Biometric-controlled clothing revealed at New York Fashion Week brought the future of wearable technology to life.
This fall, the fashion world sashayed deeper into the digital realm, and it may never turn back.
Models strutted down catwalks during Spring-Summer 2016 New York Fashion Week (NYFW) wearing new clothing lines from well-known and up-and-coming designers, but some designers showed how future garments will be brought to life using computer technology.
The Adrenaline Dress and Areo Sports Bra by Chromat’s Becca McCharen were two mesmerizing creations that intertwined style with functionality. They broke new ground for clothing that reacts to biometrics.
These two animated garments were designed with the Intel Curie Module — a button-sized computer hardware that can power wearables — and sensors that detect body heat, perspiration and respiration, all things indicative of adrenaline.
Changes in these human biometrics trigger shape-shifting movements, bringing extra comfort or flare to the wearer.
Once considered strange bedfellows, the fashion and tech industries have been forging new partnerships at a quickening pace.
The NYFW events in September brought many new fruits from these cross-industry collaborations, but none as progressive as the autonomously reactive dress and sports bra.
Ayse Ildeniz, vice president of Intel’s New Devices Group who has established partnerships with fashion leaders like Opening Ceremony, Fossil Group, Luxottica Group, TAG Heuer, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), told Wareable that new technologies are “empowering and inspiring the fashion industry by elevating the utility of clothing and accessories with intelligent capabilities.”
By partnering with Milk Studios, MADE Fashion Week, WMG-IMG and other innovators in the fashion world, Ildeniz was able to help make all the right connections that led to McCharen’s latest wearable tech designs.
“It’s been this amazing journey figuring out what’s possible now and what will be possible in the future… where we want to go and in what direction,” McCharen said in a Fortune video interview after revealing the Adrenaline Dress and Aero Sports Bra at the Chromat Fashion Show on September 11.McCharen has designed stage costumes for pop stars Beyoncé, Madonna and Nicki Minaj.
“Garments should be able to know how your body is feeling and adapt and respond accordingly,” she said, describing her approach to Mashable.
The Intel Curie digital hardware module connected to sensors allows the Adrenaline Dress to sense the wearer’s respiration, perspiration and body temperature. It recognizes physiological markers that tie to emotions where adrenaline might be experienced.
It’s what Intel Innovation Engineer Karli (Karolina) Cengija describes as biomimicry.
Tying biosensing to shape memory alloy, Cengija helped find a way to bring natural, silent movement without the use of mechanical servos. This led to a sleek design that looked and moved as if it was a biological extension of the wearer.
“It was designed to respond autonomously and move like living things do in our natural world,” said Todd Harple, an experience engineer and new projects director at Intel’s New Devices Group.
He categorized the Adrenaline Dress as a next step beyond the Intel Edison-powered Spider Dress designed by Anouk Wipprecht nearly a year ago, moving tech-infused clothing even closer to what people might actually wear someday.
Harple and others see the Adrenaline Dress as a giant step beyond advancements in decorative blinking dresses.
“We can’t actually track epinephrine, the chemical in our bodies which we often call adrenaline, but we can measure body temp, perspiration and respiration to approximate the conditions of a rise in adrenaline.”
This is enough data for the hardware module to initiate changes to the garment that reflect a need or mood of the wearer.
Like the Synapse Dress, an earlier designed by Anouk Wipprecht done in collaboration with Cengija and other Intel Innovation Engineers, Harple sees the Adrenalin Dress has implications for how biological sensing in our clothing can improve our lives.
He said it’s possible that we might one day be able to help understand conditions of anxiety in a discreet way to help those who have difficulty communicating.
Francis Bitonti, who did 3D design work on the Adrenalin Dress, told Wired UKthat 3D printing is becoming critical to creating new fashion wear. To stay innovative, the fashion world requires deeper thinking about tools, materials and manufacturing.
Bitonti is known in the fashion world for co-designing a body contouring 3D printed dress for burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese. He described the explorative Adrenalin Dress as the result of “having a handful of engineers working alongside a designer to create something completely new.”
The expanding and contracting apparatus at the back of the dress was made from carbon fiber, and movement is generated by an innovative use of shape memory alloy.