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Amy Winters (UK) – Global Dialogues: Fashion Digital Marketing conference

Amy WintersLanguage, meaning and consumer uptake in multi-sensory fashion and textiles

Within the last two years the phrase ‘wearable tech’ has moved from its niche of experimentation and prototypes into commercial opportunity.  In doing so, the two hitherto  happily disparate industries of fashion and technology have found themselves getting ever and ever closer. This surge in wearable technology is acting as a spur to the smart textile industry and multi-sensory garments are seen as an important part of this fast growing industry.  Miniaturization of technical components and the rise of technology/designer collaborations have created a host of multi-sensory textile developments including materials that can interact, communicate and sense.

The recent market domination of smart watches, bands and headgear with embedded tracking/sensing capabilities is still alien to the fashion market and consumer uptake is reluctant – with critics questioning the purpose of wearables. Automatically disseminated statistics from wearable gadgets are probably more interesting for the product developers than for consumers.

Are we objectifying our senses with these gadgets? Could sensing capabilities be more intuitive and expressive?  Are there issues with privacy?  Or do fashion consumers have a traditional relationship with materials, which is hard to change?  ‘Are Fashionistas just too conservative?’

Design of multi-sensory textiles from soft hardware incorporates several knowledge domains that are traditionally separate – including electronics, textiles design and making, alongside practices of interaction design, programming, psychology, bio-engineering and, more recently, the upcoming media/dissemination language in this field. In this context, this presentation aims to deconstruct the terminology used for ‘wearable technology’ and examine the language of collaboration.

Cross-collaboration in this field creates an ambiguous space for Intellectual property.  Who owns the ideas? Technologist goals tend to be evaluated in terms of functionality, while design goals are more difficult to quantify, aiming for an emotional investment. What legal issues and examples are there in ‘defining’ tacit knowledge and specialist know-how?

Amy Winters is a Doctoral Candidate at the Royal College of Art and is the owner/driver of the smart textile/wearable tech company Rainbow Winters [www.rainbowwinters.com]. Her research focuses on ‘soft’ interactive materials; how wearable technology enhances the wearer’s experience through soft robotic adaptive textiles surfaces. The human body is placed at the centre of investigations to explore ideas of ‘intimacy’ and ‘soft and advanced emotional sensing’. Alongside practice-based research into soft materials, she is focused on developing specialist  ‘textiles’ design thinking methods in the burgeoning space of new interactive material development.

Her work has been featured in in WIRED, WWB, Vertu Magazine, Trend Hunter, Vice Style, Stylist and Marie Claire. Shows, exhibitions and presentations include The House of Lords; CES Vegas; CREATE, Brown Thomas Dublin; Made in Future, Milan; Clever Dressing, Dana Centre London and Lightwave, Science Gallery Dublin.

  Reading List
  • Schwartzman, M. (2011). See yourself sensing. London, UK: Black Dog Pub.
  • Karana, E., Pedgley, O. and Rognoli, V. (2013). Materials experience.
  • Amitai, P. and Seymour, S. (2014). Computational fashion.
  • Eggers, D. (2013). The circle.
  • Lanier, J. (2011). You are not a gadget. London: Penguin Books.
  • Serres M. (2008). The five senses: A philosophy of mingled bodies. London: Continuum

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