Clothes that detect an illness, or vibrate in unison with your partner’s, are becoming a billion-euro industry, says Rita de Brun.
THE phrase ‘dressed to kill’ meant ‘strutting about in drop-dead gorgeous clothes’. Not anymore.
Advances in technology have created garments that kill viruses, bacteria and airborne gases.
This isn’t futuristic, military attire, but dresses that repel colds and flu, and designer jackets that protect from airborne pollution.
Today, the wearable tech market is growing fast, its value last May estimated at between $3bn and $5bn.
Credit Suisse predicts that the market will increase tenfold in the next three to five years.
Tech giants with an eye on the pie include Apple, which recently appointed a top Burberry executive, and Intel, which has partnered with Barney’s New York to create a line of wearables.
Strategic company pairings like this will ensure that while the clothes will be super-smart, they’ll also be chic.
More importantly, they’ll also save lives. A smart bra, with a 92% accuracy in detecting the early signs of breast cancer, is just part of the ‘cutting edge wearable body media’ range created by the Nevada-based First Warning Systems.
The fact that this garment is non-radiogenic and can be worn as everyday attire, while being 22% more effective than a standard mammogram, shows how singularly innovative modern materials have become.
Marie Phelan, head researcher at Trinity College’s Science Gallery, knows more about the properties of cutting-edge textile design than most, having worked on their Magic Materials exhibition. Describing some of the fabrics showcased, she says: “Some morph from liquid to solid, or expand and contract to fit body shape. Others conduct electricity and light up buildings.”
The array of state-of-the-art fabrics is vast. Some keep you warm in extremely cold weather and cool in high temperatures, while others measure blood pressure, heart rate and other vital functions.
Of course, not all smart clothes are concerned with enhancing health, saving life and brightening buildings.
Some are devoted to pleasure.
Fundawear was created to up the game of couples whose relationships thrive on sexting, phone sex and raunchy sessions on Skype.
Designed by Billie Whitehouse and Ben Moir, for Durex, it enables couples wearing hi-tech garments (bra and knickers for her, shorts for him) to tease, tickle and tantalise one another, by way of touch sensations sent through the internet.
From her studio in Australia, Whitehouse told the Irish Examiner about the huge interest generated by the invention: “Our YouTube video generated 6.4m hits.”
While it augurs well for the designer that the range, which has yet to be publicly launched, is generating such a ‘buzz’!, it’s not surprising, as her vibrating designs have a habit of creating a stir.
The navigate jacket she and Moir designed for their Wearable Experiments label did just that at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The garment uses GPS navigation, and a mapping app on the wearer’s smartphone, to signal directions by way of vibrators built into the shoulder pads.
Its cerise pink colour will attract people who enjoy being noticed.
For them, there’s a wealth of tech clothes that will appeal — not least the dresses that light up when a fixed gaze is directed at them, and creations from CuteCircuit, the design-house behind Nicole Sherzinger’s Twitter and Katy Perry’s LED dresses.
If we’re impressed (and we are) by the ability of engineers and designers to embed technology into clothing, we’ll be wowed when they move onto the next stage — garments to replace the devices on which we so heavily rely.
Until that day, we’ll continue to lug our gadgets around.
One of the best ways to do that is to transport them in the pockets of a Scottevest (SeV) — smart clothes that charge the devices they carry.
So discreetly is this done (hidden wires run through the garments to link the gadgets to a battery) that SeV clothing was worn by the models promoting Google Glass (which needs charging every couple of hours) at CES this year.
The trench coat is particularly impressive: it has 19 pockets, some of which are designed to carry devices and to enable the wearer to digitally navigate a smartphone without having to remove it from the coat.
Add to that the fact that this garment powers the gadgets it carries, and you’ve a fine example of smart, practical clothing at its best.
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