Self-Heating Coats Grace Paris Runway
Whether wearable tech is the wave of the future or a passing fad, tech-laden clothing keeps coming down the runway. Although it can be tough to separate gimmick from game-changer, this fashion show has a high-tech core that’s actually functional.
Pauline van Dongen
"When you wear solar cells on your body you can be an energy source," Dutch fashion designer Pauline van Dongen said in describing the inspiration for a prototype coat and dress she made in collaboration with project leader Christiaan Holland, solar panel specialist Gertjan Jongerden and students at the University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen. Wool and leather garments contain enough solar cells to help charge a cellphone.
Primitive London / Adam Harvey
New York-based artist Adam Harvey created a provocative line of clothing intended to foil ubiquitous surveillance. His anti-drone scarf, along with an anti-drone hoodie, was made from specialized materials the designer indicated could thwart thermal imaging used widely by unmanned aerial vehicles.
Toronto-based suit maker Garrison Bespoke went the extra mile to keep its jet-setting clients safe in dangerous places. The company incorporated patented lightweight and flexible armor material right into the suit jacket. During tests, the carbon nanotube fabric stopped 9 mm bullets and a hunting knife.
Wallflowers take note: Canadian fashion designer Ying Gao incorporated an eye-tracking system into two of her dresses so they transform when a fixed gaze is detected. Tiny motors in the dress activate lights inside and the fabric begins moving around.
Engineer Moritz Waldemeyer may be more well known for helping fashion designers put lasers on jackets and video displays on bikinis, but his collaboration with Cypriot fashion designer Hussein Chalayan produced robotic dresses. Servo-driven motors, pulleys and wires fed through hollow tubes sewn into the dresses allowed them to automatically change styles completely in minutes.
Design lab Sensoree's GER Mood Sweater works like a mood ring, only better -- and with more coverage. Sensors pick up "excitement levels" that change the colored LEDs inside accordingly. Different colors correspond with certain types of emotions although blue means tranquil, not necessarily down.
When consulting a smartphone for directions feels too gauche, there's the Navigate Jacket from New York-based tech company Wearable Experiments. The jacket contains connects to a smartphone app and subtly nudges the wearer to his or her destination through haptic feedback and lights in the sleeve that indicate how far until the next turn.
Mark Vorreuter / Cornell University
A team from Fiber Science and Apparel Design at Cornell University created workout clothes with fabric that loses color as the wearer's temperature rises. This thermochromic pigment-based approach to activewear could prevent athletes from over-heating.
EBbra, Flickr Creative Commons
Some bras already have wires so it's easy to see why designers would add on, allowing them to do things like send a tweet when one comes off or send out shocks to deter would-be rapists. Elena Bodnar went another direction, creating an Emergency Bra that contains a radiation sensor and can transform quickly into two face masks.
On the day an astronaut returned to Earth after 340 days in space, Paris fashion took another small step for mankind.
Behold, the self-heating overcoat.
The French label Courreges announced the dawn of the "new era, an era when the garment will come alive."
"Who has never dreamt of being warm in the winter?" its designers Sebastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant declared. "This transition is possible if technology responds to our primary needs -- well being and comfort."
Three of its chic full length autumn-winter wool coats have been fitted with a slimline heating system, much like the ones which warm up cars seats on winter mornings.
"By simply applying pressure" on a button, "you give the coat life," they said.
The brand, one of the pioneers of futuristic 1960s style under its visionary founder Andre, vowed that this was only the beginning of its voyage into hi-tech clothing.
Co-president Frederic Torloting said as yet the move was "symbolic" but they had ambitions to go much further.
"Technology has been a very tricky subject for fashion. It is often seen as antithetical, that hi-tech and isn't glamorous," he said. "But that's wrong. It can be made glamorous!"
The black, pink, and black-and-white checkerboard coats are certainly a step up in style from the self-heating coats and gloves already on the market, which tend to be aimed at the outdoor and adventure market.
Haute couture has been slow to embrace such gadgetry, but with clothing connectivity a major focus of research for tech companies, Courreges is convinced it is the future.
Courreges via Facebook
"This is only our first step -- we are going to do lot of other thing in this area," Torloting said.
The label also broke new ground by announcing that it was breaking ranks with the Paris fashion establishment and offering a part of its autumn-winter collection straight for sale on its website.
Twenty pieces were to go online Wednesday evening with the label following US designer Rebecca Minkoff, who offered 70 percent of her collection for immediate sale after her show in New York last month.
Another Paris label, Paco Rabanne, is reportedly ready to follow suit.
The row over a move to "buy now, see now" has pitted New York which wants shows staged "in season" so the public can buy the clothes on the catwalk straight away, with Paris and Milan which prefers the present system of "delayed gratification."
With catwalk shows staged four to six month before the clothes go on sale, young designers are freer to take risks and test the water to see which pieces go down best, they argue.
But Torloting, a former advertising executive, said the system "frustrated" the public and vowed to have an even bigger part of the next collection in the shops the day after the show.
"Frankly, there are not really any seasons anymore. Collections are a mix of pieces... because there is not the same weather everywhere," he added.
The other highlight of the day was Dries Van Noten's wonderfully sensuous take on Edwardian aristocratic decadence, with pearl-encrusted fur jackets and silky leopard print trousers and suits you almost imagine the cross-dressing writer Rita Sackville West in as she returned at dawn from a party.
The Belgium designer said he was inspired by the passion between the Italian heiress Luisa Casati, who famously said "I want to be a living work of art", and the writer Gabriele d'Annunzio.
Anne Sofie Madsen meanwhile attempted the ambitious feat of trying to conjure up the spirit of Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, in her show "Heaven or Las Vegas."