Clever Tech Digest sat down with the Wearable Media power house female trio of creative technologists and designers, Yuchen Zhang, Jingwen Zhu, and Hellyn Teng, to discuss the future of wearable tech fashion.
Wearable Media strives to combine technology and fashion to help connect consumers to greater global concepts, or even celestial influences. Increasing environmental and social awareness through high fashion inspires the team's creations to push past the wearable tech market, and into Wearable Media.
We are an international and bilingual(in both English and Chinese) dynamic team of three women who are passionate about integrating technology with textiles. Each of us came from a different division of design and share a common understanding of technology. Our collaborative spirit enables us to bring all of our skills in e-textile, smart clothing prototyping, smart clothing design, user experience design, branding, visual design, IoT development, and web development together for consumers and the wearable tech community.
You recently exhibited Wearable Media garments at SXSW, what new tech trends inspired you the most?
The power of using data for simple and widely distributed technology really impressed Wearable Media. While we were at SXSW, we were lucky enough to meet Rebecca Minkoff. She showcased her new line of handbags with QR code sewed into the bag. You might say this isn’t the newest technology. However, this simple technology gave Rebecca’s customers instant access to loyalty programs.
What guiding principles help your team develop desirable and meaningful Coded Couture instead of just another wearable gadget?
Compassion and curiosity. We know our audience and we understand their imaginative nature. Because our focus is design and storytelling, our creations automatically steer away from being “the next gadget.”
Wearable Media is working with Cyborg Futures to explore human senses and expand them into new territories. How do you plan to create new realms for expression and understanding through this collaboration?
Our collaboration with Cyborg Futures was a fascinating exploration in the field of Artificial Senses. The ideation process was to develop a method in which our senses can be artificially enhanced. Our team specifically focused on the high concept of light and the cosmos, and explored ways in how we can turn that idea into a working prototype. We looked at the translucency of skin, and what happens when light permeates the skin. We also researched data of solar flares from the Sun, and worked with NASA’s API to develop the project.
In many ways this project echoed our wearable garment, Ceres, where we were exploring the idea of turning the human form into celestial sensing bodies. With our collaboration, we delved deeper into materiality, and instead of focusing on interactions that happen on clothing and textiles, we were discovering how our bodies and skin can literally become reactive media.
What do you think it will take to push Coded Couture into the mainstream market?
Understanding the psychology behind why we would like to wear a certain data on our body will help Coded Couture become more relatable to the general public. The, designers could create successful garments infused with data. Setting up a production facility that could meet the demand of customizing garments with unique data is another challenge the industry must face to resonate with the mainstream market.
Paint me two pictures:
1. Your ideal vision for fusing the body with technology.
Technology that amplifies personal creativity is the dream. A sixteen-year-old girl is going to her high school prom. She is interested in creating something unique that reflects her creativity. She chooses to sew her own dress and embeds e-textiles into her garment. She walks into the prom and with her body movement, her dress lights up. Her friends cheer and scream and dance around her. At the end of night, when she is in her bed savoring her own creation with the help of technology, she thinks about her next interactive project - her own lab coat to protect herself in her science class experiments.
2. Your fears for a mechanically and digitally integrated human existence.
My biggest fear would be anxiety or depression caused by the digitally integrated human experience. With the usage of cell phones, we have become more connected and also separated from each other. We don’t have to feel like we are bonded to a physical place because we can access the world through our digital devices, devices that soon will be integrated into wearables like virtual reality. This could create disappointment in our physical reality when we cannot use our augmented digital abilities.