Q: Why is it important for the project to be worn? Can you elaborate more on the ideas behind the form of the garment and the significance of the form?
A: The project actually stems from a lot of the questions that science fiction has been asking over the last two to three decades. I was revisiting narratives in Ghost In The Shell and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, where machine human hybrids are the norm and it is where everyone sits on this spectrum of humanity that is so interesting. People are already questioning their sense of self and at this stage we are all still mostly flesh, assisted by AI and robotics. But what happens when this hybridity starts becoming more pronounced, and artificial enhancements are the norm, available to you more than just cosmetic like plastic surgery but when it can start to change the fiber of your being. I am definitely at the early stages of this research but I think wearables are a non-invasive way to understand the human condition, which at it’s core is people trying to express themselves and make sense of their environment.
As prosthetics go beyond assistive technology and robots become synonymous with pets in the home, I think it’s important to study our interfaces as they come to life so people can build a relationship with it, like how you do with your fashion identity. The form of the garment becomes important here, as there are opportunities to tailor the wearables to different people and how they want to augment themselves, and how they would like to display their data. Also for the electronics to be well hidden and integrated, things like lining and pockets become crucial.
Q: Visually the lights are communicating, however when someone is wearing the garment, the lights are hard to see as a whole, can you talk about the relationship of the garment to the body of the person wearing it in more detail.
A: I think in many scenarios, the jackets serve more importance as a tools for communication with the other person as well as other people in the space. Haptics will be integrated to deal with situations where more urgent communication is necessary. Each jacket has a different pattern on them, based off the structure of the jacket and also the perceived movement for the wearer. For someone with more fluid movements, it would look better if lights were running across their body and for someone with sharper movements, I felt that pointed patterns on the shoulders would look good.
Q: Perception of clothing is part of every culture (historically and socially) Do you have any references to clothing as communication as seen through history?
A: I created a timeline that showed the various movements of people wearing clothing in groups, sometimes to represent solidarity such as the hijabs and pussyhats more recently, to the variety of bands and ribbons in the 90s. Clothing for women have always been a way to stand up against patriarchy, where hemlines, bustlines, corsets, shoulder pads were all used as part of this. Whereas uniforms and arm bands during the wars were ways that people used to represent allegiance and also segregation from those considered the enemy to be eradicated. Therefore clothing has always been a weapon, if you must, to help people communicate messages and beliefs without necessarily having to verbally speak about it. There is something very powerful in that, which I hope to explore in the project.
Q: What is your relationship to fashion?
A: Hm (chuckles) What is my relationship to fashion? I’ve been experimenting with it for a very long time. At a very young age I was using it to figure out my identity. I was even using it to experiment with gender for a while. I hated being a girl for the longest time, so when I was 12 I said to myself I was going to be a boy (naively) and I just cut all my hair off and started dressing in boys clothing, or what I perceived to be male-gendered clothing for a few years. Later on, I started understanding the politics of gender a little better and then it became about femininity and independence. Then, at one point it became a battle between black vs color, goth vs punk, etc. I also developed a love of vintage clothing, and modifying clothes I owned in small ways.
I think because I’ve tested it out so much, my relationship to fashion now is more about testing the boundaries about what is considered everyday fashion. Not just as a vehicle for expression but trying to push it a little further, especially questioning its relationship with technology.
Q: I hear that for you, fashion is a mode of communication, and you’ve done different kinds of speaking, even nonverbally, through it. Even now your project might be continuing that speaking; does your project have to do with communication through fashion?
A: Part of the communication aspect originated from a project I did in 2016 within Greg Trefry’s studio where we collaborated with the Time Square alliance to create a weekend of play in Times Square. One of the significant problems that I was trying to solve was how to cross the language barrier threshold. Times Square holds the palette of global people and we wanted to create something that wouldn’t require you to know english. The project went through many iterations with the final being a picnic scene that people could hang out on and talk to each other through a connected soundscape that they could influence at different stations shaped as mushrooms.
Verbal communication is also something people struggle with, it’s something I struggle with, in terms of true intimacy, or maybe vulnerability, like the communication of vulnerability. So much of it is cerebral, and I feel like sometimes there are a lot of things that are happening underneath that people aren’t aware of. There was a project I worked on also in 2016, with Chalayan Design as part of Intel’s work within wearable fashion where we had biometric sensors on a pair of glasses and created a small projector belt that would visualize the biodata in a few cinematic scenes.
With this project specifically, I am exploring the role of wearable technology and intimacy between couples. This is expressed through a set of jackets that “talk to each other”. Fashion is an extension of our bodies, and as technology becomes increasingly so, it becomes a matter of time that our phones and our watches start integrating more with the body. It is also the medium here, and it is all about trying to give people a mode of expression through their body.
Q: What behaviors will the technology take on to help express or communicate the intimacy? How do you plan on exploring the behaviors?
A: Often times, breakdown in communication happens because you don’t realize that you are not communicating. In the intimacy survey I had asked a question about how the couple expresses themselves indirectly in times of pain or feeling hurt. 30% said that they use the silent treatment, 20% said they threw a tantrum about something else and another 20% said they would criticize their partner and the rest had a variety of answers like keeping to themselves or talking to friends. In these scenarios, it could be helpful for a mediator to be able to help ask for attention, and this is where technology can help.
The basic jacket currently is from a vintage store, Beacon’s Closet, which I’ve lined with LED lights that are visible from the surface of the jacket, a microcontroller and a radio unit. Further iterations have biometric sensors integrated, such as heart rate and galvanic skin response sensors and the next stage is to incorporate haptics, sound and light analyzers. This would allow for the lighting levels and colors would be tuned to suit the individuals and well as environmental conditions. I have considered adding technology that can tap into other forms of communication such as texting, or social media messaging. These would require wifi or bluetooth capabilities which are also great things to explore. The technology is meant to augment the way that someone communicates, and also help them tune in to their partner and the environment.
Q: If this is just made for one couple, what characteristics would you be looking for in that couple?
A: I think the most important characteristic would be that they are open people that are interested in exploring their relationship with someone else. They should have a healthy understanding of their communication styles and have an idea of where communication is either lacking or could be augmented. They would also not be shy about showing their affection and status in public : a public display of connection, so to speak. They should also be sociable, and be interesting in wearing the project to a variety of social situations.