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product technology

The Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator’s TEK-TILES team create 30 smart textiles

Touch pattern tracking TEK-TILE designed by team members Jingwen Shu and Renata Guai - Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator
Touch pattern tracking TEK-TILE designed by team members Jingwen Shu and Renata Guai

What if clothing could change colour depending on your location or context? What if it could fold itself or change its shape throughout the day? What if different patterns could be knit into a garment in order to activate an augmented reality (AR) application on a mobile phone? These are just a few examples of the concepts at the centre of the Pratt Institute Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator’s TEK-TILES project.

The project aims to create a library of 30 smart textile swatches this summer. In this project, “smart textiles” combine materials exploration with electronics prototyping. In order to generate 30 smart textile swatches, during the first half of the 10-week project, the TEK-TILES team is generating many more possible ideas, combining them together and creating multiple iterations to determine the most interesting swatches to pursue in the coming weeks.

Zee Cesare (left), a programmer in the BF+DA p.lab, meeting with Z. “Teddy” Xiong, an industrial design student from Pratt Institute - Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator
Zee Cesare (left), a programmer in the BF+DA p.lab, meeting with Z. “Teddy” Xiong, an industrial design student from Pratt Institute

For example, the group has been finding ways to embed the kinds of features that are typically associated with computers and electronics – buttons, touchscreens and switches – with those commonly linked to fashion, garments and textiles such as snaps, zippers and hangers.

In addition to integrating the materials and electronics components, the swatches will be produced using the BF+DA’s Shima Seiki digital knitting machines in order to demonstrate their capabilities. In line with the BF+DA’s focus on sustainability and responsible technology, digital knitting machines offer interesting possibilities in terms of their ability to knit entire garments into one piece. This removes the need to sew together various separate parts such as the arms on a sweater. But, the use of digital knitting machines also requires that the team learn to translate their ideas into specifications that can be understood by the BF+DA’s p.lab team, which requires creating a new language for both teams to use.

TEK-TILES team member Evan Huggins illustrates the integration of fellow teammate Aaron Nesser’s green knit structure (top layer) with the electronic LED grid (bottom layer) - Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator
TEK-TILES team member Evan Huggins illustrates the integration of fellow teammate Aaron Nesser’s green knit structure (top layer) with the electronic LED grid (bottom layer)

In order to explore the smart textile concepts, it is necessary to integrate the knowledge, skills and methods from a range of engineering and design disciplines including, for example, materials science and fashion design. While the TEK-TILES team has a shared interest in problem-solving, these fields have different ways of approaching the design process.

For example, Maia Butterfield, a materials science major at Lehigh University, had not thought about design until joining the TEK-TILES team. She describes the engineering design process as: 1) concept generation, 2) sketching, 3) prototyping, and 4) testing.

“Collaborating with my teammate Perri Vaaler, makes it easier for me to contribute to the much more conceptual and open-ended design process that the team has been engaged in during the first half of the project,” says Butterfield.

Sandra Atakori (left) discussing augmented reality during a critique session with Pratt faculty member Joseph Morris - Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator
Sandra Atakori (left) discussing augmented reality during a critique session with Pratt faculty member Joseph Morris

In contrast to design processes that focus on solving a clearly-defined problem and client needs, Julian Goldman, an industrial design graduate from Pratt, describes the design process that the TEK-TILES team is using in the first half of the project as one of “exploration for exploration’s sake.”

This exploration has been primarily driven by the qualities and possibilities present in available materials such as different kinds of synthetics and natural fibres as well as electronic components such as conductive threads, sensors, LEDs and batteries.

According to Evan Huggins, another industrial design graduate from Pratt: “When you are not trying to solve a problem, you might find a solution that you might not have come up with [otherwise].”

In addition to the challenges of integrating knowledge from engineering and design, the TEK-TILES team is also reflecting on the ethics of their design decisions. For example, what might be the energy implications of smart textiles in terms of environmental sustainability? Who will have access to data that is collected by sensors that are embedded in garments and how easy or difficult will it be to gain access to the data? Are smart textiles implicitly co-opted into particular models of the economy that make the quantification, tracking and measurement of one’s health necessary or inevitable (or might they resist these impulses)?

During the second half of the project, the TEK-TILES team will be continuing their explorations but also working directly with partner organisations on specific, more focused concepts around the themes of monitoring, connecting and activation that respond more directly to human needs.

The concepts will be showcased in an exhibition titled “Fabric of Cultures: Systems in the Making,” at the Queens Museum, which opens on October 5 through December 15, 2017.

