Mar 112014
 
Kanye

Kanye West

One of the exciting aims I can think of for this rising of  fusion of technology and fashion is the social solutions it can provide to world. Recently one of hip-hop’s fashion Icons, Kanye West became a topic of many conversations due to his wearing of masks during his Yeezus tour.  The masks were designed by Maison Martin Margiela. The masks made their way to the couture runway in the fall of 2013. I was attracted to the idea of wearing a mask as a form of expression through apparel after the current topic. Throughout history, I believe the “Bourgeoisie” has played with this idea of concealed identity especially within in a taboo setting, so therefore I can understand how this form of expression can make it to the world of couture. The wearing of masks can be interpreted in so many ways, but what if the reason for wearing masks became more of a necessity rather than an expression?

masks

masks

In China, the air pollution has become so horrific that “when air is so bad, people who don’t wear masks are like ET”, as expressed in the South China Morning Post. In Fashion-forward face masks a big hit in China amid soaring air pollution, Wu  Nan expressed the uprising of face masks as an effect to  protect China’s citizens from the air pollution. What was interesting to me  is that the article was posted under the Health section in the SCMP. The use of face masks have become so common that there has been a fashion dynamic added to this necessity. As with anything, the fashion market has found its way to establish its presence amongst consumers.

Totobobo

Totobobo

Respero

Respro

It would just be natural that enthusiastic fashion technologists would embark on this challenge.  In My Health Beijing, an article was written in comparing two air pollution face masks. . In Respro Vs. Totobobo: Which Mask Works Better For Air Pollution?  Dr. Richard  described details about Respro masks.  It contains filters for any urban pollution. The mask like others in the market helps to clean air while you breathe. Aesthetically, like its challengers,  it has an industrial but a slight sleekness to its appearance.

Airwaves

Airwaves

 

In more recent articles, such as AirWaves :Face Mask Filters Pollution, Crowdsources  Air-Quality Data in  ecouterre , a prototype of a new air pollution mask is featured. Author, Bridgette Meinhold, mentioned that the company Frog Design which one of its focuses is on the future of wearable technology, has created a mask that will help improve data monitoring. The Airwaves is a smart device that will monitor air quality in real time and then share its data to everyone who would have its mobile app. This would serve as a security to people from harmful environments while data collecting for the country. The appearance of the device is a bit more conspicuous on the technological aspect but it comes with the added equipment. I think this maybe one of the areas   Frog Design  may try to change within their product design given that the other masks on the market are not as bulky but with the added resource consumers might be a little more forgiving.

3m_mask

3M mask

The exciting part of this innovative piece of garment is that its original development was made for the intent to help people breathe in China.  It then progressed to a more technical advance device with added filters. What is a  little alarming is how it is becoming another “smart” device. It makes me wonder who is so data driven and how much will this device cost. In this scenario, a social problem was presented, to where its effects were dangerous to all partakers of society.  As a result of this problem a common wearable product, such as a face mask was in use and then turned to a fashion garment. As a natural effect in consumerism, the switch to a variety of choices of masks was not unusual in today’s market. The need to produce filters is also, I believe a logical step forward, but with the added equipment the cost of the product has increased. So now, I see a division of accessibility. For the general population there is a mask provided and for the ones with a little more disposable income there is also a product for them to use. Now with the use of smartphones, another product has been designed to suit consumers with the possession of smart devices which may have a different income than that of  the first face masks’ consumers. The price of a generic face mask provided by 3M is $12.71 Box/20 to compare to a filtered mask such as the Respro  for $59.95 plus the cost of filters $29.95 for two and that is just for a certain kind of air pollution. You would have to buy more for each environment.

Given the knowledge of China’s economic structure , it would appear that the filtered masks will not be used by everyone, but doesn’t everyone have the right to breathe the same quality of air? Now with this new smart device in progress, it brings about another question, doesn’t everyone have the right to know where the hazardous air pollution is located in their own country? I mean what if a person cannot afford a smart phone, how would that individual be informed? Maybe my thinking is a bit extreme because of with the prices of smartphones today, everyone should have one…right? But we are talking about China not America, a totally different economic situation…right? Who really gets to enjoy this new innovative fusion of fashion and technology?

