Functional Futuristic Fashions

High-Tech Threads: Can Your Clothes Do This?

 April 11, 2012 by
Reblogged from mashable
Today’s clothing isn’t just about fashion — it’s about function. We’re not talking about Scottevest’s Inspector Gadget-esque trenchcoat to store your iPhone, iPad, iPod and even a few changes of clothes. Sure, that’s handy, but the jacket itself isn’t high-tech (though it is well designed). Mashable has explored that ways in which tech companies and fashion brands have coming together to prototype new kinds of apparel, and we spoke with independent designers who’ve concepted mind-blowing gear that essentially transforms your body into a generator. This clothing doesn’t just hang on your body — it does something. From saving your life to charging your gadgets, this wave of innovative fashion makes city living safer and a bit more convenient. After all, there’s no need to stop in a Apple store to charge your phone if your shirt can do it on the go, right?

What innovative apparel would you like to see in the future? Let us know in the comments below.

Gadget-Fueling Getups

When you go for a run, you’re not just burning energy, you’re creating it, too. And the production of kinetic energy is exactly what fuels the mp3 player that’s embedded into designer Rafael Rozenkranz’s high-tech jogging suit (see below). “The project was conceived because I jog almost everyday, and I like to listen to music doing so — but there were always problems,” says Rozenkranz, adding that he was annoying by the device’s placement on the body and battery issues. The use of kinetic energy isn’t new — but the fact that it can keep your tunes bumping is, and it promises a future of cool gadget integrations in fashion.

Hitting the beach instead of the running path? You can stay charged with a solar-powered bikini, developed by Andrew Schneider, a New York designer. It’s a regular bikini that’s retrofitted with 1″-thick photovoltaic film strips, whose generated power funnels into in a 5-volt regulator and then a female USB connection, so it can charge a device. The male version, the iDrink, is coming soon — and with more surface area than a bikini, it’ll generate more energy.

Back in 2010, British mobile carrier Orange partnered with GotWind to develop rain boots that charge your phone at the oft-muddy Glastonbury Music Festival. In 2011, Orange upped its game with a sound-charging tee. Orange has no plans to bring any of these items to market — the pieces are “very much billed as prototypes” and only one or two produced, says Alex Wilkinson, a spokesperson for the company. The samples are used primarily to highlight the kinds of technology that could be used in a mobile charging solution, and are “meant to generate debate and discussion, rather than be consumer-ready products,” he added. And since the Glastonbury festival is taking this year off, we won’t be seeing a new prototype for this year’s event — we’re already looking forward to 2013.

Innovative Functionality

Sure, we’ve all got devices running low on battery, but high-tech fashion need not focus on keeping your things juiced — clothing can do other functions, too. For example, a new collection at the Japanese apparel outlet Uniqlo features cotton tees, linen pants and hoodies that filter UV rays, essentially acting as sunscreen. (Uniqlo previously focused on the super-thin HeatTech fabric, its proprietary technology that generates heat from perspiration to keep you warm.)

Another useful apparel feature? Night lights. British design student Nick Reddall developed a jogging jacket that generates electricity during a run. That current is used to fuel lights on the back and sleeves of the jacket, which help keep night runners safe. “Maybe people go running in the evening,” Reddall said at a London art show. “This can therefore keep them safe when they’re exercising.” While this technology isn’t necessary — why not just slap on some reflective strips? — the science has cool applications that we look forward to.

Lifesaving Tech

Leave it to the Scandinavians to come up with an “airbag” that looks like a fashionable scarf, right until it’s deployed.

Hövding is a collar for bicyclists that’s worn around the neck and contains a folded-up airbag that deploys in .01 seconds. Sensors embedded in the collar track the cyclist’s movements and will trigger deployment when an irregular motion is picked up, such as a swerve or a bump. The airbag is shaped like a hood, thus protecting the bicyclist’s head and neck, and is inflated by a gas inflator — one of the smallest on the market — in the collar. Once it inflates (and it does fully inflate before impact), the airbag provides shock absorption and a steady air pressure, then slowly starts to deflate.

Like on a plane, there’s even a black box that records a bicyclist’s patterns in the ten seconds before an accident — Hövding uses this data to improve upon the design. The company also extracts data from staged accidents, whether with crash test dummies or stunt cyclists, and adds this information to the database so that the Hövding’s “brain” is more attuned to abnormal motions.

Of course, when the collar is not deployed, it’s just a fashionable-looking scarf, and you can change the removable shell to match your outfit (new designs are added frequently). Because of its subtle safety features, the Hövding is often referred to as an “invisible helmet.”

The project started as an industrial design master thesis by Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt in 2005. The Swedish government had just passed a law to make bike helmets compulsory for children up to the age of 15, triggering a debate over whether helmets should be compulsory for adults, too. “To us, who wouldn’t be seen dead in a polystyrene helmet, the thought of being forced to wear one by law was cause for concern,” says Alstin. “We realized that our master thesis was the perfect place to find out whether the traditional bicycle helmet could be improved on.” Market surveys indicated that people wanted a discrete, “invisible” helmet that wouldn’t ruin their hair or cramp their personal style. And so, “Hövding allows people to protect their heads on the road, without sacrificing style — or the hairdo — in the process,” Alstin adds.