This article was first published by Laura Forlano on the website of the Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, which mentors triple bottom line businesses that connect financial success with sustainable supply chains and ethical labour. Its production lab is a source for local and sustainable apparel manufacturing and an R&D centre for the design and production of smart garment and functional textiles.

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data film social media

John Frieda creates bespoke user films based on Instagram algorithm

John Frieda's Shades of Me campaign
John Frieda’s Shades of Me campaign

British haircare brand John Frieda is focusing on personalisation in its latest campaign; using an Instagram algorithm that analyses hair colour and social media expressions to generate custom video stories for its fans.

A collaboration with creative agency Brave, the bespoke “Shades of Me” films aim to show what individuals’ hair colour and Instagram feed say about them.

“Your Instagram feed is a curated, beautiful visual depiction of your unique style and self expression. Colour is a powerful part of this; from the pictures you take and filters you use, down to the locations you take them in – the colours you gravitate toward are what makes you, you,” reads the write-up from the team.

John Frieda's Shades of Me campaign
John Frieda’s Shades of Me campaign

To achieve it, users simply select their hair colour and grant the site permission to its Instagram or Facebook photos. The site then highlights two key colours the user associates with the most and relevant John Frieda products for that lifestyle.

The custom film alongside also picks out keywords that relate to them: “You are a bold, cool, original, warm ombre,” for instance. Or: “You are a deep, refreshing, admirable, rich brunette”… Those words are laid over footage of both their own shots and

It also then provides them with footage of both their own shots and a selection from over 100 video close-ups of lifestyle, fashion and beauty moments created by the company.

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Comment data e-commerce Editor's pick film mobile social media Startups technology

2015: a designer meets digital year in review

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It’s been another big year for the fashion industry and its integration with technology: from the release of the (Hermès) Apple Watch, to Natalie Massenet’s departure from Net-a-Porter as it merged with Yoox, not to mention the ongoing and evolving discussions around fashion weeks becoming consumer-facing events.

There’s also been a broadening discussion on the role smart fabrics play in the wearables space, virtual reality is increasingly on our radar for its relevance to retail, and we’re obsessed with how the industry is slowly adapting to a new aesthetic thanks to apps like Snapchat.

Here then, are 10 of the posts you loved the most on Fashion & Mash this year. It’s a collection nodding to many of the aforementioned subjects we continue to track, as well as the likes of personalisation, data, instant messaging, emojis and more. A veritable feast of trends we’re watching across the digital landscape as we head into the New Year…

Thank you for reading and see you in 2016. Wishing you a very happy holidays from everyone here at the (growing!) Fashion & Mash team.

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Editor's pick technology

10 wearable tech gifts for the fashionistas in your life

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If the new Hermès Apple Watch is a little out of price range, but you’re after something more than the standard fitness band to fulfill your wearable tech gift giving quest this holiday, look no further…

In honour of those thinking about fashion and not just function, our Forbes round-up of 10 wearables now on the market, is well worth checking out. Ranging from Everpurse x Kate Spade New York, to Altruis, The Unseen and Topshop x bPay, they not only do neat things like pay for products or help charge your other devices, but look pretty good too. There’s also Unmade, Gemio, Ringly, Away, Misfit x BaubleBar and Love & Robots.

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Editor's pick Startups technology

Material science hits Selfridges with The Unseen’s colour-change accessories line

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There’s something quite magical about an item that changes colour when held in your hands – a combination of awe and wonder harking back to science experiments we were all tasked with exploring as children.

If only you could bottle that, and sell it…

Well, now you can. Or rather, The Unseen, a London-based company fusing the worlds of science and design, can. Founded by Lauren Bowker, who refers to herself as a material alchemist, this is a start-up that has captured the simple idea of colours that alter based on user interaction or the environment they’re placed in, and launched it as a limited-edition, luxury accessories collection in UK department store, Selfridges.

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There’s a calfskin backpack that shows vivid flushes of colour in response to air pressure as the atmosphere brushes across it’s surface, and an Italian alligator-skin shoulder bag with environmentally responsive ink that changes to reflect the different seasons in the UK. It turns black in the winter, red in the spring, blue in the summer and green fading to red in the autumn.

Read my full interview with Bowker over at Forbes.

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Blocks Editor's pick technology

Six things your clothes will be able to do in the future

A version of this post first appeared on Fashionista.com 

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Pauline van Dongen

Spending on wearable technology is expected to reach $53 billion worldwide by 2019, according to Juniper Research. Sound a bit surprising? Rightly so. At the moment, the wearable tech on the market is seemingly designed for gadget geeks or fitness fanatics, and not much else. Even the Apple Watch leaves little to be desired in the fashion department. So where’s all the good-looking stuff we actually want to, you know, wear?

