In a world where technological advancements are rapidly evolving, fashion – a multi-billion-dollar industry – is not about to shy away from innovation.
While there is much allure and satisfaction to be found in the old school, traditional way of designing clothes, there are a small group of designers who are breaking the mold, determined to mesmerize consumers with novel and futuristic creations. Ultimately, the future of fashion is about to be more than just simple textiles and serve more than just the typical purpose of clothes.
With everything from interactive fabrics to 3D printing, specialized lighting and utilitarian wizardry to serve us in this brave new world, here are 5 cutting-edge labels in Asia who’re spearheading this fashion tech frontier.
Ying Gao – China
The China-born designer, Ying Gao, attended university at the Haute École d’arts Appliqués in Geneva, Switzerland and pursued a Master’s Degree in Multimedia at L’Université du Québec, where she increasingly focused her design efforts on merging style with technology.
Her range of interactive apparel is crafted in such a way that they respond to different elements in the environment – including sounds, gaze and the human presence. For instance the moment she saw how dressmaker pins made certain sounds when being moved on a fitting mannequin, she was inspired to create a dress where the pins moved in a similarly fluid motion when triggered by ambient sounds.
Besides creating these impressive sound-activated garments, Ying Gao has also dabbled with eye-tracking technology and apparel that interact solely with human presence. Her experimental and out-of-the-box ideas merge technology with style, and are always intended to wow audiences.
Junya Watanabe – Japan
Apprentice to Rei Kawakubo, founder of the label, Commes des Garçons, Junya Watanabe can be heralded for his impressive use of innovative fabrics and textures. Through fabric manipulation, Watanabe effectively translates futuristic ideas into wildly creative designs earning him the title, ‘techno couture’ designer.
With a keen focus in synthetic and technologically-advanced materials, it’s safe to say his collections are always hotly anticipated each season.
Take, for example, one of his most talked about innovations – a solar powered trench coat that provides on-the-go charging for a smartphone, created for his Fall/ Winter 2016 collection. Not only is the coat innovative in concept, it also serves to address a very real modern day problem – fueling a constantly drained smartphone.
Issey Miyake – Japan
As one of the early pioneers of incorporating technology in garments, Japanese designer, Issey Miyake is one to watch. Whether it’s creating an entire collection from one roll of cloth to textile technology, the 79-year-old strongly believes in the many possibilities tech has to offer the fashion industry.
One of the brand’s latest innovations is the 3DStretchSteam, which is a type of fabric that contracts into 3D patterns when exposed to steam. Creating this involved computer software that calculated the composition of different cotton and polyester weaves. The result is origami-esque clothing that gives the illusion of being folded by steam.
Despite being a strong supporter of technological innovation, Miyake told CNN that he still aims to “combine [fashion] with traditional handcrafts, and in fact use technology to replicate dying arts so that they are not lost.”
Vega Wang – China
Coming from a family of electronic engineers, the Beijing-based designer, Vega Wang is no stranger to technology. For her senior collection while at Central Saint Martins, she was inspired by the creatures in BBC’s Blue Planet documentary series to create luminescent designs by using electroluminescent technology. The project also offered an opportunity for her to stay close to – and collaborate with – her parents.
Wang’s design aesthetic carries a bold, distinctive charm that is visually captivating and speaks volumes of the sheer creativity and intricacy involved. Alongside her unique interpretation of the human form, geometric shapes and cultural references, she has developed an impressive following in the field – a worthy achievement in and of itself.
Melinda Looi – Malaysia
Though the Malaysian fashion designer doesn’t incorporate technology in all of her collections or designs, Melina Looiwas a key part of the team behind Asia’s first 3D printed fashion show. Working in conjunction with a Belgian-based additive manufacturing company, the show featured 5 avian-inspired works – from a skirt, to shoes, cape, necklace and wedges – which took a team of 6 to 8 people months to complete.
From this, Looi has found a new love for marrying fashion with technology while still creating a collection that is very natural and organic.