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Standing at the Crossroads of Fashion's Future - See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me

Set a hundred years from now: is a world where everything in our environment is connected. Our skins have become a medium for digital content: the body a satellite, our flesh a host for streaming media.

My body has become a receiver of some kind. An aerial. I'm picking up signals as they move through the air. Media waves. Pictures. Sound.'

Christina saw this as the point and edge of madness, and yet the physical sight of the screen of skin burned its way into her eyes. There. There was proof.

The slow pulse of Bio-Dub music was playing from the skin of Nola, channeled from a pirate radio station, electric blood running through her. Colours swirling in heat patterns across her flesh, shapes forming.

Excerpt from Channel Sk1n, Jeff Noon; 1 edition, 2nd Aug 2012

Set a hundred years from now: is a world where everything in our environment is connected. Our skins have become a medium for digital content: the body a satellite, our flesh a host for streaming media. As with the chromatophores of the alchemistic zebra fish, our skins will become a vessel for visualising. The body will begin to broadcast and we will face a new era in which intimacy and popular science combine.

For many years the books of science fiction writers such as Jeff Noon, J.G. Ballard, William Gibson and Neil Stephenson have given a preview of how the threads of the future could manifest. Hollywood has rendered a number of these through film with Blade Runner, The Matrix and most recently Gravity, each giving us a director's interpretation in which to evaluate and feed our expectations for the future. Institutes such as The Media Lab, MIT, Boston and The Singularity University based at NASA's USA Headquarters work to deliver the future: a place where cancer is cured, energy is clean and plentiful and robots roam.

Meanwhile, however, there is a new school emerging formed around the internet of everything: a collective precognition with extra sensory perception for making science fiction, science fact. A collection of start-ups is sitting at the crossroads of the physical-digital revolution, taking a generous foothold in the future. More surprisingly, this innovative movement is actually growing out of Europe and not the traditional Silicone Valley as one would expect. These innovators are not afraid to say 'Yes, we can make you a flying dress' and 'Of course robotic textiles are possible'. Radical developments in the material sciences, flexible computation and traditional engineering allow new codes and modalities to transform the creative industries of product and fashion design. Pairing an evolution in manufacturing with the latest bio-printers, super scale and rapid 3D printers; this computational and bio-mimicry centred design allows the designer freedom to create otherworldly creations and transmute materials and matter. The prose of nature and its unobserved qualities are driving tomorrow's creators into diverse material realms. As technology shifts from intelligent to sensitive we are beginning to experience a world where we can make life's impossibilities - possible.

The human body is the final frontier. When it comes to a fusion of computation and epithelium technology really is at the precipice. We are seeing artists and designers create metaphors for the body in the 21st and 22nd century. Exploring the past to create the future we want to see, feel and touch: beauty in the hyper-sensorial world of tomorrow. Sensory design, emotion and magic are a combination of materials ready for fashioning. We imagine a place where the atelier becomes the laboratory and the studio becomes the test site; where clothes now look dated against a more fitting apparel of space wear and interactive skin suits.

This is not just an Alice in Wonderland fantasy or Dorothy's magical ruby heel clicking slippers. Today we see the reality of ethereal textiles transforming fashion. Dresses are made of clouds, creating micro-environments for the wearer. The body itself becomes customizable as the research labs turn to epidermal electronics with the potential to transform beauty and body adornment in the digital age. In particular we see the past ideas of digital skin tattoos and blushing dresses predicted by the Philips Design Probes in the mid 2000's now coming to life. Music artists are using technology to transform their appearance and their experience in performance setting. Both and Lady Gaga have pledged their allegiance to the future by investing in technology to create the most state of the art concepts, such as 'Flying Dresses' and 3D Printers in videos. Using technology to launch their ideas, these artists are able to connect to their fans in unique and novel ways and create layers of intimacy that reach far beyond current social media platforms.

There is a paradigm shift afoot, with Generation Digital finally coming of age. These individuals are well-practiced in 'swipe-able' content and furnished with an expectation for their clothes to do more. As a fashion technology company we are often asked "When will I have chameleon clothes, a textile I can swipe that will transform?" The answer is not today, but with the developments in graphene and flexible, printed electronics it certainly won't be long.

As Generation Digital move the smart phone to their wrist, the concept of the distributed interface seems likely to reignite. During the 1990's companies such as Philips, Nike and institutions such as The Media Lab dedicated resources to the concept of connected clothing, enhanced functionalities embedded in intelligent fibers. Ahead of it's time maybe but their efforts showed us the direction. The smart phone revolution taught us how to live with omnipresent technology and coupled with developments in the enabling technologies of flexible, wearable and washable we are able to not just imagine, but infact build a world where your jacket is re-mixable and your sneakers robotic. Marty McFly is back from the future!

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