Last Friday I had the great pleasure of meeting the fabulous and amazing Diana Eng of FairytaleFashion, makers of delightful active fashions, like clothes that inflate or light up in nifty ways.
I gave her a tour of the MIT Electronic Research Society, and we quickly started throwing around on ideas for cool wearables we could make. I described the source of my greatest dissatisfaction with electronics + clothing, which is that the majority of projects only ever get as far as incorporating LEDs.
All they do is light up, I explained. They almost never do anything more interesting than that.
Diana replied with a logical, Yes — but LEDs are the only electronics that do something you can see.
Suddenly, the fundamental head-to-head between fashion thinking and engineering thinking became clear to me.
All this time I’ve been considering making electronic clothing that feels good to *me*, or that does something *for me*. Fashion, is fundamentally about making something that has an effect on *others*. No wonder all the LEDs! No wonder the electronics have rarely impressed me. I’m asking “where are the conductive antennas and fabric radios? When can I do a live broadcast by talking to my shoulder because I’m a walking radio station?” But that’s not fashion thinking. Fashion thinking is about appearance. If you want to make a dress with a thunderstorm-print-fabric where the lightning lights up, that is pretty boring if you’re an electrical engineer, but that is amazing from a fashion standpoint.
This may sound pretty straightforward, but I’ve really never thought about my clothes this way, and I regard the entire conversation as a revelation. Everything about fashion and wearables make much more sense now.