Fortunately we’ve seen the future, and we can tell you it’s not all going to be about smartwatches, pieces of jewellery that flash when our phone rings or virtual reality goggles. The launch of Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech T-shirt in August is evidence of the kind of appealing connected technology that is slowly moving into the apparel realm. This one might still be geared towards the athletic market first and foremost – it allows the wearer to capture biometric information including heart rate, breathing rate, steps taken and more – but it’s a good move forward.

And there’s lots of other work being done in science and technology that will change the way we dress further. Whether it’s about controlling devices through the cuff of a sleeve, or quickly shortening the length of our skirts for a night out, here’s some of the clothing-related technologies you can look forward to in the future.

Items that change colour

This one is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we want our white T-shirts to change to a darker grey if we spill something on them, or a polka dot dress to shift to stripes when we spot someone else wearing the same one? In the future, being able to change the colour of your look will be easy;  at the moment there’s lots being worked on in this realm to make it so. Most of it is similar to the Global Hypercolor t-shirts from the 80s and 90s – remember those ones that changed color when they got hot for instance? Look out for the likes of The Unseen, a London-based brand fusing science and design, which is already experimenting heavily in this space.

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The Unseen

Jeans that communicate

Walk into a tech conference, and you’ll see lots of people speaking into the Apple Watches on their wrists, a la Inspector Gadget. But interactions with the items on our bodies are about to get even weirder. Next year, Google will launch Project Jacquard with Levi’s, weaving conductive yarn into jeans to allow touch interactivity on the fabric itself. The idea is to provide simple functionalities that will free us from using our mobile phones all of the time — like being able to request an Uber, silence our phones, take a selfie or even turn a lightbulb on or off. A prototype saw the same idea embedded in the sleeve of a jacket made on Savile Row. It might sound wacky now, but more seamless interactions are the way of the future.

Clothes that charge your other devices

Garments that feature solar panels and a small portable battery that you can plug the likes of your phone into to give it a little more juice, have been out in the market for a while. Last year, Tommy Hilfiger launched a jacket designed for the great outdoors with solar strips attached to the back of it, while Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen has a great looking T-shirt that does the same job. In the future, designers will also harness kinetic energy from our bodies for a charge.

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Tommy Hilfiger

Jackets with body temperature controls

Speaking of energy, in everyday clothes, we’re often hot one minute and cold the next. Wearable tech’s future will be about being able to control your body temperature through your coat. Ever sat in one of those cars with heated seats? Imagine something like that, but far more stylish. If you’re after even more technology in your life, there’s no reason why you couldn’t then connect your body temperature information from your outerwear with your thermostat at home so your apartment is just the right temperature once you walk in, too.

A wardrobe made to measure

There’s an ongoing amount of work being done around making sure clothes really fit us through 3D body scanning and detailed algorithms. Imagine being able to customise the size of everything you buy, whether it’s from Asos or J.Crew, and not just a high-end designer name. Knowing that a dress is going to be made to perfectly fit our body shape, or the drama of purchasing jeans is going to be completely seamless, will make the click-to-buy button all the more tempting. Start-ups like Acustom Apparel, which uses the latest 3D measuring technology to digitally tailor menswear, is just one in a long list of companies exploring this space. Others like Orpiva, which launches this autumn, are also incorporating ideas such as being able to snap a photo of someone on the street in an item you like in order to seek out similar looks online. From there you can then virtually try them on too.

Styles that shift in shape

Shape-shifting styles are a bit further away in the future, but they’re not a complete pipe dream. A video released by Lacoste in 2012 set the tone (see above), showing clothes that shift colour, sleeves that lengthen and silhouettes that grow slimmer. This kind of technology is based on complicated fiber science — i.e. changing the molecular structures of textiles — but it’s something that researchers at the likes of OMsignal, the technology company behind that PoloTech shirt from Ralph Lauren, are working on. Pauline van Dongen is also exploring how 3D printing can be used to achieve such changes, adapting structural flexibilities so items can be more tightly woven at one point, and more open at another. And sportswear label Chromat just revealed a dress in collaboration with Intel during New York Fashion Week that features a carbon fibre framework that expands and collapses based on the wearer’s body temperature and stress levels.

It’s not impossible to imagine a future where a perfectly-fitting dress could change colour, sleeve and hem length depending on the occasion; maintain the right temperature in response to the environment; and be used to charge a dying phone battery or send a message to a loved one, too. In the future, we’ll be surprised just how little our clothes once did for us.

