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In the Future, Clothes Will Listen to Our Bodies (RACKED)

The SENSOREE AWElectric. Photo: Elena Kulikova

The SENSOREE AWElectric.

Photo: Elena Kulikova

The future of fashion is not a realm of simple textiles. Already, consumer wearables can monitor people’s health, environment, and habits. A small yet diverse community of designers are now experimenting with high-tech clothes that could do more than cover our bodies; clothes that could actually interact with us.

Michelle Hua, the entrepreneur behind MadeWithGlove self-heating gloves and cofounder of the professional network Women of Wearables (WOW), thinks in the future we won’t just ask which designer or label made a fashion product. Instead, we’ll ask what the clothes can actually do, what lies beneath the surface. “Right now [the industry] is moving to smart textiles, clothes that interact while you’re wearing them,” Hua tells Racked. In the future, clothes will listen to our bodies.

Hua is working to develop stylish gloves with biosensors woven into the material itself, able to detect skin temperature, then create heat when needed. If her startup raises funding, she hopes to have a commercial product ready by 2018.

It’s been just a year since WOW started. Yet these professional events have already reached over a 1,000 participants and 6,000 community members, representing hundreds of new wearables, such as high-tech gloves that can translate sign language into text or speech.

Health and fitness trackers are some of the current market’s most successful wearables. However, Hua believes smart textiles will soon rise to completely redefine fashion innovation. “I think in the next three years, you will see garments with technology built in. It will almost be the norm,” she says.

Around the world, designers are experimenting with smart textiles and reimagining the core experience of wearing clothes as a form of self-expression. For example, the famous high-tech spider dress, with shoulder spikes that "attack" the space around the wearer if biosensors detect the user feeling threatened, was invented by designer Anouk Wipprecht.

Even mainstream brands are getting in on the action. Google is teaming up with H&M’s digital fashion house Ivyreel on a "Coded Couture" project, which designs custom clothes based on personal data collected from the shopper’s phone.

The Coded Couture data dress is designed around information about user habits gathered by Google’s Android's Awareness API. Does the user go to posh restaurants or business meetings more often? Does she prefer to walk on hot summer days or take taxis? The customer’s data is recorded and turned into a unique dress, tailored to her lifestyle, that will be available for purchase online.

CNN Money reported that this technology is still in the development phase. But several other interactive fashion products are much closer to being market ready. For example, the Sensoree mood sweater, with LED lights that change color like a mood ring, recently opened the waiting list for prospective shoppers. Sensoree founder Kristin Neidlinger originally made this sweater as a tool for people with sensory processing disorders ranging from ADHD to autism.

“It helps them see and connect with what they’re feeling,” Neidlinger tells Racked. “And it helps other people see what they’re feeling… it gives their body a voice.” Now that the mood sweater is ready for commercial production, Neidlinger has set her sights on another therapeutic project, AWElectric.

A wide range of people with mental health challenges, like depersonalization disorder, often struggle with a feeling of detachment from their loved ones and surrounding environment. Neidlinger’s team of inventors created a jacket with 3D-printed, bioresponsive animatronic patches that create the physical sensations of awe and wonder. The jacket does this by gently tickling the skin to create that feeling of shivers running down your spine and hairs standing on end, while using lights in the shoulder pads to mirror excited breathing. It also links up with a matching jacket for a friend, like a high-tech friendship bracelet for your shoulders, that then helps communicate the feeling through the clothes themselves.

“When the person feels awe, the sensors detect it and trigger the frisson fabric to amplify the sensation,” Neidlinger explains. “Then, the frequency to create aesthetic goosebumps is sent via Bluetooth to the friend’s design. Triggering their frisson fabric evokes the feeling in them so they feel the sensation at the same time.” The jacket’s biosensor measures physical excitement through the user’s heart rate variability and GSR galvanic skin response, or the amount of sweat and electricity in the skin.

So far, Neidlinger sees two main markets for these types of products: therapeutic users and clients she calls “mindful partiers,” such as DJs who want to amp up their emotional engagement with crowds in public spaces. “There’s so much space for personalization,” she says. “Imagine if it [clothing] could read your mood and react in real-time. It allows us to be so much more expressive.”

Read the full article on RACKED.

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