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July 2012

The future of fashion

LocalandroidsThis is a Pinterest world, in which what we buy – or, even more, what we want to buy – is considered a profound expression of who we are.

And if the Technosensual exhibit in Vienna is any indication, the clothing of the future will provide far more opportunities for self-expression. Among the exhibits, as I report in this week's New Scientist, is a dress that shocks you if you're lying, and another one that can alternate between opaque and transparent.

"I think it's very utopian," Melissa Coleman, a new-media artist with several items in the expo, including the shocking dress, shown below, told me. "Can we make our own moral code and wear it proudly?"

Many of the pieces envision a more liberated future, including a new "breathing artificial skin" from designer duo Local Androids, which didn’t make it into the New Scientist piece. When someone approaches, the oversized veins in the neckpiece pulse and then inflate, not unlike a sexual organ. The garment, co-designer Cor Baauw said at the press opening, is "an extension of your body that responds in a natural way to another person."

HolydressThe designers performed hundreds of trials with various skin-like materials before settling on a movie-industry favorite: a silicone rubber called Dragon Skin, which has "flexibility, transparency, and stretchability," said co-designer Leonie Baauw.

It's quite a statement, along the lines of a removable body modification. It's easy to imagine variations that express many different emotions, such as anger or excitement.

Most of the items in the exhibit have that kind of shock value – the kind that makes us think about what we want our clothes to do, and thus how we want our futures to be. But down the hall is a quiet piece that is easy to miss among all the bright and moving parts.

Aoife Wullur's fabric is not meant to be worn on the body, but used in interior designto break up space. It incorporates conductive threads that power LEDs, which are mounted on small spider-like frames and point inward, so that they provide a soft, indirect light. You can move them around the fabric thanks to magnets, making whatever patterns please you.

While the "haute tech couture" clothing is hard to imagine actually wearing, Wullur's fabric would look at home in IKEA, and, come to think of it, in many homes. It's remarkable for being unremarkable, Coleman gushed.

That Zen-like ideal appeals to me. I think I'll post it on my Pinterest.

TECHNOSENSUAL. where fashion meets technology runs until 2 September at freiraum quartier21 INTERNATIONAL in Vienna's MuseumsQuartier.

First photo from the MQ Fashion Blog by Jürgen Hammerschmid; Second from Melissa Coleman (added 11 August)