With smart clothing and wearable technology becoming popular, the marriage of fashion and technology is becoming inevitable. To keep up with the pace, the FashionTech Academy at The PowerHouse constantly feels that it is important to groom the fashion technologists and designers of tomorrow. Last year, ElekroCouture & the FashionTechAcademy teamed up with the Goethe-Institut Thailand and FabCafe Bangkok during the regional textile project IKAT/eCUT and trained the first generation of FashionTech designers in Asia.
So what motivated the team of ElektroCouture to travel all the way to South East Asia for this training workshop? Lisa Lang, Founder, ThePowerHouse and ElektroCouture said, “My job is to make things glow and join fashion with technology. In Asia, you have a network which is called the FabCafe and all of them have the same machines such as the laser cutter and 3D printers. In our workshops, you learn from experts who introduce you to the basics of sewing, 3D printing and modeling, laser-cutting and pattern making, electronics and soft circuits. Our skilled creative technologists introduce you to the world of FashionTech and wearable technologies and you learn new techniques and expand your knowledge on materials and manufacturing.”
In 2017, the top three designers of the training (Nicole Lao Ong, Nuttakat Khunkhon and Issaree Dunagkhae) then got invited by ElektroCouture to present at the Fashion Week Berlin in 2017.
Nicole Lao Ong, one of the winners of the contest who traveled to Berlin shares her experience of attending the seminar, “I was surprised to learn so many new things from the training, especially when we had the seminar in Bangkok Thailand. They (ElektroCouture) taught laser cutting and 3D printing that I myself have never done. It opened a whole new world of possibilities in terms of design for me. My work is a shoe that expands and is able to accommodate to the growth of the child’s foot.”
Nuttakat Khunkhong, another FashionTech designer who won the contest explains how he used his creativity and design skills to lay emphasis on a social problem, “The inspiration of my work comes from the LGBT community in Thailand. I studied in Japan for two years and there I realized that Asian countries are not very open to LGBT communities. I express closeness to this community through my illustrations and use them as social sarcasm. ElektroCouture is very supportive of my idea. They also mentored me about fashion technology and techniques that I can use.”
Lisa recalls the wonderful time spent with these students and concludes on a positive note, “We could feel that they worked so hard and they were so excited. We feel honored to have been able to bridge some gap between Bangkok and Berlin through FashionTech.”
We had the amazing opportunity to welcome experience design director Nina Walia during our Open Studio Day. Nina is fashion technologist of the first generation and has worked for Nike+ FuelBand, GE, PBS and many more. Her latest project got her into the team of Google Jacquard, a collaboration between Google and Levi's.
''Everything started with crazy experiments", Nina remembers the start of her career. Having worked with electrical engineers and designers to create interactive clothes almost 20 years ago, she couldn't have imagined turning her passion in an actual job. The question is, what excites her now? ''Bringing it to manufacturing, making it real!", is her answer. Working with the Google Jacquard project now enables Nina to infuse technology into a design in a beautiful and practical way.
Watch our exclusive video recording of our fireside chat with Nina on her work with NIKE, PBS, the early days of FashionTech and how Google Jacquard got together with Levi's, what the future of fashion will be - and what she would do if everything would be possible.
Project Jacquard, a platform for embedding sensors and feedback devices in fabrics and clothing in ways that seem natural and comfortable. The platform encompasses techniques for creating fashion fabrics with conductive fibers woven into them, plus small, flexible computing components and feedback devices (such as haptics or LEDs), along with software APIs that applications can use to exchange data with the garment. In one basic use-case, users can provide input to a mobile phone by touching or stroking the garment in a designated location, and can receive alerts through vibrations, sounds, or lights in the garment. With an embedded Project Soli sensor built into the garment, the application can also recognize finger gestures or other signals.
The name "Jacquard" is borrowed from the Jacquard loom, invented in 1801, which could be controlled with punched cards and inspired the use of punched cards in computing more than a century later. Like the loom, ATAP's Project Jacquard is a platform, not a consumer product; it enables the creation of products for uses such as communication, personal assistance, navigation, health and fitness, fashion, and work. To date, demos and marketing materials emphasize style and quality, as opposed to a purely sports-based or utilitarian positioning. Project Jacquard was announced at Google I/O 2015, and at the same time Google announced a related partnership with clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co.
The Nike+ FuelBand was an activity tracker worn on the wrist and is to be used with an Apple iPhone, iPad or Android device. Development of the product ceased for future evolving digital priorities.
As part of the Quantified Self movement, the FuelBand allows its wearers to track their physical activity, steps taken daily, and amount of energy burned. The information from the wristband is integrated into the Nike+ online community and phone application, allowing wearers to set their own fitness goals, monitor their progression, and compare themselves to others part of the community. Nike+ relies on the gamification of fitness activities turning all tracked movement into NikeFuel points, which can unlock achievements, can be shared with friends, or can be used to engage others in competition.
