Wherein My Dissatisfaction with Wearable Electronics is Clarified

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.

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One response to “Wherein My Dissatisfaction with Wearable Electronics is Clarified

  1. dang
    that was concise
    thank you, i think that clarifies (or clouds for further thinking) a helluva lot about my reservations with my/other people’s approach to engineering projects in general, which i think i’ve talked to you about, in some state…

    yeah, thanks