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Wearable Tech: The Future of Fashion

Katy Perry wears CuteCircuit's LED dress.
Katy Perry wears CuteCircuit's LED dress.

When Katy Perry wore CuteCircuit's LED dress to Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Gala in 2010, she literally lit up the red carpet with flashing rainbow-colored LED lights controlled by a switch hidden inside her bra. She was also right on trend with the hottest new fashion statement - Wearable Tech or Techno Fashion. Techno fashion is a fusion of fashion and technology, the first real new fashion trend of the 21st century. It is really no surprise given the explosion of technology since the new millennium that technology would show up everywhere from the runway to the red carpet to the streets. After two decades of relatively no new major fashion trends, wearable tech is now popping up everywhere from fashion to accessories. Fashion trends typically look to the past to reinvent silhouettes which are then adapted to contemporary styles. Not since Pierre Cardin launched the Space Age look in the 1960's with his stark tunics, goggles and helmets has the fashion world looked to the future. For Cardin it was the infancy of the Space Age, in the 21st century it's the world of technology that has become not only is the realm of fashions designers, but scientists as well.

Wearable tech encompasses not only electronic textiles such as Katy Perry's gown, but communication technology which begs the question, has the boundary between body and machine evaporated? This is definitely uncharted fashion territory which typically merely adorned the body, but now is moving into the world of using fashion to "tune in and turn on."

In November 2012, Google Glass was named by Time Magazine as one of the "Best Inventions of the Year." Google Glass is a wearable computer that has the appearance of glasses, but allows the wearer to access the Internet with voice commands by using and optical head-mounted display (OHMD). A touchpad is located on the side which allows the user to control the device by swiping through a timeline-like interface displayed on the screen. Users can view current events, weather, etc by sliding backward. Sliding forward displays phone calls, photos, etc. Google Glass also has the ability to take photos and record videos. Another high-tech accessory is the Smartwatch which is either stands alone as a smart device that functions in tandem with the user's smartphone or as an extension of the smartphone. Pebble Smartwatch, Martin Smartwatch, I'm Watch Smartwatch, Sony Smartwatch 2 SW2,Connectedevice Cookoo Smartwatch are just some of the smartwatches now available. Maxwell "Smart" may have been on to something with his array of telephones concealed in his tie, watch, comb and of course, his shoe.

Fresh off Katy Perry's debut of CuteCircuit's LED dress, they have now designed ready-to-wear versions of wearable tech. The K-Dress features hundreds of rainbow-colored LED's tucked into fabric folds of a knee-length silk chiffon and taffeta dress. The dress has a built-in USB controller which allows the wearer to flash the lights in a pattern of their choosing. the SuperTwirkle minidress combines LED lights with Swarovski crystals to highlight body movements. The stretchy black "Disc" leggings feature a disc panel that reflects the light of street lamps and oncoming traffic. The Hug Shirt allows the wearer to send and feel hug from other Hug Shirt wearers The shirt is filled with wearable sensors and actuators, with a Blue-Tooth and java enabled mobile phone which runs the "Hug Me" application. The sensors feel the strength of the touch, the warmth of the skin and the heart-rate. CuteCircuit also has a line of t-shirts with LED and reflective technology.

In 2007, Turkish designer, Hussein Chalayan featured a collection of high-tech protective wear such as a hat designed to emit light in the winter, electronic hoods, and dresses with apron like front panels which, with a push of a button, fly out from the body like panels of the space station. In collaboration with Swarovski, he designed an LED dress collection based on the four seasons. He described them as "TV screens with LED's".

Vivienne Tam has designed a computer clutch, the HP Mini 1000, which has a 60GB hard drive, a 10-inch LCD display and a built-in webcam. The clutch sells for $1,199.

For the snow board enthusiast, Burton Snowboarding has designed a Clone Mini Disc Jacket which has a built-in Sony mini disc player and a remote control sewn into the sleeve so the wearer can control volume and switch songs while snowboarding.

Designer Diana Eng has a hoodie with a built-in digital camera that measure heart rate and adrenaline which "is intended as a form of involuntary blogging" by taking photographs as heart rate and adrenaline increases.

Sensoree, a San Francisco based company, created a brain sensor that represents different states of the brain activity using color.

So, is the future of fashion high-tech? Will fashion be created in the laboratory rather than the atelier? Beyond LED lights and SuperTwirkle mini dresses, fashion could really change with way we live and interact with our environment. Clothing is being researched to monitor the body's respiratory system, heartbeat and temperature to impact your health or mood. Fabric could heat or cool the body in response to temperature changes. As far as fashion, "fiction" no longer follows "science".

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