A Laptop Bag That Won’t Hurt Your Back

Even though it only clocks in at a few pounds, the weight of a laptop can wear on you. That’s why Alphyn Industries came out with the PADX-1 Ledge Wearcom. It’s a pullover with a kangaroo pouch that stores your iPad or computer when it’s zipped, and serves as a “shelf” when it’s unzipped. The pullover distributes the device’s weight throughout the straps so that you don’t wear carry the weight on one side, which could lead to back pain. Considering it’s a portable workspace (the shelf leaves both hands free), the $285 asking price isn’t too bad.


Burning Man – The Altruistic Society

Burning Man – A model for an Altruistic Society

Burning man is one of the most exquisitely unique experiences of my life, and, assuredly, of anyone’s. Tens of thousands of people flock to Black Rock City – a desolate, empty desert plain devoid of any whisper of plant life, just a sea of dust and rugged cracks in the dry ground, totally moonlike, flat, with mountains ranging on all sides – to set up camps, thousands of them, and promote an alternative life-style and, actually live it.


Millions of dollars go to work producing some of the largest-scale art projects in the world. Groups, organizations and individuals work to create spectacular, visually complex and interactive art pieces simply for the edification and wonderment of others (and of course, themselves). Focusing on values of public art, community and civic participation, there is surely something there that will stagger even the most protected heart.


Burning man operates on a gift system, not exchange where you present a gift in return for getting one, but simply as a system of giving- you give and you get and you give without thought of getting, but of making another person glow with what you’ve been able to provide. Massages, specialized information, foot baths (which, after the dust in the desert, are mind-blowing), food (snowcones!), palm reading, tea-time, stories, artifacts, a smile. Gifts can be anything and camps get together to produce massive amounts of free, happily gifted products and experiences. Once you’re there, the only thing you can pay for is ice and coffee at Center Camp; you survive, ecstatically, by the goodwill of others and your own.


There is no one-philosophy of burning man. It is a compendium of beliefs, interests, and values of over 50,000 souls that come every year. Open-mindedness is a must to survive, happiness (or not), kindness, and love seem to pervade everyone’s sense of other. You can be as involved or as hermetic as you like. People are out really roughing it, or sitting comfortably in an RV or large tent structure; some even show up to Burning Man with just a sleeping pad – or nothing, and see where their adventure takes them. By and large it is a community of happy, caring people, sharing generally similar values and interests that create a city-large effect of a family community. It is at its simplest definition based on altruism, the idea that everyone helps everyone else to survive and have a good time. It’s a place where you can be yourself, or be someone else. People try and make you feel as comfortable as possible, with a lot of things around you that aren’t necessarily what you’re into, it can be refreshing to experience boundary-pushers with an open, clear mind, and a pressure-free community around you.


Workshops are held to stimulate the mind as all of the other sensual and visual senses are satisfied. On a number of topics, workshops are all free and open and professionally conducted. There was a rumor I heard that TED talks developed out of one of Burning Man’s lecture series’. You can learn Tantric massage, learn to kiss, dance, sing, share, participate in group yoga and meditation, talk science, biology, philosophy, physics with professionals, learn about subjects you didn’t know existed, and participate in highly specialized workshops. At camps you can create your own Jorts (jean shorts) and embellish them with all sorts of fancy accoutrements, you can adopt a gnome, fly on a trapeze, ride a bicycle into the air like the Wicked Witch of the West, or sit and reflect in any number of quiet, special reflecting places.


Any large-scale festival will have around 4-5 stages. At Burning Man, there are about 30-40 stages with huge musical acts such as Shpongle, Mimosa, Beats Antique, (well, way too many to name, obviously) but the music goes on at all hours and the crowds, because they are spread across so many different stages, are way smaller than if you bought tickets to a solo show or attended a music festival. The effect is wonderful – you can move from one type of music to another in minutes. You can stand in the middle of this moon-scape and follow the sounds coming from an art-car and stage an impromptu dance party, or you can gravitate to a large or small stage and bob to the beat with plenty of other enthusiastic listeners.


People come from all over the world to share Burning Man with each other. Pictures say it better than words in this case.








During the day there are any number of activities, art-watching, workshops, getting your massage or taco or sitting and drinking Turkish coffee while trying to interpret your friend’s grounds. Black Rock City becomes so huge, you can’t see everything in one day. You can’t even see everything in the week-long stay. Walk around all day, every day and you’ll probably scrape off 30% of what there is to see (not to mention do). Hang out, stay cool, eat a camp dinner, and wait for night to fall.






This is when things get incredibly weird. The desert becomes so impossibly dark that as a safety precaution everyone must deck themselves out with light sticks or other glowing technologies. Those who wander without their lights, or forget them are labeled “darkies,” though people are kind enough that when a darkie is spotted, a donation of lights comes from several outstretched hands. Art cars that were immobile though appreciated during the day, come alive with lights and full speaker sounds blasting electronic, hip-hop, dub-step and other types of music. They take the playa (as the desert is called) and mesh themselves in with the other art-turned-light-sculptures that have been activated by the disappearance of sun.






This video is based on Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go, and does a great job of capturing the experience, and ideas, of Burning Man. At least, some of them. Check it out: