photos: Galya Feierman
Wear It Festival, unfolding the world of fashion tech in Palais Kulturbrauerei, offered a profoundly engaging and mind-expanding platform for wear it, discover it, produce it, believe it and network it, and provided a tremendously insightful two-day journey into the nature of IT. Gathering an incredible populace of participants ranging from inventors to fashion designers, from software geeks to academics, from cutting edge international companies to multimedia students, from start-ups, investors, government representatives to colorful wondering fashionistas in bling and synthetic fabrics, among others. The continuous flow of lectures in the auditorium added a few credits to your future masters degree while the foyer provided a trade fair-like exhibition of the latest merchandise and prototypes attracting future producers, collaborators and consumers.
Throughout the building the conversation continued and the visitors were drawn like moths to the numerous LED lights of high tech, brought together by workshops and free coffee and cake breaks and entertained by music and visuals. Kulturbrauerei’s scraped old walls joined in a familiar Berlin recipe with neon lights and synth sounds, but also counterpoised the sleek and refined appearance of future technology that is already happening now.
The main aims of the wearables other than the aesthetic appeal focused on ability enhancement, measurement and interactive feedback with a lot of attention being brought to safety and well-being.
The Lunative illuminated jackets, one of the few showcased products already on the market, provide warming and self lighting capability for urban sports. Those jackets we had to photograph in the bathroom to have enough darkness for them to shine and the founder Christoph Lamprecht fueled the light-rechargeable thread of the company logo with the glow of his mobile phone. This photo almost set off the alarm of the entire building as we hung the jackets on the sprinklers; that’s also interactive. The Antelope Club exercise west additionally engages or massages the muscles for enhanced fitness. Multiple garments translate touch into light and sound, turning our selves into our very own, walking and talking turntables, auditorium lights, tabloids and multimedia installations. And the ultimate ability-enhancing wearable you wear under the skin. Dr. Patrick Kramer of Digiwell – Upgrading People presented and implanted with a surgeon’s ease his microchip with which one can open locks, store data and ultimately pay, transit, measure and communicate. His eye-opening lecture expressed our subconscious desire to become cyborgs and the technology’s trend towards subtlety, from wearable – to insertable – to implantable. The director of the festival Thomas Gnahm received the implant surgically in his arm on stage while giving commentary and providing a live social media video feed of the procedure with his special Spectacles.
Just as sawing starts with a thread, fashion tech starts with a conductible thread, originally silver and now available in many colors. Then this thread and the electronics it gives life to, such as led lights, are sawn into fabric, now in even more thin, soft, washable and cutable ways, although the electric patterns still provide obstacles to the couturier’s scissors. The thread leads to a power source, the weight, shape and placement of which is a current issue in development; Freyer Seigel offers a wirelessly rechargeable option for clothes, but the battery size still limits some implantables. A few would want to walk around with a cell phone sized object under their skin, really… However, the benefits outweigh the problems for costumes and unique garments in many ways; quite substantial ornaments can now be printed directly onto fabric with a 3-D printer and your favorite Berghain harness can now blink to the music.
The measuring power of fashion tech goes inwards and outwards, monitoring the body readings and the surrounding stimuli to promote personal health and public safety. A sports bra by Supa can now provide the readings of an exercise machine, a headband by Neurofox uses advance neuroimaging software to help you meditate, various outwear can alarm of threat in dangerous work areas, with special firemen smart textile outfits by Applycon monitoring and reporting the entire scenario of people in this high risk profession. The cutest lady bug Velcroe toy from Sticklett can monitor the readings of a child’s body and lower the stress level of the parents. When asked why wouldn’t a child take it off and play with it, I was allowed in on the mythos of fashion tech that speaks of the lady bug acting as a fairy guardian, which has to be worn at all times to guard off evil. The kids will buy it if they are frightened enough.
Finally, to unwind one could visit the led jewelry workshop, which was buzzing and smoking continuously. Mostly women soldered with impeccable manicures realizing their creative potential to walk away, in addition to knowledge, contacts and inspiration, with a glowing wearable souvenir. I did!
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Text & Photos: Galya Feierman
Galya Feierman is a Russian New Yorker living and working in Berlin as a photographer, writer and explorer at the junction of portraiture, fashion and cultural observation in an urban environment. You can see more of her photography here.