Mirror, Mirror on the Wall -What looks the prettiest of them all?

Image of IDEO/Prada Collaboration

Do you every spend hours deciding what to wear? I spend hours trying on clothing on only to discard it and try something else on, then something else, and something else etc… only to resolve the problem by wearing the original garment!

I have been reviewing lots of digital technology for fashion – to catalogue clothing, multiple ways to mix and match garments  my computer or iphone. All of these pieces of softwear allow me to think through “outfits” to create “looks”.
But what about interactive technology? Digital tools that allow you to move around in front of your mirror and guide you through the “dressing up” process.
I love shopping! I really do! I like to pick up pieces of clothing, try different garments on and really engage in the physical activity of trying things on. I love using digital technology to piece together garments but would never sacrifice the “real time” shopping experience in favour of using only digital technology. Therefore exploring new ways to design or programme both the tangible and intangible elements of the “fashion experience” into a system or service would really appeal to me.
I have come across two modes of practice within the fashion industry. The first is the SCHMIDT RFID smart retail system adopted by fashion retailer mi-tu, in Hong Kong. I saw them present at a symposium in Boras, Sweden last year. They had the technology set up within an exhibition space allowing visitors to try out the technology.
The way it works: all garments have RFID tags attached and there are sensors concealed within a “smart dressing mirror”. When a customer holds a garment in front of the mirror it detects the RFID tag and does all kinds of clever things. The interactive screen attached to the wall next to the mirror will display garments designed to match with your chosen piece supporting mix and matching. There is a virtual try-on simulator which can fit the garment onto the customers body shape. So the customer can try clothing on digitally!
Customers are presented with a membership card that is also detected through RFID cataloguing past and present selections and adaptable to fit the customers style preferences. The RFID system also supports the staff within the store as they know where the customers are at all times and what they are doing.
The second example is the smart dressing technology within the Prada epicentre store In NYC. Prada collaborated with IDEO (almost 5 years ago) to design interactive dressing rooms. They also used RFID technology to design an interactive dressing system. When the customer enters the dressing room and tries a garment on the magic dressing mirror will re-play a video from all angles in slow motion, allowing the customer to see themselves adorning the garment in greater detail.
They also used RFID to present a narrative about each piece of clothing – allowing the customer to see different colour ways, fabrics and even original fashion sketches prior assembly of the garment. This presents a history of the garment allowing the customer to preview the concept through to the end out put.
Both examples present exciting ways to use fashion using digital technology in real time and digital environments. Designing around customer interaction presents methods that have potential to engage users and enhance their “fashion experience” making it more memorable and meaningful.
It think caution needs to be applied when using RFID systems. We live in a world where goods and services are advertised to us everywhere! Therefore the only downfall with RFID would be using this technology to try seduce consumers into buying goods and services (all of the time!!).
Im thinking of the shopping scene in the movie “The Matrix” as an example –  Tom Cruise walks into a shopping centre where eye scanning technology detects his character’s idenity  – greeting him by name and trying to sell him something to accompany a previous purchase.
Therefore I think considerate application can reach exciting outputs – but it needs to be applied in appropriate ways.

My Research

My research aims to re-think traditional fashion design methods by seeking opportunities fo designer/consumer collaboration.

A series of co-design workshops will be used to explore fashion concepts allowing the consumers to become a partner in the design process adding value and an emotional connection with the end outputs to promote a more sustainable relationships to clothing, The design of an online digital platform will evolve parallel to the workshops to network users globally and present further opportunities to share ideas and expertise.
My research is sponsored by Neal’s Yard Remedies and I am linked to the Textile Futures Research Group and TED Research.

Hussein Chalayan – From Fashion and Back

I went to see the Hussein Chalayan exhibit at the Design Museum on Tuesday and it was amazing! The exhibit is alphabetised into pod sections, which catalogue his annual collections. I felt as if I had had been morphed into the future via a time machine – exiting a different points in time and then re-morphing further and pausing for a private preview of future landscapes.

