Fashion Forward: Where Style and Technology Meet


Shuang Yu, Senior Manager, Solutions Marketing, IEEE Standards Association

Would you wear a dress capable of changing color with your mood? Or carry a clutch that doubles as a speaker? What about a bracelet that measures sun exposure and provides personalized recommendations to protect your skin? Would you use a basketball that critiques your performance and offers customized coaching based on performance? Or rock a drum solo on a pair of pants that serves as a drum kit?

Sounds like science fiction, right?

What if I tell you that I’ve seen all of these and more with my own eyes at the recent Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2014 Wearable Fashion Show at Santa Clara, California? Yes, these futuristic clothes and accessories are coming to our daily lives.

As someone who is fashion-conscious and works in a technology organization, I’m intrigued by the possibilities of utilizing the latest technologies in the future of clothing design. This AWE showcase, highlighting the successful fusion of the two, made me rethink the traditional concepts of fashion and clothing: with technology advancement, will clothing continue to serve in its present role of protection and personal style? Or will it become something more?

With sensors and wearable technologies, each of us can collect data about ourselves: how we sleep, what we eat, when we exercise. All the information collected creates better awareness about us, allowing personalized recommendations to be made. This marriage of fashion and technology will help improve our overall quality of life – for example, a golfer might be able to correct his swing with data captured by a device embedded in his golf shirt, which monitors and analyzes physical movement.

As technology continues to evolve, clothing is becoming increasingly interactive and changing the way we communicate with the world. Did you know there is a Facebook jacket that gives a person a “hug” when someone likes his/her online status? Or how about this Twitter dress that displays tweets in real-time on its surface? What about the outfit that Lady Gaga wore at the 2013 iTunes festival where blowing-bubbles came out of her dress? In the near future, we may see Hunger Games-style digital couture: we may be able to change our appearance with the press of a button whenever and wherever we feel like it. It will take self-expression to a whole other level.

What began to dawn on me at AWE was that there’s a new world in the forming, a digital world that is based on the vast amounts of data we generate and collect. This brave new digital world will be an extension of our physical world. In the near future, we could enter the era of the “connected person”, where individuals connect and interact with both worlds constantly. Our clothes, accessories, and even our own bodies eventually, may become a primary interface through which we access information, communicate, and connect to the universe.

For example, we may see nail polish changing color to reflect one’s sugar level, or flashing to alert you when there’s a phone call coming in. Or we might see clothing able to assist in emergency situations. – Imagine the power goes out at your house, taking the lights with it. What if your clothing was designed to be light sensitive, allowing it to detect and react to this change in your environment? Your outfit could emit a glow allowing you to move around safely, provide real-time status alerts (is this a block-wide issue? Is it only your house?), and place a call to the power company automatically?

Technologies are transforming the traditional definition of clothing: it is moving from just style and functionality to improving the way we as humans interact and communicate with the world. I look forward to watching this space carefully, as the worlds of fashion and technology grow closer and closer.

How do you see the technology and fashion interact with each other moving forward? Send me an email, or leave a comment below.

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