CC:

  • Kanye West:http://www.thisis50.com/profiles/blogs/all-the-masks-kanye-wore-yeezus-kick-off
  • Masks:http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1254691/fashion-forward-face-masks-big-hit-china-amid-soaring-air-pollution
  • Respero:http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/china-public-health/respro-vs-totobobo-which-mask-works-better-for-air-pollution/
  • Totobobo:http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/04/whered-you-get-that-mask/totobobo/
  • Airwaves:http://www.ecouterre.com/airwaves-face-mask-filters-pollution-crowdsources-air-quality-data/
  • 3M mask:http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/04/whered-you-get-that-mask/3m_mask/

 

 

 

May 122012
 

The Superman "S" Logo. Image credit: Wikipedia.com

The concept of the cyborg or techno-fashion is not a new one to Fashioning Circuits. Fashion that has the ability to extend the capabilities of the human body is a topic that I, for one, find particularly fascinating. It may surprise the FC reader, howeve,r to learn that there also exists another perhaps lower tech but no less integral component to techno-fashion, that is fashion that can compensate for physical deficiencies. Recent developments in the nascent techno-fashion industry have seen the proliferation of brands producing garments to not only enhance the human body but indeed to improve the quality of life for individuals afflicted with various physical deficiencies and impairments. Let’s take a look at some particularly inspiring innovators in this techno-fashion space.

The GPS Shoe for Tracking Alzheimers Patients

GPS Shoe

In 2011 US based GTX Corp introduced the GPS shoe, a walking shoe with a miniature GPS tracking device embedded in the heel. The inspiration for the shoe was originally spurred by a particularly tragic and high profile missing persons case in involving  the disappearance of a young child. In fact GTX CEO Patrick Bertagna originally created the shoe as a means of tracking missing children.  It wasn’t long, however, before Bertagna became aware of  an even greater need for the shoe among adult caregivers of Alheimer’s sufferers to be able to non intrusively track the movements of their patients.

GPS tracking devices for Alzheimers’s patients were not in and of themselves a new idea, even in 2011. However, prior to the GPS Shoe it was not uncommon for  Alzheimer’s sufferers to reject the devices out of fear or confusion.  The GPS Shoe provides the caregiver with a means to monitor their charges via smartphone or computer with an interactive map. The caregiver can even establish “safe zones” whereby they will be immediately notified with a text message if the patient wanders outside of a pre-established geographical perimeter.

The GPS Shoe does present some real privacy concerns as the design of the device is deliberately intended to be undetectable by the wearer. I do wonder at the potential ease of abuse of the shoe by those who seek to monitor non Alheimer’s sufferers for purely selfish and possibly dangerous reasons. However, the safety of Alzheimers sufferers as well as the peace of mind afforded their caregivers just may outweigh its’ potential threats to privacy.

Hickies: Elastic Shoelaces for Arthritis Sufferers

Hickies

Hickies are an elastic shoelace replacement system that completely eliminate the need for tying shoelaces. The rubber devices feature a hook and loop fastening system intended to be fed through the eyelets of laced shoes in place of traditional shoelaces, one device per row of eyelets. Hickies, which come in one size and a rainbow of colors, are designed to replace traditional shoelaces in any type of shoe or boot. Aesthetically, Hickies can be used to customize any heretofore laceable footwear and also allow for the slipping on and off of shoes without the need to tie and untie shoelaces.

Though not developed specifically with arthritis sufferers in mind the application of Hickies for arthritis patients is tremendous. The relative ease afforded Hickies wearers effectively returns independence to those who lack the dexterity and or flexibility required to tie and lace traditional laced shoes. Additionally the devices minimizes trip and fall accidents, a potentially fatal hazard for the elderly, presented by loose or untied shoelaces. This is one I am definitely excited to see.

Nano Enhanced Undergarments to Combat Body Odor

Maxi Fresh Plus

Goldwin Company, a Japan Based clothing manufacturer, has recently introduced MXP Underwear, a line of undergarments that uses nanotechnology to combat body odor. The MXP line, which is short for “Maxi Fresh Plus,”  includes mens boxer shorts and briefs. Per Goldwin, the undergarments have the ability to eliminate 99 percent of the odor caused by perspiration and 88 percent of body odors in general. Though I am a little suspicious as to exactly how those percentages were measured, if the company’s claims are true perhaps MXP represents a breakthrough for those who suffer from hyperhidrosis, a medical condition whereby sufferers perspire excessively and unpredictably.

According to the National Institutes of Health 2 to 3 percent of the population currently suffers from hyperhidrosis. Unfortunately,  less than 40 percent of sufferers seek medical treatment for the condition. Ressons for this reticence are likely numerous however it is not hard to imagine that personal embarrassment is chief among them. If the MXP line, which reportedly has been tested in the International Space Station, does even a fraction of what it claims, then perhaps hyperhydrosis sufferers at last have a private, non-medical tool at their disposal to combat a particularly isolating and demoralizing condition.

 

Xeni Collection: Fashionable clothing for the Wheelchair Bound

XENI Collection

Xeni Collection was launched in 2010 by Ann Oliver, a former architect whose own fight with multiple sclerosis had left her wheelchair bound. The brand designs, manufactures and retails couture garments designed specifically for the seated figure and severely disabled wearers.