Each section was stylishly executed and accompanied by music and/or film. The garments themselves were assembled in radical/ exploratory ways using old and new materials to complete a “new look”. A highly skilled and visionary designer – he pushes the boundaries between art & design and creates not only clothing but the film, music and props present an “experience“. Some of the other visitors to the exhibition were just sitting on the floor watching, thinking and reflecting.
I have been inspired by Chalyans work for many years and followed through fashion books, journals and magazines. But – I have never viewed his work directly and let me tell you this was a completely new experience! Some of the pieces are produced using such innovative methods – the intricate construction methods present bold shape and form, traditional methods are applied in contemporary ways to push design further.
I think what inspired and mesmerised me was the progression of adapting alongside the modern world. Inspiration has been drawn from digital media, communication, travel, science, architecture and philosophy. He applies methods in new ways, adopting bold concepts – this interdisciplinary approach creates really exciting outputs.
A fantastic exhibition – go see!

Craft + Technology = ?

I attended a presentation yesterday chaired by Sandy Black from London College of Fashion. She hosted two speakers Isabelle Risner and Umar Hassan Jan.

Isabelle Risner is examining the place of digital craft within the context of craft, art and design. Her PhD scholarship is funded through Autonomatic: a research cluster exploring the process and application of digital manufacturing technologies to create 3D objects. I found her presentation really inspiring and a fascinating field of inquiry. The presentation provoked discussion about the relationships between craft and technology and how one defines the other. It can be argued that as we begin to rely on technology our application of craft (making) is reduced – sparking debates about future generation’s practice. Will technology redefine craft?
I personally am inspired by new digital technology as it creates new opportunities and forces us to challenge existisitng practice. Through my undergraduate course I specialised in Woven Textile Design  – the subject field of the following speaker.
Umar Hassan Jan presented: Recognition and restoration of the fashion work in Pakistan. reviewing the supply and demand effects of Khaadi. He talked about how hand-weaving was re-introduced within a society where the trade was diminishing. Beautiful, light weight fabric swatches were passed around during the talk and I was amazed to discover they were handwoven when they had the handle of “mass produced” cloth. It was explained that the thread count was increased to achieve this effect. Umar was opposed to digital technology and talked about the authenticity of Khaadi – the value of the handmade, he explained the fabric looked mass produced but detailed inspection can occasionally reveals flaws and is part of the fabrics charm, something technology would prevent.
I have only presented a slight overview of two complex areas of expertise. The afternoon made me re-think craft and technology. I have experience of hand weaving and know the laborious characteristics and technicalities that can emerge forcing you to re-work your fabric structure or they way you operate the loom.
It made me debate why hand produced hand woven fabric that would involve laborious efforts when possible to produce it ten times faster using technology? Where does the value lie? It think its the narrative.
I went to visit an old silk factory in Stockholm last year that specialised in Jacquard weaving. The factory had preserved all of the equipment and exhibited it to break down the production process. I have only designed Jacquard cloth once using photoshop and a softwear programme – the data was then sent off to another institution who produced the cloth.
In contrast, I was amazed to learn the long process originally required to produce such complex cloth. I viewed a huge archive of intricately detailed organic hand drawings which were used to inspire the structure of the cloth. The designer then translated this into a grid system which allowed them to hand produce punch cards to allow the loom to operate the required liftings to create the cloth. The level of precision and accuracy required to complete this task is phenomenal!! A process which could take days, weeks and even months can now be achieved in many variations within hours using technology.
But, given the choice I would prefer to buy the traditional fabric purchased in Stockholm after the narrative was communicated to me.
I love technology and it inspires me in the way it presents new opportunities to change the world. I think craft, tradition and value are equally as important and that we need to find ways to engage with both to preserve skills and learn new ones.
I think Sandy Black summed up the session brilliantly when she said we think of digital as this (pointing to the computer) and then she held up both palms and said – it also means this!

Schway Fashion – more interaction

Hello again, someone kindly left me another link for a new fashion interaction website called Schway Fashion”. Its engineered to allow you to mix and match different garments (including accessories) which can be saved or emailed to your friends – or even uploaded to your facebook profile.

