Something Completely Visionary: Fashion, Tech, Innovation, Part 2

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos on its surface, let’s explore some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

First of course, is the issue of the actual surface.  What we liked about the Corning video is the suggestion that they have a surface which could actually work as a ‘play back’ mechanism, although it is likely that wearing glass could present some challenges.

Fabric is very flexible and has a great deal of give and take, and shifts on the wearer’s body in response to movement.  It was remarkable tensile strength and can resist tearing even when subjected to substantial stresses (like those created over a joint when the limb is bent, or stresses created by the deformation of flesh in response to compression).  Glass is brittle and while appreciable changes can be made to its underlying chemistry to make it less brittle, it would also need to be able to move over the body like cloth does, which might go beyond current material science capabilities.

So perhaps Corning’s glass product wouldn’t be the best solution for the base textile, but there have been recent innovations with OLEDs (organic semiconductors) which might be suitable.  What is needed is a textile (woven or nonwoven) that has the capacity to have electronic wiring incorporated throughout the body of the garment in such a way that it can receive inputs and display those inputs on the outer surface of the textile.  The textile needs to be fluid enough to move smoothly over the body and to respond to the natural stresses place on it during the process of being worn, which could include abrasion and tearing stresses.

The textile will also need to be able to be cleaned, or to incorporate some sort of self cleaning mechanism.  There are any number of interesting innovations making their way into garments, everything from silver ions to reduce bacterial growth to the introduction of bamboo fiber, which has a natural antimicrobial which reduces the growth of microbes that cause sweat stains in fabric. There are also some interesting additions, which can help textiles shed dirt and stains more easily, as well as new ways of actually creating textiles to reduce their staining capacity.

We have also seen some interesting evolutions in the required electronic circuitry – everything from metallic inks (usually copper or silver-base inks) which can be literally printed from a special ink jet printer to lay down the pre-designed circuitry to very thin copper wire used as a thread in a weave.  While both of these solutions still have issues when applied to a garment, they both show merit in moving such a project forward. Some of the issues that will need to be resolved will be the ability to ensure that the circuitry doesn’t break as a result of standard wear caused by stresses in the stress areas of the garment/s (e.g., elbows, knees, seats, backs, and so on).

These solutions will also need to be able to be pass garment testing, and to be able to be cleaned to industry standard testing requirements.  For such a product to make it to wide-spread mass market acceptance, of course, the product itself would need to be both affordable, and the maintenance of the garment would also need to be affordable, and preferably accomplished using standard home cleaning products.

Then there’s the comfort question, which we will discuss next time.

Something Completely Visionary: Fashion, Tech, Innovation

We recently checked out the marketing video released by Corning, A Day Made of Glass.  We admit it, we watched with a degree of ‘wow’ factor and more than a touch of cynicism.  For example, in our experience most people don’t live in pure white houses because they are impossible to keep clean without an army of servants, and we didn’t see any discussion of glass with built-in-cleaning, which is what we all really want.

However, we digress, because there were a lot of great ideas being presented there, but what we didn’t see, and what we’d really love to see (besides self-cleaning/no fingerprints), was a really innovative use of some of their products.

For example, they showed flexible, portable display glass in several really cool product concepts, but we didn’t see it used in a way that we think would be a real killer app.

Putting our visionary thinking cap on, we think that flexible display glass would make an awesome raw base garment that wearers could use to ‘play’ new garments onto, thereby having new styles as often as the wearer would care to.  It would be an interesting mash up of virtual goods and physical reality.

Think about it: with a simple base garment capable of playing back any garment loaded into it, a wearer could attend New York Fashion Week (or Brooklyn Fashion Week, for that matter) in person or in a virtual immersive environment, see a garment of outfit they like, and with a simple click through their desktop or mobile app, purchase the outfit they see and wear it shortly thereafter.

They could obtain a copy of the clothing style for both their physical base garment and their avatar, so they could wear their desired style wherever they thought it appropriate.

Moreover, with the magic of a good couteriere’s eye, the wearer would not only be able to have the newest and latest style, but they’d ‘fool the eye’ reducing their overall apparent physical mass by using slenderizing lines and careful graphic trompe l’oeil to disguise or enhance various physical features (think Predator’s ability to disguise itself, only with style).

There are still some barriers between our vision, and current reality, which need to be overcome, and which  we’ll cover next time.

Richard Beard, Historian, Joins Fashion Research as Gettysburg Fellow

New York, NY March 26, 2011 – Richard Beard, Historian, Joins Fashion Research Institute as Gettysburg Fellow

Fashion Research Institute CEO, Shenlei Winkler, announces that historian Dr. Richard Beard has joined the FRI team as Gettysburg Fellow with the Fashion Research Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of FRI. Dr. Beard is a historian and administrator who has held senior leadership positions in several of the nation’s most noteworthy history museums, including the Museum of the City of New York, the Atlanta History Center, the New-York Historical Society, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

His career, characterized by a commitment to vibrant exhibitions and public programming, has included the development of major exhibitions on the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.  Dr. Beard publishes regularly on historical topics as well as matters related to the museum profession.  Recent publications include “The Legacy of the Civil War,” a co-authored essay for the National Park Service’s official Sesquicentennial handbook The Civil War Remembered and “From Civil War to Civil Rights: The Opportunities of the Civil War Sesquicentennial,” a forthcoming article to appear in History News.

Dr. Beard is currently part of the project team developing a national exhibition on freedom and slavery, the volunteer coordinator for the Civil War Sesquicentennial for the American Association for State and Local History.

“I am very excited to be involved in the initial stages of developing what promises to be an incredible on-line resource for any and everyone interested in the Civil War.  As more and more Americans turn to the Web for their history, the development of Virtual Gettysburg could not come at a better moment.  The upcoming commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War promises to engage millions of Americans with the three-day battle in the small Pennsylvania town of Gettyburg, an event that did much to determine the war’s outcome.” says Beard.

”We are excited about having Dr. Beard join the Fashion Research Team.” says Shenlei Winkler, CEO of the Fashion Research Institute. “We think his wealth of knowledge about the American Civil War and expertise in producing substantive public programming will provide tremendous insights into the Gettysburg Redux project, and his input and guidance will help ensure that the project is developed with  historical accuracy.”

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Fashion Research Institute has been leading the effort to push the use of virtual immersive environments (virtual worlds) for the purpose of training, development and education.  Gettysburg Redux is a visionary project intended to accurately reproduce the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg in a virtual world for multidisciplinary uses.

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About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: The Fashion Research Institute is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices. Shenlei Winkler’s work spans both couture and mass-market design and development for the real life apparel industry. A successful designer, her lifetime sales of her real life apparel designs have now reached more than $70 million USD, with more than 25 million-dollar styles in her portfolio. Her couture work has appeared extensively on stage and movie screen.