We want fashion to transform us. For years, the fashion industry has helped us fantasize that a new purse or pair of shoes can change our lives. Whether or not we buy this story, our clothing both reinforces and expresses not only who we are, but who we aspire to be.
If the wares on display at Fashion Tech Berlin last week were any indication of what's to come, we're moving towards a future where our clothing will enable us to cross a threshold into a new kind of existence.
As technology creeps closer to the skin, here are eight fashion tech companies on our radar that are shaping the future of fashion.
Berlin-based fashion tech house ElektroCouture has quickly established itself as the mainstay of the fashion tech scene in the city and beyond. Led by wonder woman entrepreneur Lisa Lang, ElektroCouture propels wearables from the runway and into our everyday lives. The mission? To bring technology into style as opposed to slapping style on top of gadgets.
In addition to the brand's own collection of prêt-à-porter electronic garments that integrate wearable light, ElektroCouture also helps young and emerging designers transition from concept pieces to consumer products. The result is an array of fashions that let you wear the future—like a jumper that pulses with light in response to music. The best part? All designs are available to order on ASOS.
Emerging designer Maartje Dijkstra took Berlin by storm when she showcased her Reflect Horridus collection at Berlin's Alternative Fashion Week in the fall of last year. Dijkstra incorporates sensors, smart e-foils, and elements of 3D printing, and has collaborated with the likes of Anouk Wipprecht on projects such as Intimacy (pictured above).
She studied fashion in the Netherlands before interning under Alexander McQueen in London. Dijkstra's works help us imagine a future where fabrics double as midi-controllers, or appear and disappear based on the wearer's arousal levels.
360 Fashion Tech Kit
One Beijing-based company has come up with a series of kits for enabling designers to get their hands dirty with wearables without coding. Each kit includes materials for fashion design, drag and drop visual software, 3D printing files, access to online tutorials, and two small chips from Intel.
By lowering the barrier to entry for creating fashion tech, 360 Fashion Tech Kits can help anyone on their way to creating their first self-heating coat or a dress that lights up in proximity to your special someone.
Vienna-based FORMBYTIME brings your jewelry to life with motion. Minimalist necklaces made of precious metals are connected to the wearer's mobile device via Bluetooth. The electromechanical jewelry interfaces with your smartphone so you can customize movement based on mobile activity.
So you can set up the necklace to move when you receive a text message or phone call, and watch as others react to your seemingly possessed jewelry. Talk about a conversation piece.
Woman-to-watch Lina Wassong is making a name for herself as a fashion designer unafraid of inviting electricity to the party. While studying fashion in Los Angeles and clothing engineering in Hamburg, she cultivated an impressive portfolio of experimental works developed in coordination with the house of ElektroCouture.
Projects include a smart skirt that mimics the beauty of dusk by playing ambient music and fading LED lights, and another skirt that mimics the bioluminescence of the jellyfish.
Experimenting with emotional, interactive fashion, designer Jasna Rok's creations allow us to literally wear our hearts and minds on our sleeves. Her most recent collection, "fashion on brainwaves" explores the connection between wearers and their emotional states.
Sensors on a headset read brainwave patterns and display this data in different ways. One garment translates data into colour, not unlike Sensoree's GER Mood Sweater. Other pieces in the collection seem to have a life of their own as they morph and change, like moving wearable origami.
Lilien Finess Design
Another one of the companies emerging from the fashion house ElektroCouture is Lilien Finess Design by German fashion designer Lilien Stenglein. Stenglein has created a line specifically for modern yogis. The INFORCE YOGA collection includes 3D printing, laser-cutting, and three different types of advanced fabrics that enhance your yoga performance and neutralize odors.
Using conductive silver threads, the fabrics reflect warmth back to the body at chakra energy points (meeting points on the body). The pockets are also lined with fabrics that shield the body from the electromagnetic radiation of mobile phones.
If you're one of those nay-sayers still pondering the use-cases of fashion tech, then meet Moon Berlin. The premium apparel company is known for its elegant heated jackets that don't exactly announce themselves as technology.
Battery-powered heating is integrated into the back of the garment,which keeps the wearer warm and has enough charge to top up your cell phone battery, too. For those looking for flash rather than function, try their line of illuminated apparel that incorporates woven fiber optic material, available on clutches, t-shirts, and boyfriend jackets.