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Editor's pick social media technology

The best of tech coming up at #LFW

FyodorGolan_anchor

London Fashion Week kicked off yesterday, and while there might not be quite as much buzz around tech or digital ideas at the shows as there was in New York this season, there are still a handful of things worth knowing about.

Head over to Forbes for a highlight of the best, including Burberry’s early Snapchat reveal, Hunter’s mobile gigs on Periscope, Topshop’s Pinterest Palettes, Henry Holland’s NFC-enabled wearables, Fyodor Golan’s Transformers (as pictured) and a look ahead at Intel as a patron of the British Fashion Council.

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Blocks data e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

Topshop teams with Pinterest for colour-themed fashion week campaign

TOPSHOP PINTEREST 2

Topshop’s tech focus at fashion week this season lands on Pinterest, and its theme of choice: colour.

The British retailer has partnered with the virtual scrapbooking platform to launch “Pinterest Palettes”, a tool that scans and identifies the dominant colour in any given set of Pins, enabling users to discover their personal colour DNA as well as upcoming trends for spring/summer 2016 based on what’s being seen on the streets of New York, London, Milan and Paris.

The results will also come with shoppable recommendations, linking back to the entire catalogue of Topshop.com. According to the team, a potential 16.8m colour combinations will be possible, providing unique results for every user.

Sheena Sauvaire, global marketing and communications director at Topshop, said:?“We recognise that the power of colour on our customer is huge; it has the ability to inspire, excite and drive purchases, so we’re delighted that our partnership with Pinterest has enabled us to explore the impact of colour, whilst engaging our customers in the excitement of London Fashion Week.”

Adele Cooper, UK country manager at Pinterest, added:?“With more than 24 million fashion ideas Pinned globally each day, Pinterest has become a destination for personal style inspiration. By launching Pinterest Palettes, Topshop is enabling people to engage with the ideas they have saved in a new way, discover something personal about their colour preferences, and take action with a fun, individualised shopping experience.”

For those in London, Topshop will also host a pop-up on the lower ground floor of its Oxford Circus flagship that will offer shoppers the ability to explore Topshop’s spring/summer 2016 Pinterest boards on iPads, and print out their our Pinterest Palettes colour inspiration cards to take away with them. The personal shopping team will also offer colour advice tailored to customers’ individual colour spectrums.

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Editor's pick film

Mat Maitland brings surrealist style to Hunter campaign film

Hunter has collaborated with visual artist Mat Maitland for a surreal, technicolour film as part of its autumn/winter 2014/15 campaign.

The spot features models including Charlotte Wiggins and Neelam Johal hiking through a forest, set against a mountainous backdrop as driving rain, flashes of lightning and a collage of floating Hunter boots arrive. A cast of animals referred to as “icons of the British countryside” including lambs, foxes, fish and geese also appear.

Maitland, who is known for his surrealist imagery and distinctive style of multi-layered compositions, said of the piece: “My focus was on depicting a mysterious dreamlike world reminiscent of the Highlands. I tried to explore the relationships between animals, people, landscapes and fashion, an idea which emerges from the collaged and abstract images pulsating on the screen.”

The film showcases new footwear, outerwear, knitwear and accessories from the Hunter Original collection, including the Original High Heel, Original Chelsea and Original Poncho. A series of stills from the video are shown below.

Maitland also created a short film that was projected onto the central surround of the Hunter Original spring/summer 2015 show during London Fashion Week last month.

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digital snippets e-commerce social media technology

Digital snippets: Matthew Williamson, Gap, Amazon, Instagram, Wanelo, Tinder

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:

MatthewWilliamson_Instagram

  • ‘Is it scalable? I think it has to be,’ Matthew Williamson head of digital on customer acquisition through Instagram [The Drum]
  • Amazon launches #AmazonCart (#AmazongBasket), a new way to shop without leaving Twitter [TNW]
  • Fashion world sashays to Instagram for brand-building [FT]
  • Wanelo profiled: like mall browsing, with a click [NY Times]
  • Meet the new wave of Tinder-like shopping apps [Fashionista]
  • Stylect, the Tinder for shoes, finds you a perfect pair [Co.Design]
  • Study shows prevalence of consumer ‘webrooming’; more people researching online and buying in local stores [AdWeek]
  • Tracking is dead: the next wave of wearables is context [re/code]
  • Millennial-focused marketers start to dig in to new SnapChat video feature [AdWeek]
  • Must see: colour-changing fabric uses heat sensitive technology to react to sound files and its surrounds [PSFK]