Nov 012014

By: Matt Youngblood

Figure 1. Tinkerbell dress, courtesy

Video 1. Richard Nicoll SS15 at London Fashion Week

Richard Nicoll and Studio XO set off at London Fashion Week with one of the most recent endeavors in the area of wearable technologies, the Tinkerbell fiber optic dress. They were in partnership with Disney to produce a fashion technology that has connotations associated with the Disney intellectual property Peter Pan or more specifically Tinkerbell. The objective of Richard Nicoll was to display a fashion technology that negated technology and emphasized fashion. This idea was what motivated the wearable technology’s creation aside from the appropriation of Disney mythos. This is a very real concern in the area of fashion technology.

The Forbes article Is This The First Example Of Truly ‘Beautiful’ Wearable Tech? describes a wearble technology dress by Richard Nicoll and Studio XO. The article raises a number of issues by labeling wearable techs as being masculine due the negation of fashion by technology. The example of Richard Nicoll as being defined as something else is central. Implied in this is the idea that the technology impedes upon fashion itself. The term ‘fashion technology’ accurately describes this dilemma by delineating the two. The significance of this perspective of technology as being anti-fashion might itself be a way of arguing against the position of the articles author. The question that is raised from this becomes is the position that technology goes against fashion a sound position?

The article Is This The First Example Of Truly ‘Beautiful’ Wearable Tech? addresses how the consumer fashion industry has an irrevocable relation with and concerning the technology that is used in this industry. Technology itself is an inherently pervasive force in an ever evolving fashion industry as can be gathered from the article. The article denotes or implies a social dimension when referring to the fashion industry for wearable tech. Applied in this is that this occurrence can be observed in society. This is because and would imply that there is fashion that is heavily defined within a social context. A relation arises where fashion and society must always be reconciled with one another. This is not withstanding the relation between fashion and technology. It might also be inferred that the fundamental nature of technology in relation to society and fashion therefore describes why it is that fashion cannot be understood without the dimension of technology. Bradley Quinn addresses this issue in Textile Futures: Fashion, Design, and Technology when he describes that developments in the span of technology have broader implications for society or rather that technology presents us with “significant shifts in the consumer electronics industry” (Quinn 247).

This is important because the article is drawing conclusions in a way as to highlight that fashion is not defined by technology. This places fashion as absent of a tech context. To ignore this tech context and just acknowledge that fashion and technology are mutually independent of one another is to be in error. Some of the problems addressed within the article itself that are arising from a mutually dependent relation instead of a mutually independent relation proves this. For example, the article implies that the current state of the industry surrounding wearables is one that does not represent a diverse spectrum in respect to gender identities. It implies that this is as a result of and as a part of the intrusion of technology. This might mean then that the two forces of fashion and technology actually overlap at times as to be one in the same issue. The reverse could also be true by the logic of the article in that the aesthetic significance of the technology might not be intruding on fashion but fashion intruding on tech. Or, maybe the intrusion is not an intrusion. It could be that this intrusion is aesthetically coinciding with fashion so as to be within the realm of fashion. The article implies that this is not the case and that there is a definitive gap between the two.

One clear reason for the importance that must be placed on the observation that is negated from the article, that a technology perspective is in fact not essential relative to fashion, is it is not possible to accurately portray fashion if it is stripped of its technological context. The article implies that fashion must be seen and judged as irrespective of the technology. It can be asserted though that fashion cannot be correctly judged without a technological context which is critical because of how it describes fashion. The idea that technology is inseparable to fashion is a right one.  Fashion must be understood as relative to the context of tech. To give an example of this, the article very early implies that a relation exists between the effect of technology on fashion and fashion in the context of gender. One cannot ignore this significance. To say that tech in this case is merely an intrusion is to miss something.

The article explicitly states that fashion must not be dictated by technology. In other words, the interrelation between fashion and technology is such that technology must always work for fashion and not against it. This creates somewhat of a dilemma in that it must be that technology perpetuates fashion. There must be room for this conclusion. While technology evasively must remain ambiguous in the face of fashion according to the article, it also undeniably sets the limits to which fashion adheres. It creates a sort of basis for the underlying nature of the fashion industry involving wearable tech. Without it the fashion industry fails to have any bearing at all on anything. In effect, the wearable tech industry is nothing without technology. This is not to say anything of the relation these two subjects share with society as a whole. The relation between fashion and technology is perpetuating of one another, or recursively so, so there is a conspicuous need on the part of the articles author to acknowledge that the reason that it can be said that technology prevents fashion from reaching its full potential is that technology plays a pivotal role in the perpetual evolution of the wearable tech industry. This is due to an encumbrance that technology has on fashion. Quinn acknowledges the ability of the technology pertinent to the fashion industry as not only having a profound effect on the expanding of horizons of the fashion industry, but also affecting society as a whole (Quinn 246). This basically means that fashion has a technological context that cannot be ignored because it can be related to other areas that help define fashion. The rejection of technology in the face of fashion is nonsense.

Another consideration that can be drawn from this line of reasoning is that the article raises the issue that technology forms a practical basis for the fashion industry in terms of its immediate applications such as its materials and processes. This is to say nothing of emerging forms of technology that ultimately help shape fashion. A pervading theme in Quinn’s work is very much aligned to this notion that the fashion industry is grounded in the practical reality determined by technology. It can therefore be further implied or inferred as a result of this that the limitations in the realm of technology play heavily on the limitations of the fashion industry. As Quinn points out, the inclusion of technologies into a specific industry must necessarily demand that this specific industry be dependent on the state of said technology (Quinn 246).

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