From digitally printed textiles to stylish tech gadgets and even wearable computing, the ever-growing partnership of fashion and technology is catapulting the design world into a whole new dimension.
Evidence was everywhere at the New York fall-winter 2013 fashion presentations in February — from models tweeting as they walked the runway at the end of the Kenneth Cole show to
Just a few years ago, digital textile printing was hailed as a fashion innovation, most notably when the late
For instance, designer Daniella Clarke, creator of local denim brand Frankie B., is offering stretch denim leggings digitally printed with a night photograph of the Los Angeles skyline taken near Figueroa Street. The style is to be available for $189 at Bloomingdale's stores as of June 15.
Another new permutation is a collaboration between New York fashion designer
Up in Silicon Valley, all the hype is about "wearable computing."
the highly anticipated glasses, called the
Much less high-tech, the tiny, wearable "life blogging" Memoto camera, funded on crowd-sourcing investment site Kickstarter, clips to a jacket or shirt and automatically takes a photo every 30 seconds. While the lack of an on-off button may seem like a drawback at first, it is exactly what captures all those precious, unguarded moments, which are what life is about — or, rather, what it was like before cellphone cameras and social media existed. The miniature camera with a built-in GPS ($279 by pre-order at memoto.com) does shut down when placed in a dark place, such as a pocket or purse, and synchs with a computer to upload geo-tagged images to the company's cloud storage space. Images can also be downloaded to a computer.
Launching another form of wearable tech, New York-based menswear designer Asher Levine partnered with Phone Halo to implant TrackR's Bluetooth tracking chips in higher-priced outerwear, gloves and a weekend bag in his fall-winter 2013 fashion collection. If an item is lost, a "separation reminder notification" lets you know that you have left your coat or gloves behind; the items can be tracked via a smartphone or
"I see a future where fashion and technology are as one, where the clothing interacts with its wearer and the environment, augmenting the experience of being human," says Levine, who has dressed stars such as Rita Ora,
New 3-D printers that print in length, width and depth mean that designers can actually print multi-dimensional forms, such as jewelry, shoes and garments. In March, burlesque dancer and style maven Dita Von Teese stepped out in a black powdered nylon gown, printed entirely on a 3-D printer and designed by Los Angeles fashion designer Michael Schmidt in collaboration with Brooklyn architect Francis Bitonti. The open-weave dress, assembled from 17 printed pieces with 3,000 connective joints, was designed entirely on an iPad and printed by New York-based 3-D printing company Shapeways.
Schmidt, who created Lady Gaga's glass bubble bodysuit in 2009 and counts Debbie Harry, Madonna and Rihanna among his clients, says that he and Bitonti "intend to continue exploring the boundaries of the technology.... This will include projects for the entertainers I design for, as well as a [3-D] jewelry collection, which is in development now."
New, smaller 3-D color printers, designed for use at home, were star attractions at the 2013
The new 3-D fashion design site constrvct.com allows anyone to create customized ready-to-wear fashion. The company transforms an uploaded photograph into digitally printed fabric. Then the customer selects from a variety of basic fashion silhouettes, and a 3-D design tool will custom size the pattern to fit the exact body measurements. Garments are individually printed, cut and sewn in three weeks and come complete with a label bearing the customer's name. Fabric swatches can also be requested for advance approval.
The other next big little thing in the wearable computing world is the smartwatch. Designed to synch with your smartphone, the smartwatch helps eliminate phone dependency by flashing caller ID, messages and other key data on its face. In other words, forget that constant fumbling with your cellphone while driving or dining out. The Pebble smartwatch, one of the highest-funded products on Kickstarter, was another show-stopper at CES. With an array of downloadable face designs that give it museum-worthy style, the waterproof smartwatch ($150 at getpebble.com) displays the time, caller ID, text messages, Twitter, email, calendar alerts and weather updates, and looks good doing it. Additional apps in the works will enable Pebble to control music, display cycling and biking data or morph into a golf rangefinder. Companies such as Google, Samsung and Apple are all said to have smartwatches (or iWatches) in the works.
Hair accessories made a statement in so many fall 2013 fashion collections, and soon there will be headband headphones, thanks to a CES debut from the latest celebrity to get into electronics: reality television star
"I'm so excited to have headphones with style!" says Polizzi. "I love listening to my music and being accessorized."
One piece of wearable tech that fashion-forward women might be eager to get theirs hands on is the wireless clutch handbag speaker by recently launched Newport Beach company Stellé Audio Couture. Made to look like a luxury designer handbag with a snakeskin, ostrich or black woven finish, the clutch ($299) pops open to reveal speakers that stream music or double as a speakerphone. New York fashion designer
Created by Anna Perelman and her husband, Wayne Ludlum, the founder of electronics company Vestalife, Stellé Audio Couture caters exclusively to women with its "female-centric lifestyle audio products" that are both fashionable and portable. "Women outspend men in consumer electronics, yet it's an industry that has not truly catered to her ... until now," says Perelman.
Fashion for gadgets
Two other local companies, Computer Apparel in Studio City and Pursecase in Santa Monica, are dressing tech gadgets in miniature clothing and accessories. A gold chain-handle bag with a quilted pattern may call to mind
"We love our clutches and our totes, but what's a girl to do when her once-trusty carryall becomes a Bermuda Triangle for cellphones?" say Kelley Coughlan, who co-founded Pursecase with Jenn Deese, also her business partner at Melrose PR in Santa Monica. The two tout the case as a solution for keeping a phone and essentials at your fingertips.
Designer brothers Zack and Roger Ein of Computer Apparel have downsized their favorite V-neck T-shirt and cozy fleece sweat shirt and tweaked them to function as tablet and laptop sleeves (from $39.99 at computer-apparel.com). The "hoodie sleeve" features a kangaroo pocket that zips on both ends to cleverly serve as a bonus phone case. "We've taken the design elements straight out of your closet and merged them with all the features you'd expect in a computer bag," says a sales sheet from the company. Perhaps best of all, if you spill on them, these cases can move directly into the wash.