Fashioning the Future is a large and cleverly illustrated book by Suzanne Lee, senior research fellow at Central St Martins College of Art and Design. In an abundance of history-based glossy fashion books, this one presents a maelstrom of inventive ideas on how technology could fuse with fashion to change our concepts of clothing forever.
The 1960s was a pioneering time, thanks to designers like Pierre Cardin, Courreges, Paco Rabanne and Rudi Gernreich, but now Lee rightly says, ‘The fashion world has largely returned to the relative safety of retro styling. In terms of technological innovation, it could be argued that fashion has been in stasis. Instead, sportswear has become the new arena for hi-tech clothing.’ As have the military and medical arenas. She envisages spray-on fabrics, wearable computers (Microsoft has patented the human body as a computer network), bio-active fabrics containing living bacteria (odour-eating trainers, maybe), bio-jewellery, such as rings made of a couple’s own bone mass, magnetic fields creating shape-altering garments and 3D printing to replace woven fabrics. Space technology has given us insulating materials. New phase change materials help regulate body temperature, so could monitor body data, protect us, call for help, or even be used as evidence. The nano-wardrobe could be stain repellent and self-cleaning.
Lee’s research is thorough and authoritative, but finally she acknowledges that bodies will need help too – spray-on, moulded dresses won’t appeal to any woman whose biggest concern is, ‘Does my bum look big in this?’Fashioning the Future/ Tomorrow’s Wardrobe by Suzanne Lee is published by Thames and Hudson, priced £29.95.