Robotic fashion lets you bare it all with your clothes on

28 September 2017 - 10:29 By AFP
A creation by Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht at the Fashiontech fashion exhibition during Berlin Fashion Week in Berlin, Germany.
A creation by Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht at the Fashiontech fashion exhibition during Berlin Fashion Week in Berlin, Germany.
Image: Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht has a vision for a world in which people stop telling themselves little lies about their emotions - and she believes high-tech fashion is the key.

Her creations, which combine digital technology with haute couture, play with social norms and aim to engineer a cold-turkey solution to our dearest deceptions, she said on the sidelines of Milan Fashion Week.

The 32-year-old has already seen her stuff worn by former Black Eyed Peas star Fergie during a performance at American football extravaganza the Super Bowl. She's also created 3-D printed outfits for Canadian super troupe Cirque du Soleil.

Wipprecht's creations play with social norms.
Wipprecht's creations play with social norms.
Image: Supplied

Yet one of her most deviously disruptive designs is a piece she's developing with crystal-maker Swarovski that uses built-in sensors to blink in time with the wearer's heartbeat.

It sounds simple, and maybe even poetic to put one's vital force on display, but it's also incredibly revealing.

Imagine wearing the thing while talking to a special someone you'd like to be more than just friends with, or how about a job interview? They'll be able to see that your heart is pounding with fear or excitement.

"It's sort of almost like you are having goosebumps; you can't control it or you start to be red in your face. So in a really pure sense, you're able to broadcast your emotions," she said.

"If you are wearing your heartbeat on your sleeve it is a really pure thing. It also gets you in a lot of really awkward situations that for me are super interesting."

This fascination with where human behaviour and digital couture meet has already led Wipprecht to conjure similarly striking experiments.

One of the most famous is called, appropriately enough, the "Spider Dress". The 3-D printed garment is topped with a collar that's studded with robotic spider legs. The legs jump out, or "attack" as Wipprecht says, when someone moves too far into the wearer's personal space.

Yet, after showing off the dress in Europe, China and the US she's made some interesting discoveries.

"People in the Netherlands, they go very fast, very close by, while in America they are more gentlemen ... they stand further away." she said.

"I sometimes need to push people into the person's space a little bit ... because they really have the notion of respect."

Wipprecht's journey to a creator's life, lived mostly in New York and California's Silicon Valley, started early.

She was about 14 years old when she fell in love with fashion because it is "expressive and you can communicate with it" and began to study design. Then came her discovery of robotics.

Wipprecht's famous "Spider Dress".
Wipprecht's famous "Spider Dress".
Image: Pinterest

"For me the robots had basically a brain and a heartbeat. That's what I wanted my fabrics and garments to have," she said.

In the mid-2000s when she was still strapping big computers to the body, she discovered the Arduino community.

Named for a bar where its founders met in the northern Italian town of Ivrea, Arduino is an open-source computer hardware and software company. But it's also a collection of people who use its kits to build their own digital devices, like Wipprecht.

She's optimistic that her work will one day lead to a ready-to-wear collection coming down the catwalk, but at the moment she's focused on pushing boundaries.

"The things I do are out there to provoke and to be more experimental," she said. "If we would all just make dresses that light up and change colour it would be super ... boring."