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6 Futuristic Clothing Fabrics

True fashion purveyors explain fashion’s significance as the only medium lying at the intersection of movement, architecture, and design. What we wear on our body ultimately shows the would who we are and who we want to be (not to mention displays modesty or lack thereof). Trends inevitably make their recurrence throughout time, but with all the new technology at designers’ fingertips, it’s hard to predict where the future of fashion will be in 10 years. Even harder to predict will be the materials that make up those fashions.

Last summer we showcased three concepts that project science’s influence on fashion, but what we must take into account with all new prototypes is: Will these kinds of clothes be wearable and will we want to wear them?

As seen in the short film The Future of Art, which we posted on earlier this week, technology should not be employed for technology’s sake, rather it should be implemented to solve problems, making our lives easier and more beautiful. Here we outline six new kinds of “fabric” that hint at what’s to come in fashion’s evolution. While they all vary on levels of concept, actuality, and practicality, we hope to give a glimpse into this wide-open and impending abyss. After all, your augmented reality T-shirts will be vintage by then.

Sue Ngo and Nien Lam: Pollution-Detecting Sweatshirts

Ever thought a shirt would help you quit smoking? Two students in the ITP graduate program at the Tisch School of the Arts, Sue Ngo and Nien Lam, have designed two sweatshirts emblazoned with a heart and a pair of lungs whose blue veins appear when exposed to pollution. How you ask? The technology, set off by a carbon monoxide sensor fixed to a microcontroller, sends electrical currents through the material warming the sweatshirts’ thermochromic fabric when pollution is in the air. Clothing that alerts us of our surroundings is definitely a useful and meaningful combination —isn’t protecting our bodies one of the basic points of fashion? Click here to see a video of one of the sweatshirts in action on the streets of NYC.

Boudicca: “Science of Sequin” Dress

Just before the 2010 holiday season, London-based label Boudicca unleashed an icy-blue sequined frock with motion-triggered sequins that playfully respond to every graze of the finger. Going at $7,000 a pop (only six dresses were produced), it’s obvious we’re going to have to stick with normal sequins for now, but watch the beautifully executed video above and marvel about how clothing can be fixed with parts that are as sensitive as you are.

Sangbyum Kim: Melt Tags

Washing new clothes before you wear them is probably a good idea (as they’re typically coated in chemicals to preserve quality and texture), but that extra step is not always probable. Sangbyum Kim has designed a clothing label, a winning entry at the 2010 Red Dot Concept Design Awards, that encourages the washing process and reduces paper waste. By fashioning a label out of a mild detergent, his innovation melts away as your garment is cleaned. As fashion is an industry typically associated with waste, we applaud this idea of conserving natural resources.

Yuima Nakazato: Holographic Film Dress

As the son of two sculptors, Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato employs some pretty unusual materials and practices in his designs. This holographic film dress, part of his debut menswear collection at Tokyo Fashion Week S/S 2011, is more conceptual in its view of the future. The entire collection, which can be viewed here, is focused on a new gender wearer: one that represents human evolution. Using masculine colors and materials (metal, acrylic, silicon) with feminine silhouettes, Nakazato designs for a borderless world in which genders, cultures, nature, and machines exist on the same plane. The designer has also created metal ensembles for Lady Gaga and an LED-trimmed dress for Fergie. Could an outfit be fashioned out of a rock? If it could, Nakazato would design it.

Jalila Essaidi: “2.6g 329m/s” (aka Bulletproof skin)

“2.6g 329m/s” might not mean much to you unless you know that it’s the maximum weight and velocity of a traveling bullet. For the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Awards (supported in part by the Netherlands Genomics Initiative), Jalila Essaidi designed a prototype for a transgenic human skin with a layer of spider-silk embedded between the epidermis and dermis. While spider-silk is up to five times as strong as steel, but still withholds the smoother properties of silk, the idea is to weave the silk using bulletproof vest techniques in a way that can culture human skin cells. Once finished, the “skin” will be embedded and tested with real bullets. The designer hopes the silk will eventually repel bullets (as illustrated in the photo above), but also notes that the spider-silk has the properties to help the skin regenerate. This a dream material for the military, police force, and anyone who puts their lives in danger for the good of humankind. Read a short interview with Essaidi here.

Emily Crane: Micro-Nutrient Couture

We can rest assured that we now have clothing fit for the apocalypse (or at least zombie takeover), as Emily Crane’s Micro-Nutrient clothing responds to the unavailability of traditional resources and mass production to make and produce clothing. Like a mad scientist, Crane conjures up bespoke, disposable fashion from ingredients including gelatines, agar-agar, glycerine, kappa carrageenan, natural flavor extracts, food coloring, and water. As seen in this video, Crane cooks, blends, cultures, and forms ice bubbles to make her silhouettes. You are what you eat, but would you eat what you wear?

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