The process begins with a mannequin for which you can select the underwear, garments and full accessoriesbasically create your own look from head to toe! There are garments from Ted Baker, and high end luxury classics from Chanel, Gucci, Christain Louboutin, Ralph Lauren and Jimmy Choo. As I pieced together my own little collection my heart did a little flutter as the virtual calculator tallied the cost below the outfit!!
What I like about this website is that it is easy to use which allows you to create looks with minimal effort. The sharing features presents opportunities to exchange ideas and interact with fellow fashion enthusiasts.
I think technology is changing at a rapid pace changing the ways we interact and engage with the objects around us. As tools like this become available it presents consumers with the opportunity to become more independent by exploring all fashion alternatives in opposed to trends dictated to them.  This will allow consumers to identify their own personal style making them more considerate when selecting their closing.
A lot of fashion magazines are touching upon the theme of consideration and thoughtful consumption. As we enter the new fashion season we are seeing a transition towards timeless and well made clothing. We should try to find ways to re-style our current items by co-ordinating with new accessories or accompanying with stable key pieces which will carry us into the next season. Interactive fashion tools can support this thinking by allowing us to catalogue fashion creations in an intangible way – reducing disposable consumption and promoting beautiful style.

Gossip girl – Technology Tells All…

I am officially addicted to Gossip Girl! Full of the winter flu and feeling tragically sorry for myself I decided to catch up on some girlie TV. I had read about GG in  January edition of Vogue as a fashion writer wrote about her addiction to the series – the article talked about the fashion, more fashion and well, more fashion…

As I turned on the first episode and was hooked – I mean it is literally filled with FASHION! The show has two leading ladies Blair Waldorf and Serena Van der Woodson, both from downtown Manhattans elite. They shop in Henri Bendels and Bergdorfs – its basically front row fashion footage.
The show is narrated by a mystery fashion blogger called Gossip Girl who reports all the scandal of the casts secret escapades and each episode shows them checking their blackberries and mobiles to review the latest blog postings. The show projects how young people today engage with technology and is a fine example of generation C – the new phenomenon capturing user generated content via the Web. The C stands for content, creativity and community.
As most of us now carry a mobile phone we are constantly connected to our personal network of friends, family and colleagues – no decision is made alone and everything is decided via the gang we carry around in out pocket or if your a GG your Hermes Birkin!
The opportunities presented via the Internet blur the boundaries between the manufacturer and consumer or even the design and the consumer. As consumers are becoming more savvy about where things come from and how they are made.
We can also see a new wave of journalism mediated via blogs on the web as people have a platform to reach an audience, communicate their thinking and share their experiences. I recently attended a talk at LCF on Fashion and the Internet hosting speaker Susie Bubble from Style Bubble. Her blog has been active for 2-3 years and she has a huge following with over 15,000 hits a day. The audience was packed with some failing to secure entry to the event. Everyone was anxious to find out her secret – why is her blog so successful? Her answers to the questions fielded at her reflected an honest account of a girl with no other agenda apart from a love and passion for fashion!
My love for Gossip Girl and fashion still continues , I can’t yet decide if I’m a Blair or a Serena? I have always loved the Bohemian Chic look of floaty fabrics and wavy hair. But I can’t help falling in love with Blair’s gorgeous Milly Dresses – I want one! I also adore her cute little head bands and colourful tights. The show has inspired me to be more adventurous with my style – I may not be able to afford to indulge at Bendels but I can customise. I just need to find my needle and thread.
Until next time you know you love me! xoxo

No need for mirrors “it’s all about clothes”

Someone kindly left a comment with a link forwarding me to nn4m a website designed to allow you to organise your clothing and linked to high street retailers so you can plan your consumption in advance.

This leads on nicely from my previous posting about touch closet and weardrobe – both software programmes allowing you to organise your style. No need for mirrors allows you to mix and match outfits (including accessories) and then explore the alternatives in a virtual changing room. Favourites can be stored in the outfit library and you can also plan in advance by linking up outfit selections to a virtual diary.
I think all three examples illustrate how rapidly technology is evolving around us. This presents new opportunities and methods for fashion participation, changing how we as a society engage.nn4m