In 2017, Dutch designer Pauline Van Dongen revealed her “Issho jacket” at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas – a smart denim jacket that strokes the wearers back in response to touch.
Pauline van Dongen is a Dutch fashion designer who specializes in wearable technology. She is one of Europe’s leaders and pioneers in her field. She opened her own design studio, Pauline van Dongen Studio, in 2010, and has collaborated with several tech companies to create different wearable technology garments. The designer is motivated by a desire to make technology more ‘human’ and ‘mindful’. The aim of the studio is to use technology as a way to add value and innovation to fashion. The brand views technology as not just a tool, but rather an aesthetic, focusing on the materiality of the clothing and how that can enhance and change the performance of the body. It is a unique approach to design that uses technology as a means to bring life into the clothing. Aside from the Issho jacket, the studio worked with Dutch sustainable retailers to create a solar power windbreaker, as well as working with leading technology companies to create light up sportswear.
Wearable technology, also known as “wearables” are a category of technology that can be worn as accessories and/or embedded in clothing. They are made to be able to track, analyze and transmit personal data such as heart rate and sleep patterns. The most popular example of wearable technology is the smart watch. Wearable technology is all about practicality, the aim is to assist the wearer of the clothing in some way. This technological innovation has made strides in the health industry, and has vastly improved people’s lives, especially those with health concerns. An example of wearable technology is the fitness tracker, which is made to aid the consumer in tracking their fitness goals. Now, consumers are able to access the internet, make calls, and access apps with the addition of smart watches. The gaming industry also sells wearable technology, with virtual reality headsets.
Wearable technology has greatly advanced over the recent years, expanding from the health industry into the gaming industry with wearable accessories. Recently, wearable technology has expanded even more outside of wearable accessories, and into wearable clothing. Technology is now being embedded into clothing such as sportswear and outerwear in order to enhance and assist the wearer’s in their everyday lives.
Most people are aware of the Fitbit and the Apple watch, of how they function and what they do. Wearable technological accessories have been around for almost a decade, and consumers have become familiar with them. However, wearable technology embedded in clothing is a virtually new phenomenon, here are some of the exciting tech garments that have surfaced over the past few years:
Pauline van Dongen’s Issho jacket uses conductive fibres, sensors, and motorized parts. When integrated all together it gives the wearer the feeling of a “gentle stroke” on the upper back. By doing so, it invites the wearer to be in the present moment. The jacket uses senses that detect if the wearer is constantly reaching for their phone, giving a physical response back to them.
“Issho motivates the wearer to be more aware and present through the sensations experienced when wearing the jacket,” said the designer, who designed the unisex jacket to “wrap around the wearer like a cocoon” with a high collar and zip on the lower back, the jacket creates a feeling of security while simultaneously creating more room for the wearer. Van Dongen stated that she particularly wanted to work with denim fabric because denim is familiar to everyone.
“I particularly wanted to work with denim fabric because it’s a material that everyone can identify with – everyone has a piece of denim in their wardrobe,” van Dongen states.
Unlike the garments competitors, the Issho jacket works without a smartphone, which according to van Dongen, was done deliberately to “move away from using gadgets as interface”. Instead, it features its own microcontroller that is automatically turned on when it senses the jacket being worn. Van Dongen presented this garment at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas in March 2017. SXSW is an annual festival that celebrates music, film, art, and technology.
Although wearable technology has been around for almost a decade, there is still progress to be made in the industry. There is so much room for creativity within wearable technology and the industry is still fairly new, it will be exciting to see brands release new wearable technology garments as new advancements are being made every day. Will wearable technology be the norm in ten years? Will it be more accessible and affordable for all?
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