By Ana Novak
Current emerging technologies including computer-aided design, 3D printing, electronics, LEDs, biotechnology, and even social media are revolutionizing the way garments are designed, made, and worn. From March 6-July 10, 2016, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s exhibit “#techstyle” highlighted this revolution, presenting work by established designers and young pioneers who have been pushing fashion’s boundaries and challenging conventional ideas about how we make and interact with our clothing.
“One of the most exciting aspects of contemporary fashion right now is that designers are experimenting with how garments actually interact with the wearer as well as with the spectator,” says Michelle Tolini Finamore, the Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts. One such garment by designer Ying Gao reacts kinetically to its environment. Responding to the sound of a nearby voice, electronic sensors activate the dressmakers’ pins covering the surface, causing them to move and flux in waves. The surprising, prickling motion points to Gao’s interest in expressing ideas about the modern experience through the use of technology. Here the spectator, as well as the wearer, engages in a curious conversation, “filled with misunderstanding and uncertainty.” According to Gao, we are individuals “of the here-and-now, pressured by a logic of urgency and worried about the future.”
Truly blurring the lines between art, technology, and fashion, Iris Van Herpen’s avant-garde creations have cemented her reputation as one of today’s most forward-thinking designers. For this ensemble, she joined forces with the MIT Media lab’s Neri Oxman, whose exploration of the interface between digital design and natural forms and use of the machine as a form-giver rather than a tool resonated with Van Herpen’s futuristic vision of fashion. This cape-and-skirt combination was the first 3D-printed garment made of both hard and soft materials. Shown on the Paris runway in January 2013, it represents a unique amalgam of nature-inspired forms achieved through the most advanced printing technology.