Last week we were lucky enough to tour the Brooklyn Fashion & Design Accelerator launched by Pratt Institute and listen to a panel discussion on our physical relationship to the internet, personal privacy, big data and brands via wearables. The panel was moderated by Leah Hunter of Fast Company and featured Bre Pettis the founder of Makerbot, Billie Whitehouse the co-founder of Wearable Experiments, Evan Lazarus of Safe Family Wearables and Paul Amatai of Eyebeam. In honor of NYFW, the BF+DA is exhibiting its collection Cloud Couture: The Intimate Connection Between Fashion and Technology, which explores the future of fashion in terms of connectivity and intimacy as well as highlighting brand new materials and technologies that are set to redefine the apparel industry.
Cloud Couture is curated by Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, BF+DA research fellow and adjunct associate professor of Industrial Design and Fashion at Pratt Institute; Henry Yoo, adjunct professor of Industrial Design at Pratt Institute; and Debera Johnson, executive director of the BF+DA.
There was a large focus on sustainability -- or as Debera puts it "consequences of our work" -- ethical fashion and technology. The Cloud Couture collection delves deeply into the relationship between humanity and technology, and in the end the designers took to referring to it as "emotional or empathetic tech." The question is begged, how close is too close? And Debera at one point explains that some of these pieces are made for a society that is already somewhat broken. The privacy issues are raised time and time again, but many members of the panel bring up the fact that we have already traded away so much of our personal lives to the likes of Google and Facebook that these advances seem to be worth it, particularly in terms of medical advances. From health conscious pieces that tap into our biometric information to simple yet astounding ideas for tools that will for example serve as a universal remote control for all electronics in your life all set within a small ring for your finger. Another truly fascinating aspect of the conversation was how the 'cloud' played in. The internet, or the cloud, has become this all encompassing invisible lifeblood for us and it's allowing for incredible steps forward technologically.
And of course many of the designs present last night used the internet in a big way. The Alert Shirts are a quirky new innovation which gather biometric data from the wearer, send the information to the cloud and then deliver it to another wearer. This concept was presented for use by professional athletes and their fans -- the player plays and the fan gets to experience how they are feeling via vibrations. Debera explained it as "elevating the couch potato." Another piece utilizing biometric data is the GER Mood Sweater which takes signals from the body via sensors connected to each hand and then translates them to a color which is displayed in the collar of the shirt in order to display the wearer's mood. Paxie, a bracelet parents can purchase for their child will show location, the temperature and body signals -- the new and improved kiddy leash! Parents will always be able to tell if their little one is doing alright and is where they are supposed to be. Also concerning location, the Navigate Jackets by Billie Whitehouse have built in vibration mechanisms to alert you to where you are going. Enter an address in beforehand and the jacket will buzz you in the correct direction until you reach your destination! It will even locate your friends, if they happen to be wearing their Navigate Jacket that day.
Other pieces were more aesthetically based and lighthearted. Like BassAware, a device strapped to the wearer's chest that uses vibration to create massive bass so you can really feel the music or media you're playing. The FireFly Backpack features a solar panel that charges as you go about your day and then can light your way at night. Designer Francis Bitonti contributed some beautiful 3-D printing to the collection -- fascinating pieces that were created with a simple algorithm. By setting parameters the computer is then able to complete a formulaic design and the result is organic and modern looking. Forster Rohner played with the materials themselves by implanting LEDs into fabric to make fun and animated designs.
Forster Rohner LED fabric
3-D printed plastic fabrics by Francis Bitonti
Touring this facility and being introduced to so many unique and innovative concepts was truly inspiring. We definitely recommend stopping in, you won't be disappointed! The BF+DA is located at 630 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.