Wearable technologies have resulted in garments that ‘house’ product technologies rather than ‘embody’ them. The paper offers a new design paradigm in which the traditions of product design are replaced by a more effective and flexible ‘technology design’, which does not distinguish between hardware/software, views system and product as indistinguishable, and seeks to integrate previously isolated design territories. The paper details three original schematic models that build on current models of design interdisciplinarity but address the increasingly common phenomena of digital product archetypes, the emergence of ‘technology design’ as a new paradigm and the fusion of product and garment design.
The paper is a comparative critique of industrial and fashion/textiles design, related to the dissolving boundaries between digital technologies, the body and wider communication networks. It demonstrates that even advanced notions of ‘wearable technology’ are restrictive and based on an obsolete interpretation of industrial design. The paper draws on the work with Baurley and Stead on the ‘Emotional Wardrobe’ project funded by the EPSRC/AHRC under the ‘Designing for the 21st Century’ initiative, for which I was Principal Investigator.
The paper uses data and insights recorded throughout the project, primarily from a series of collaborative expert workshops which engaged with exploratory prototyping, user testing and theoretical discourses around wearable technologies. It also documents the evolutionary chronology of wearable technology archetypes in order to identify further options for design practitioners seeking to purposefully integrate communications technologies with garment design.
The project brought together a diverse cluster of researchers from fashion, technical textiles, sustainable design, wireless communications, HCI, affective/ubiquitous computing, psychology and social science. It built on the characteristics of fashion and clothing, and modelled a world where fashion and ICT converge. The project outcomes are currently the subject of a large-scale research funding application.