Wearable tech is really starting to be a reality. Like, actual wearable tech. I am the first person to give props to Hussein Chalayan, but I don’t think wearing a coffee table is really something you can take to ‘da club. (On second thought, wearing the table you could subsequently dance on and then fall off of, is pretty FABULOUS…I’ll keep that in my back pocket.)
This is where Pauline van Dongen comes in. She’s been doing this for a LOOONG time and isn’t new to the wearable tech game. She started out while studying her Masters at ArtEZ, Academy of the Arts in Arnhem, Netherlands, in 2010 with 3D printing wearable objects, like a shoe I saw at SXSW and pretty much lost my mind over. It was, unfortunately, a size 9 rather than my own adorable size 6 feet.
Luckily, Pauline was there and was able to wipe my tears away with a solar charging jacket.
Anyway, when I heard that Pauline was coming to NYC with the Dutch Embassy for the Northside Festival to highlight the Netherlands as a hotbed for innovation, I had to find out what she was working on and see if I could try on any more of her clothes.
“Technology is the only way to bring innovation to fashion, and it kind of enhances our idea of what fashion is or can be in the future,” Pauline told me as we talked about inspirations for her designs. “I started looking around the space surrounding the body -- it became more and more intimate, looking at the space between the body and the garment, which I call “the void.”
This term, the void, obviously spoke to me and my general interest in all things dark and empty (like my soul) but Pauline has a very different way of looking at this absence of space. “[When I was young] I was always really interested in the human body, but then over time, it changed a bit. It was not just the human body, it was more the relationship between body and space.” In her work she does not seem interested in filling the void but rather in “express[ing]…with different kinds of materials and technologies.”
Her work, informed by a background in science and biology, often strives to bridge the gap between the natural world and the technological one, rather than keeping them at odds:
One of the main parts of my vision is this idea of naturalizing technology, which often needs a bit of explanation because it’s quite a strange combination. Often people will see like nature and technology, but in fact there’s nothing natural in nature because technology is what makes it human, so I don’t want to make this division between the two.
Casually in our conversation she slipped in a bit of philosophy with Zygmunt Bauman and his theory of liquid modernity. With the immediacy of technology, the concept of modernity is constantly changing. This is, of course, an idea that really piqued my interest. We eventually got to the point in our conversation where I screamed out, “YOU COULD JUST 3D PRINT ANY CLOTHES YOU WANTED THAT WOULD FIT YOU PERFECTLY AND YOU WOULD NEVER NEED TO SHOP AGAIN.”
Not quite, but not far off.
"What I hope that technology can mean for fashion, is that it not only adds new meaning but also adds a new kind of value to it... At some point, we’re that far that you can actually upload your garment or upload new kinds of software on your garment so that it changes its behavior or its look so that you can wear it much longer.” So rather than printing out a million pieces every day and filling your house with garments that you only wear once (wait, is this the future or…) you have one piece, and its very behavior or appearance can be changed through an app on your phone or even the dress itself.
You could effectively customize your garments in such a way that each item is completely tailored to you and to your own interests, needs or environments.
Just imagine the possibilities: A dress that gets looser as you walk into Dallas BBQ and shorter and tighter when your crush walks into the room. You would never actually have to take off the garment because it will be able to change, preferably while you are still wearing it, however you tell it to.
The Utopian Collection: Coming 2024.
As I sat there, brain practically spinning with all the POSSIBILITIES, Pauline in her sweet Dutch accent suggested I try on one of her dresses and I was like, “Oh, I don’t know if I should…it looks really expensive and nice and I wouldn’t want to—SIKE! GIMMEDAT.”
You can’t see in this picture, but if I turned to the window my phone would buzz because it was charging from the solar panels seamlessly sewn into the front of the dress.
You guys, the future is now. Right, this dress isn’t changing shape according to what type of situation/mood/stomach extension, but it can CHARGE YOUR PHONE. Imagine, you are out at a full day beach party and you are instagramming all this cool stuff becaues you want the guy you are going on a date with later to see what an exciting life you have. Then your battery goes from 50% to 2% in a matter of seconds and it is only 6 p.m. and you may miss your date because you haven’t even agreed on a place to meet and you are pretty much going to die alone in this world.
UNTIL, you realize that the dress you took off the moment you got to the party can revive your phone and fix everything that seems to be falling apart in this world. Good thing, because you won’t miss your date with a total basic who will try to be cool and open at the same time and just end up acting like Bill Cosby on meth.
The dress could really be a lifesaver, even if you don’t care about Pauline’s philosophy (and you are basic if you don’t care). I love this woman and all that she has to say about wearable tech.