Futuristic Fashion Forward

Let’s face it, most of us have similar notions of how the future of travel or home life might look – flying cars, compartmentalized Jetson-inspired high-rises, and artificial intelligence robots doing our mundane, everyday tasks.  But have you ever stopped to think about what futuristic clothing might look like, aside from the Star Trek skin-tight space suits and bizarre headdresses showcased in Star Wars?

Inspired partly by the futuristic creations from Bravo Network’s clothing designer reality show, “Project Runway”, two MIT graduate students, Christine Liu and Nick Knouf, along with the MIT Media Lab and MIT Council of the Arts, recently produced “Seamless: Computational Couture”, an out-of-this-world fashion show held at the MIT Media Lab. Seamless’ at-capacity show featured 30 high-tech pieces from 18 talented current and former students from MIT, Harvard University, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and Parsons School of Design in New York City.

According to Liu, “The real inspiration was just the interest in clothing and technology and Nick and I shared when we met. We watched ‘Project Runway’, attended Boston fashion shows, shopped together (naturally) and researched (and marveled at) existing and emerging computational clothing projects. Pretty soon we got the gumption to apply for the Arts Grant at MIT to produce the show.”  The Arts Grant from the MIT Council of Arts awarded Liu and Knouf $1000 to work with, and MIT’s Media Lab matched it. All other items were paid out-of-pocket, or offered in-kind, including shoes donated by Puma as well as some concept pieces from Motorola.

ResistenceIn contrast to the Media Lab’s 1997 Wearables fashion show, this year’s event brought social implications into the limelight, offering a combination of function and form along with a dash of panache. “Seamless was an independent grassroots student production with independent and student designers. Seamless was a different take on clothing and technology, focusing more on the social and sartorial aspects of computational clothing rather than just purely informationally augmented selves.  We also wanted to explore more artistic, conceptual and experimental pieces,” said Liu. 

 Visitors of the event were treated to a feast for the eyes, including shiny white vinyl platform boots, created by Amanda Parkes, featuring bellows for heels, designed to pump out air as you walk into a tube attached to an inflatable dress, changing the color of the dress to reflect the wearer’s distance traveled. Lumiloops, a modular system of bright green and red square program and display panels, created by Nikita Pashenkov and Elise Co, offered wearers the ability to link together to form one single reactive bracelet, as if to say “Wonder Twin Powers, activate!”  If you need a literal spark in your love life in the future, you may be able to give that special someone a fuse necklace, such as the surprisingly stylish one created by Emily Albinski, featuring silvery 2-amp, 125-volt slow blow fuses hanging from chains of varying lengths.  A few items were more idealistic and conceptual than others, such as a “reactive undergarment” designed to duly note your experience during an airport pat-down, as well as a skirt, from Gemma Shusterman, with motors that turned the skirt’s accents into cat toys to illustrate the predator/prey relationship. 

Inflatable Dress

“I feel like show was a success, and was very timely to plant the emergence of a lot of cool experimental stuff that goes on underground in people’s labs and basements and web sites but doesn’t have a visibly public outlet,” said Liu.  “We hope that it sparked a more public and fruitful dialogue about clothing, technology, and fashion as well as give a voice to all the related independent designers.”

For more pictures of this event, please visit the Seamless Gallery

Images courtesy of Doug Eng