How to make a washing machine wearable? We got invited by Siemens home appliance to deconstruct their latest washing machine for their 'recreate the everyday' campaign. For us, washing machines are like FashionTech devices - imagine, what we could do together as friends!
For the development of the design, we invited our former FashionTech designer-in-residence, Anja Dragan to the project. She worked with us previously for other glowing projects like Nuit Blanche and #MarleneGlows. Anja brought her avant-garde perspective to the Siemens project - inspired by the blue light and the shapes of the washing machine, she came up with this glowing result. Thanks to the graphic design support Kathleen Galbraith from VWolfe Art Berlin, we even animated the concept! You can see more of Kathleen's work in our stargazer concept.
And don't miss out to watch our hilarious outtakes (yes, we learned how to dress a doll after all ;))
The future is not only about bringing technology and fashion together, but it is also about designers being well versed in both. At ThePowerHouse we never miss a chance to meet young designers and share our knowledge and stories with them. In the December of 2017, a group of designers from the Fellowship Programme of the Fashion Council Germany and H&M visited our Studio at ThePowerHouse in Bikini Berlin for a workshop and spent time with our founder, Lisa Lang. Lisa was also one of the mentor jury members, who selected the individuals for the fellowship.
Nina Vollman, from Fashion Council Germany, also visited with the designers and said they were really amazed by the new Studio. “Meeting mentors like Lisa is always immensely inspiring for our designers. During the workshop at ThePowerHouse, our designers worked with the laser cutting machines, 3D printers and became aware of other elements of fashion technology like use of LEDs in clothing. Fashion Technology is the future and necessary for a stronger focus on sustainability. Though FashionTech is at a nascent stage and has not reached mass consumption state, it has a lot of potential. So, it is important for young designers to learn about it.”
Nina added that members of the Fashion Council Network are specialists and meeting them helps young designers to further streamline their skills. “We try to connect creative people throughout our network. We help the designers in all possible ways such as introducing them to tax advisors, guiding them to use social media for expanding presence, organizing workshops for sales training, and providing expertise on how to run a successful Fashion Show,” she shared.
The protégés of the programme are supported by the extensive network of the Fashion Council Germany and the members of its mentoring jury. Besides Lisa Lang, other members, of the mentoring jury included Nicola Knels, Fashion Director VOGUE Germany; Roel de Cooman, Head of Sales Adidas Style Collaborations (EMEA) Heberlein & Maurer ag on behalf of Adidas AG; Phil Gaedicke, Managing Director BAM and co-founder of SOTO store, and Konstantin Spachis, Deputy Fashion Director MADAME.
In 2016, Deutsche Telekom approached us to curate an ideas competition to encourage groundbreaking ideas in the fashion tech space. This first-of-its-kind competition aimed at fostering innovation and collaboration across industries and sectors. The mission was to design relevant, functional, sustainable and —above all— smart fashion with added value for the wearer.
More than 100 designers from 25 countries submitted applications for the chance to work in TheStudio with us to develop their concepts. The program was announced in the summer of 2016. By August 16, 2016, a jury of industry representatives had narrowed submissions down to twelve finalists. The selected projects pushed the boundaries of what we traditionally think of as fashion by leveraging leading technologies, including 3D printing, augmented reality, and even drones.
We worked in tandem with Intel, WIRED Germany, Adidas, and Premium Exhibition International Fashion Trade Show to bring the competition to life. By identifying and working with up-and-coming designers as well as company stakeholders, we were able to play the role of matchmaker, bridging the gap between corporate interest and grassroots talent. After three months earning effectively their masters in FashionTech, the finalists showed off their projects at a special presentation and awards ceremony in Berlin.
The FashionTech industry needs a large investment to create tangible and feasible concepts. ThePowerHouse brings together the best minds in design and innovation to bring fashion technology projects and initiatives to life. To learn about our curating and accelerator services, follow the link (link to services page or contact forum to be inserted here-)
As the year begins, we highlight the top five innovation topics in 2018. These topics will potentially disrupt the FashionTech sector this year – and carry the conversation ahead.
There has been a lot of talk about smart textiles, new mobility and cybersecurity. However, what’s the real deal behind all that talk? Don’t worry if you missed some topics – let’s decode the hottest future trends for you right now.
1. Protein as the new (and old) secret source in smart textiles innovation
But wait, what is spider silk? It is simply a protein fibre made of a chain of amino acids. The attempts to produce spider silk (or protein fibre) have existed since 1710, but mass production has been a constant challenge. There is a reason why the industry wants to innovate production in protein fibres and is trying to scale it up. It’s not just because it is ‘sustainability’ or vegan fibre, or just the fact that it is biodegradable; protein fibres have excellent moisture, absorbency and transport characteristics. They have more resistance to wrinkling and tend to hold their shape longer, and hence are better than the silkworm silk.
