joystick built into the watch pocket to allow the person wearing them to control the music player.


A recent fashion show at the SIGGRAPH conference in Boston brought together computer programmers and designers to explore how technology and fashion may come together in the future.


The offerings, according to descriptions in a Boston Globe report, ran the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime.


Kelly Dobson, a student at MIT, unveiled the ScreamBody, described as looking like a backpack worn backwards. The unique feature of this portable soundproof chamber is that it will record screams and play them back later.


On a more practical level, Alison Lewis, a professor of fashion technology at Parsons School of Design, showed off a designer handbag with a light inside that allows the owner to see the contents when its dark. Ms. Lewis’ other design was a beach bag with detachable speakers that could be hooked up with an iPod to play music while basking in the sun.


Discussion Questions: How do you see fashion and technology coming together in the future? Will retailers selling items such as Levi’s RedWire DLX Jeans,
Nike + shoes and other techno fashions need to hire sales associates with different skill sets as a result?

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7 Comments on "Techno Couture"


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Karin Miller
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Karin Miller
13 years 2 months ago

This may be a bit off topic, but the first thing that comes to mind are the exciting ways in which technology is being used to improve fashion. For me, this has allowed combining two previously separate passions — photography and textile design — to create photorealistic textiles with the aid of new software and printing techniques.

New technologies allow fashion designers to explore many more options quickly, thereby achieving a better final result. University students are exploring some amazing ideas in their creative projects, such as engineered designs that match up along curved seams.

Technology has definitely influenced fashion color palettes and prints as well, and I believe that this trend will continue.

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 2 months ago

Very few retailers see their sales staff as assets. Apple, Costco and Whole Foods do, but many other retailers see the staff as temp labor that already costs too much. Self-service means no service, and self-service is the route almost all retailers took 2 generations ago. Customers who want to learn about the new technology, whether it’s footwear, jeans, music players, or software, largely learn from the internet and each other.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
13 years 2 months ago

As the previous posts prove, the marriage of technology and fashion is a matter of how you look at it. The iPod/Nike example to me is a very important one. Not about making gear groovier or improving sports performance as much as it is about exploring the potential of delivering content to people while they are pleasantly engaged in a favorite activity. All apparel-based companies are dealing with the market reality that technology is wicking dollars away from apparel as never before. The only solution is to hook up with technology companies and add techno touches to products, creating a hybrid experience that satisfies both desires. Finally, in a world of short attention spans, slippery advertising (vs. sticky)…the idea of attaching content-delivery systems of any kind to the one thing that every person regardless of race, color, creed, or lifestyle carries with them during most waking hours (clothing of some kind), is pretty irresistible. The best definition of truly “mobile” technology.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
13 years 2 months ago

Several years ago I attended a conference at the Pacific Design Center in LA by a techno geek from the JPL. He shared with us several innovations they had come up with, which frankly, they didn’t know what to do with. One of these was fabric that could conduct electricity, data, etc. The potential was incredible. Lightweight material which could hold an electrical impulse charge and accessorization of computer chips, memory, lights, lens, sensors, the options were endless. Maybe the fashion industry should stop thinking about simply recreating connecting points to today’s gadgets, and think about the future. How about medical monitoring devices which can be integrated into a shirt or pants? How about cooling jackets for the masses or specifically in high risk patient situations? What about homewares items which can project a different design each season, simply by programming electrode induced sensors woven into the fabric? It is a brave new world, so let’s step through that door.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
13 years 2 months ago

The Nike+ iPod isn’t really a good example — technology has long been incorporated into “gear” to enhance performance and improve training in the realms of sport, recreation, etc. I wouldn’t really call that technology blending with fashion.

The light inside a purse, or the iPod/beachbag integration (actually there are several bags/purses on the market with speakers and an iPod dock already) are good examples. For that matter, so is that hard hat with the two beer holders and tubes to drink from them!

I think Karin’s examples are really the most interesting use of technology in fashion. Pairing technology with fashion — these days it’s mostly ways to wear an iPod — is fun, trendy, etc. But there are a number of ways that new fibers, new manufacturing processes, new materials, etc. are changing the palette that designers have to work with, especially when you move beyond clothing. Kitchen countertops made out of resin-bound paper that outperform granite are one interesting example.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 2 months ago

I can’t believe we’re discussing this seriously. The words niche and passing fancy come to mind. Not enough proper business to justify having specially trained sales staff (as if that were even possible) and the eye catching fashionability of stuff way too unlikely to even think about. When was the last time you saw any real person buy haute couture let alone techno couture. This is for geeks and catwalks, not real people.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
13 years 2 months ago
Ms. Lewis has the right approach, I think. The combination of technology with fashion, outside of the super-trendy, should enhance the utility of the product. Utility isn’t just in its basic function, but also in its function as a fashion or lifestyle statement. Technology often is incorporated as “novelty.” Novelty as a product development focus does not have a long lifecycle. Inherently, it is almost impossible to build a pipeline of truly novel new products. The tendency is to innovate, and then develop line extensions. Novelty also tends to be characterized by adding technology simply because it CAN be, not because it adds anything to the user experience. Technology as an integral aspect of a brand statement, adapted with constraints on price point, user adoption, perceived value and everything else professional product development processes take into consideration….yes, there is a home for that. Ms. Lewis’ beach bag is a perfect example. Assuming the sound reproduction is sufficient for the beach experience expectation, and the price point is LESS than the combined cost of a beach… Read more »
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