CLOTHING AS CODING: TOWARDS A NEW DEFINITION OF TECHNOLOGY IN FASHION

LIKE ALL NEW-BORNS, wearable technologies are invariably smooth, precious and pure. In an i-Device era, the consumer is hidden from the processes of making that lie beneath the surface of the technological sublime. This is a principle that has carried forward into the world of computable accessories – the algorithmic controls embedded in the new Apple Watch, for instance, remain as incomprehensible to the user as the intricacies of traditional timepiece craftsmanship. The Apple Watch boldly claims its reverence for traditional craftsmanship even while it tracks your productivity and efficiency in ever more futuristic ways. In the world of high fashion, designers like Iris van Herpen are weaving technology into textiles within the usual stomping ground of the avant-garde haute couturier. In her autumn/winter 2015 collection stainless steel in the warp and silk in the weft combined for a dazzling fluidity.

Computer-mediated developments in commercial wearable accessories and haute couture alike disrupt spaces that previously belonged to tradition. In a world where our everyday clothing could soon compute – that is, be entirely fabricated from computer programming – there is a need to revisit the role of technology in fashion more comprehensively. To uncover the coding behind our clothing could reveal a more dynamic relationship between technology and craftsmanship than we currently know. When we regard software – or ‘softwear’ – as things woven rather than things made, a potential connection between textile and code-based craft is plausible. It’s a journey that takes us from van Herpen to the weavers of the Bauhaus, and then back to the future once more.

 

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