Fashion – Clothes that respond to the environment, dresses that can be tweeted and ready to wear garments that come off a 3D printer but also designs by Alexander McQueen, Issey Myiake, and more. Boston Museum of Fine Arts presents #techstyle, an exhibition that shines a light on the missing link between fashion design and technology.
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#techstyle examines how the synergy between fashion and technology is not only changing design and manufacturing, but also the way people interact with their clothes. The exhibition showcases the work of 33 emerging and established designers from around the world. Both fashionistas and techies will discover 60 works of art ranging from fashion and accessories to photography and video at the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery from the 6th of March 2016 until the 10th of July.
Highlights range from the Ricky Bag with Light, Ralph Lauren’s commercially available hand bag that can charge a cell phone, to The Spike, British bionic pop artist and MIT Media Lab fellow Viktoria Modesta’s high-tech artificial leg.
“Many of today’s designers actively seek out collaborations with scientists and engineers to apply new technologies in digital media, sustainability and even biotech to their work. At the same time, scientists and engineers have embraced fashion pushing the boundaries of manufacturing and design” says Pamela Parmal, Chair of the MFA’s to ArchiPanic and curator of #techstyle.
On show also the work of established designers like Chalayan, McQueen, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo who have been at the forefront of incorporating technology into their collections. The designers’ creations are complemented by video and photography, revealing how technology is changing the way fashion is created and functions.
The rest of the show is organized into two themes, PRODUCTION and PERFORMANCE. “We hope that #techstyle will show visitors that now, more than ever, fashion is transcending its more conventional function and becoming an active interface between the body and innovative new technologies” adds co-curator Michelle Finamore.
New technologies have also been harnessed to develop garments and accessories that enhance performance on the battlefront, athletic field and stage. Curators underline that today, clothing can act as a video monitor, mood detector, medical monitoring device, or even give a hug when needed.
The PERFORMANCE section of the exhibition features interactive “wearables” and clothing that exploits technology for function and visual effect. At the center of the section, the Twitter Dress by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz of CuteCircuit interactive wearables brand. Thanks to more than 10,000 MicroLEDs it displays the messages of visitors using the hashtag #tweetthedress.
A remotely controlled Possessed Dress designed by Chalayan is on view in conjunction with a video of the Sadler’s Wells ballet for which it was developed, Gravity Fatigue, where the dress can be seen moving independently of the dancer.
Two ink-coated leather capes created by T H E U N S E E N – founded by lead material alchemist, Lauren Bowker – change in a rainbow spectrum in response to heat, light and air flow, reverting back to black in stasis. Conceptual artist Ying Gao’s Incertitudes ensemble is a kinetic garment that reacts to its environment. When a voice is within proximity, electronic sensors activate the dressmaker pins covering the surface of the garment, causing them to move in waves.
Co-curator Lauren Whitley says “The performance section highlights how clothes ‘perform’ in both practical and conceptual ways expanding our understanding of how designs can function in the future”.
The PRODUCTION section looks at how contemporary fashion designers have employed technology to revolutionize the way clothing is designed and constructed, including digital design, lasers, embedded electronics and sustainable manufacturing methods and materials.
While 3D-printed garments are still in the experimental stages, the technology reveals a future where clothes might be designed to one’s own measurements and produced on one’s own printer. #techstyle exhibition showcases examples that have already made their way to Paris and New York catwalks or are already on sale like the Molecule Shoe by Bitonti.
New methods of creating sustainable textiles and manufacturing methods are also explored in this section of the exhibition. Traditional ways of processing natural fibers, weaving cloth and dyeing are among the world’s most wasteful manufacturing processes, making sustainability an important goal for many designers and manufacturers.
On show G-Star Raw for the Oceans, a collaboration between musician and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams and Bionic Yarn, a company dedicated to repurposing ocean waste. The collection is made with denim created from recycled plastic bottles recovered from the oceans.
Issey Miyake’s 132 5 collection is made from PET, a polyester fiber developed by Teijin Limited. The manufacturing process does not use fossil fuels—fibers are created by pulverizing, melting and spinning threads out of recycled polyester.
#techstyle is jointly curated by Pamela Parmal, Chair of the MFA’s David and Roberta Logie Department of Textile and Fashion Arts; Michelle Finamore, Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts; and Lauren Whitley, Senior Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts. The exhibtiion is sponsored by the Fashion Council and New Balance.
All photos courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.