Oliver recognized a significant gap in the ever evolving high fashion landscape, that of fashion designed with the disabled figure in mind. Setting out to fill that gap Oliver re-trained in fashion and textile design and developed, from concept to production including pattern design and textile development, a line of attire to both flatter and assist severely disabled wearers. Oliver’s designs feature innovations such as magnetic fastenings for customers who have difficulty manipulating buttons and zippers. The line’s garments are specifically designed for the seated figure, recognizing that this client will most often be viewed from above. This of course represents a specific shift in the designer’s aesthetic perspective, one that heretofore was unrepresented in the world of traditional high fashion, which is generally viewed from a head-on perspective.

Xeni collection represents a brilliant and particularly inspiring techno fashion solution for the disabled fashion wearer. I do hope to see more labels emulating Xeni’s knowledge and sensitivity, and designing for this severely under served segment of the market.

Downs Designs: Garments Designed for people with Down Syndrome

Downs Designs

Karen Bowersox is another designer whose personal connection to affliction inspired her to fill a heretofore invisible  gap in the ready to wear fashion landscape, that of garments designed for people with Down Syndrome. Inspired by her granddaughter, whose parents struggled daily finding garments that fit properly, Bowersox launched  Downs Designs  in 2010 to design, manufacture and retail clothing cut specfically to fit the unique body shape of wearers with Down Syndrome.

The line features simple basic pieces for adults, teens and children, designed for easy manipulation by Down’s sufferers. The line was prototyped using eight adult models with Down Syndrome. Bowersox’s design team literally created a unique sizing scheme, dubbed “Down Sizing” designed specifically to meet the unique figure needs of Down Disease sufferers.

Proper garment  fit is paramount for Down Syndrome clients and top priority in Down’s Designs design principle. Who would have ever thought that “Down Sizing” would be a good thing?

The designers and labels profiled here represent but a few of the innovators in the techno-fashion space striving the meet the unique needs of disabled fashion wearers the world over. Fashion designed to compensate for physical deficiencies is  one of the most creatively challenging market segments to succeed in. These brands are indeed ones to be inspired by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 102012
 

Hussein Chalayan's Laser Dress, 2008The word “cyborg” likely conjures all sorts of dystopian imagery to mind. I know when I hear it I think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a high tech costume with guns blazing, relentlessly blasting away at Sarah Conner. That’s probably the image that most folks think of actually. However is that what a real cyborg actually looks like in real life? Yes, I did write “real cyborg” and “real life.” Most people don’t realize this but there are real live cyborgs walking around every day right here in the year 2012. What’s more, they’ve been here, on this planet I mean, for as long as everyone else has and you probably even know quite a few of them. In fact, I am a cyborg myself. Continue reading »

Mar 272012
 

When people think of cyborgs, they might immediately go to The Terminator, and when they think of techno accessories, maybe Geordi La Forge’s Visor. At any rate, it all seems far into the future, and really, not that attractive. However, a couple of techno accessories that may debut soon could change our relationship with technology.

Project Glass Design Publicity Photo - Courtesy Google+

Google Glasses:

Google Glasses, being developed by Google’s X labs, are expected to debut in late 2012 or early 2013. Designed to look like a pair of Oakley Thump Sunglasses, this accessory definitely flirts with fashion. Projecting images and data directly onto the glasses as the user is wearing them, it is also at the cutting edge of Augmented Reality. According to the New York Times, these glasses will be powered by Google’s Android Operating System, and will not only include search and overlaid Google Maps data, but could also include games controlled by the wearer’s gestures. Seeing someone randomly flailing about in them might take away from the fashion aspect of this accessory. Also, these glasses are obviously not meant to be worn all the time, but as people are wont to do, some would end up driving in them. Would Google Glasses be safer than using a phone or map to find directions while driving?

Read More: NY Times, NPR, Time

Update 4/11/12:

Since this article was originally posted, Google has publicly announce the Google Glasses project, which they simply call “Project Glass,” and have released the below  video called “One Day” about what a day might be like using the Augmented Reality provided by wearing them. In addition to using the Google Maps feature, you would be able to text and video message, check the weather, take pictures, and check your calendar, using gesture and voice commands.   Google Glasses don’t seem to be more than a hands-free, wearable smartphone, which honestly reminds me of the AR version of the Bluetooth headset.   Instead of the rumored Oakley Sunglasses design, the announced look will be clear, but seems more  Geordi-esque than what I was expecting, and definitely remind me a little bit of a sci-fi cyborg.  According to Google, the project is still in the design phase, but they still expect to release it this year.  Do you think that this time next year, you will see people walking around with Google Glasses, talking to themselves?  Would you wear them?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4[/youtube] Continue reading »