Dynamically Lit Jewelry and Smart Backpacks: the Fashion of the Future by ITMO Students
The history of "smart" clothing for the general public takes us back to the 90s, when the fashion sector started to experiment with electronics. A good example of that is the ICD+co jacket that was created by Levi Strauss&Co in collaboration with Phillips: the jacket was fixed with an MP3 player, a cellphone, headset and a control panel. Even before that, in the end of the 19th century, there also were attempts to combine clothing and electric elements: for instance, ballet dancer costumes fixed with electric light bulbs. As for today's market of smart clothing, it offers devices that not only have great design and usability, but have social functions as well.
Valeria Mikoluk and Roman Antonov, Master's students from ITMO's Higher School of Lighting Design in collaboration with independent designer Ekaterina Kuklina presented their prototypes at the Fashion Futurum international conference that took place in Moscow as part of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The event focused on synthesis of fashion and technology, which is why projects by ITMO students — a chameleon jacket, jewelry with dynamic lighting and a backpack with turn signals — could not have come at a better time.
Jewelry with dynamic lighting
The team presented several items (a brooch on a levitating disk, a jewel and a pendant) that had more functions than just looking good. As it turned out, jewelry can be useful.
"We've developed dynamic light jewelry based on optical fibers. This allowed us to create novel and, what's most important, unique light effects — to some, this will remind them of the Milky Way, to others — movement of neurons," shares Valeria Mikoluk.
So, what is the use of such items? For instance, such jewelry can track a person's pulse. Also, they can be fixed with such functions as reading body temperature, or temperature of the surrounding environment. Yet, the designers aim at solving other tasks, like developing new types of communication that have to do with one's emotional state. For example, if you want to show your emotions more obviously, your jewelry can help you by changing its lighting intensity, color or pulsation. Such jewelry can show its wearer's emotional condition, like whether he's calm or tense. Surely, not everyone would like to disclose his emotions, but many would like to own such items. Thus, the designers offer programmable jewelry, so that each can match colors to emotions as he likes. It's common knowledge that light diodes come in a range of colors. For instance, the chameleon jacket can render 256 shades, so one can create his own individual palette.
Jewelry with dynamic lighting
Different designs can be developed for men and women. Creating gadgets for children — those that can help define an infant's condition — is also a promising field. All in all, the target group of this new field of fashion can be really wide: it may well include both those who like to express themselves by jewelry or just like latest gadgets, and those who like to look after their health.
"People start to understand that just looking good is no longer enough. They want to get the best out of their jewelry," comments Valeria Mikoluk.
Most dynamic light jewelry uses optical fibers; yet, there is also a prototype based on a semiprecious stone. Light emphasizes the gem's unique texture, and changes its look.
How durable are such devices? It all depends on how you handle them. Their batteries can be charged, like those of smart tags of fitness trackers, as for the rest — it's up to you to not break them.
"Participating in the Fashion Futurum was most interesting, as we got the opportunity to see people's reaction to our inventions and get feedback. Most showed great interest: the visitors asked questions on how they can use such items, shared their perception of possible functions, like the idea of items that remind us to take medicine and such. We got to meet people who know what they want from their jewelry, and that was more than just looks," comments Valeria Mikoluk.
Another device presented by ITMO's Master's students was a backback for cyclists that has turn signals.
"Its goal is making traffic safer, especially at night. We also wanted to create a modern design that is also functional," shares Ekaterina Kuklina.
The backpack is fixed with a screen that shows turn signals, as well as a stop sign. The designers also added different animations so as to expand the target group, making it more than just cyclists.
According to them, the backpack was to be capacious yet comfortable. It is enough to carry a laptop with a 15.6'' display, but does not seem large due to its teardrop shape.
The electronics weigh 600 grams, and are conveniently packed into a separate detachable trunk, so that the backpack can be used without it. Another good thing about that is that one can use the same trunk for a different backpacks or vice-versa.
ITMO University. Valeria Mikoluk, Roman Antonov and Ekaterina Kuklina
As of now, the novelty also allows charging smartphones and gadgets, and will soon be able to charge laptops as well. In future, the designers plan to add flexible solar batteries so that it will be able to charge from sunlight.
The backpack's prototype was made of leather, so it’s quite heavy, yet many of its parts will be replaced with lighter materials, especially the rigid parts. Also, the backpack is washable.
Per aspera ad astra
According to the designers, the main difficulties they face now are limited time and that certain types of electronic parts are hard-to-get.
"We mostly work with small-sized parts we order from other countries (USA, China). Sometimes we have to look for counterparts, thus spending more time on some item"
There are also problems that have to do with particular inventions only: for instance, that was making the chameleon jacket flexible enough, as it does not have any rigid parts to hide the electric components in.
On smart clothing market in Russia
"Such events as Fashion Futurum offer an opportunity to assess the market's demand on smart accessories and clothing: fashion designers and visitors ask questions, offer collaboration and such," explains Roman Antonov.
In the West, smart clothing is already available to the general public and is often presented on podiums; in Europe, they have wedding dresses made of optical fiber. Selling such clothing in Russia is of no problem, the problem is to find a unique idea no-one has yet used.
"Russia's market of smart clothing is slightly behind Europe's and USA's. This has to do with accessibility of technology here, not the lack of ideas or competent specialists", share the designers.