Though the concept has been there for years, protein fibre is now making way into products and clothing. Sourcing the protein yarn is just the tip of the iceberg of the evolution we’re waiting for. McCartney mentioned in an interview that we shouldn’t expect this collection in the stores yet. Maybe we have to wait a while before we see synthetic spider silk making its way into mass production, and that will be the real innovation for us- when we can see protein fibre clothing on the store shelves!
2. Voice Control will be everywhere - even in our clothes
Today, voice is one of the ways companies interact with their users. Tomorrow it could be the only way companies interact with their users. With the evolution of voice assistants, tech companies have integrated them into Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Voice controls such as Alexa are moving outside of our homes to connect with us and dominate our interactions through voice.
Innovation in this space will make it possible for voice control dominated devices like Alexa to be with you all the times. Recently, a project team at TechCrunch Disrupt 2017 Hackathon in San Francisco demonstrated an “Alexa Shop Assist”. The idea helps in shopping in a big retail store with Alexa-powered devices seamlessly by using voice control. As Alexa’s voice service is capable of running on any hardware, one necessarily doesn’t need Echo hardware devices to make this work. While the project team was also one of the winners at the Hackathon they aren’t working on this idea anymore. The TechCrunch article states, “It wouldn’t be surprising if Amazon was thinking about something similar already – especially considering its move into physical retail by way of its Whole Foods acquisition.”
With voice control reaching everywhere, the next step is definitely clothes that integrate with voice. We will integrate voice with us in our clothes through wearable technology. Wait for it!
3. Fashion as the new user interface for modern mobility
Though these concepts are still prototypes, it clearly tells us that it’s time for clothes and shoes to enable us to become more mobile. Which means, clothes will make our current devices disappear. Electronic-enabled fabrics will sync with the movement of our body to show us the way. Our garments will communicate with our transportation pathways to make our journey more safe, efficient and customized to our preferences and style. In a time where we have to move faster, our clothes have to become smarter.
4. Smart label as turbo-boost for digitalized garments
Wouldn’t it be convenient to go shopping without your credit card (or cash)? This is what smart labels are all about. Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology which is used in credit cards to make payments is being embedded in clothing. NFC, which has existed for more than 30 years is used in contactless payment systems, similar to those used in credit/debit cards and electronic ticket smartcards and allows mobile payments as well. In 2015, British designer Henry Holland collaborated with Visa Europe at London Fashion Week where he demonstrated how a tiny NFC chip embedded in a ring could be used to purchase items directly from the runway.
NFC tags can also store data and share small payloads of data between an NFC tag or Android-powered device (and hopefully soon on iOs). Last year, when Nike announced the “Nike NBA Jersey with NikeConnect”, did you wonder what the “tap” in the commercial is all about? It claims that, by tapping your phone onto the NikeConnect logo on the tags of jerseys and Nike shoes, one gains an insight into all the content about their favorite teams and players. Put simply, a NFC chip operates as one part of a wireless link. Once activated by another chip, data can be transferred between two devices when held a few centimeters away from each other. It’s just about bringing the tag and the phone closer to each other. So, not only payments - but even wireless data transfer is possible through NFC. It can open doors, get you directly linked to online information or trigger the technology around you (eg. your smart home!).
5. Cybersecurity alerts: What if your smart jacket gets hacked?
Let’s think about this: your clothes are becoming smarter but also starting to collect a lot of data. Now, you don’t have to look for your smartphone to answer a call or to listen to your favorite music while on-the-go. The high-tech Levis Jacket made in collaboration with Jacquard by Google last year is a perfect example of how wearable tech clothing can also go into mass clothing through the right innovative collaborations. The denim jacket has a small, wireless tag on one cuff, connecting the jacket to a smartphone. The conductive yarn woven into the garment means the cuff acts like a touchscreen, so you’re able to “swipe” via the cuff. There’s more here about designer Nina Walia and her experience of working with the Google Jacquard Project.
However, the bigger question is what happens if a jacket like this gets hacked? The industry is not fully prepared for this situation and we need solutions. This is definitely food for thought as tech is entering all spaces. Recently a Tesla car was hacked by a group of Chinese researchers while only 12 miles away. While Tesla feels that the chances of getting hacked are very low, the company cannot ignore these risks. It’s time we focus on these issues when it comes to wearable tech as well.
As technology enters our clothes, how can we protect our personal data? While experiments and disruptive technologies will permeate our clothes, we feel the right collaborations are the most critical aspect in FashionTech going forward. Smart Clothing or wearable tech should not stop at prototypes - bigger brands have to find companies that innovate and help them reach mass production (and acceptance).
Is your company interested in venturing into #FashionTech? Interact with us and find all the answers as we decode these disruptive innovations for you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.