Fashion and science collide at London Technology Week
Brooke Roberts is a London-based fashion designer and fashion tech blogger. All views expressed are her own.
I have been working at the crossroads of fashion and technology since the mid-2000s, when I began my career as a fashion designer, with science and tech very much at the center of my brand. Back then, who knew fashion tech would become "a thing?"
When I first launched at London Fashion Week, my collection of brain scan-inspired knitwear was divisive, with many thinking fashion should keep its nose out of science, or vice versa.
But there was also an element of fascination for the process of translating medical scans (from my previous career as a radiographer) into knitwear. I was inspired by the beauty and graphic strength I saw in CT and MRI scans, and felt they should be used to make a statement about the internal beauty of the human race.
My interpretation of fashion tech was aesthetic, but devising a way to translate digital brain scans into programmable files compatible with industrial knitting machines sat firmly in the lap of tech. For me, science, technology and fashion aren't only complimentary: their fusion is beautiful and explosive.
The state of affairs
Fast forward to 2016, and fashion tech has taken on a whole new meaning with a scope beyond what I had imagined. It's a growing sector with vast potential, but we don't really know what exactly it encompasses.
Is it the Fitbit x Tory Burch collaboration? Unlikely, as Fitbit have just sold off their inventory.
Is it the Nokia smartphone dress by experimental fashion designers Fyodor Golan, which was scene stealing during London Fashion Week in 2014?
Or is it the Nike Flyknit trainers, made using digital knitting techniques that reduce waste and simplify the production process?
Could it even be Uniqlo's Heat Tech tops -- the lightweight, super-warm wardrobe staple?
This is where fashion tech begins to look like a solution to an as yet undefined problem.
Ask any fashion designer their opinion of fashion tech, and most will mention gimmicks, gadgets and hard, cold sensibility.
My standpoint as a technophile has always been warmer than this, but creating a credible and desirable fashion product lies with technology enhancing and elevating the design, whilst remaining invisible.
Tech is an enabler, a powerful tool with which to enhance and excite. It is not the end product, at least where fashion is concerned.
To that end, when commissioned by the Mayor of London's promotional office, London and Partners, to curate the Fashion Tech launch of London Technology Week, my aim has been to showcase the symbiotic fusion of fashion and technology.
Rather than focusing on wearables, I have brought together a collection of collaborative fashion and technology products and projects. These include the Headworks holographic mannequin by animator Dominic Faraway; Modeclix, the first draped 3D-printed fabric to follow the contours of the body; my own knitwear, combining brain scans and the latest digital knitting techniques; and the 360-degree virtual reality experience taking viewers to the front row of London Fashion Week, by creative communications agency Village.
The installation also showcases the Bruise suit, designed by a team at the Royal College of Art in conjunction with fashion designer Mary Benson, which contains removable panels that change color when hit with an impact sufficient to cause injury to athletes with disabilities.
Infi-tex also features: their ski jacket contains discreet sensor-embedded technology, allowing adjustment of portable devices simply by touching the sleeve.
Making its global debut is FashBot R(evolution), a concept I developed. Hand-drawn fashion animations by digital agency Holition are projected onto a 3D-printed open source InMoov robot, created by Gael Langevin, wearing a dress of my creation. This project aims to demonstrate how we can bring humanity, fashion and robotics into a collaborative presentation.
The meaning and purpose of fashion tech is still being established. I hope that with this installation, a dialogue centered on the sympathetic fusion of fashion and technology will drive this sector toward a future of better and more sustainable design.
London Technology Week runs until 26th June 2016.