by Sydney Foy
Photography by Cassandra Chan
When first entering the #techstyle exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, it felt as though I was in the wardrobe of Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. I sat there in awe as the clothing in front of me moved and lit up. This exhibit is perfect for the atypical art aficionado.
Unlike most paintings and sculptures, this art comes alive in a completely different way—it captures your interest, makes you wonder how it’s made and how it works; it’s impossible not to read the details of each piece. The descriptions share the unique story and history behind each item, inviting the visitor to become part of the exhibit.
The gallery is set up to emphasize how important technology is in the creation and function of clothing. Videos projected on the wall next to the mannequin displays show the clothing in action. Tablets allow you interact with the pieces in your own way. Other videos capture the life and spirit of each piece to better depict what the artist was thinking during the design process.
The gallery is separated into two parts: one highlights clothing “performance,” pieces that come alive, move and change colors, and the other shows pieces that were made using technological advances. These works would not have been possible without great leaps in engineering and technology over the past few years, which allow for greater freedom in creating custom and personalized clothing.
One of the greatest pieces in the section dedicated to production is the first flexible, 3D-printed dress. The dress comes out of the printer ready to be worn. The mathematician and biologist responsible for this production are using it to create customized clothing for commercial sale. First, they take a body scan of the customer who can then use an app to design the dress to their liking. This could be just the beginning of our future fashion industry— clothing items made individually for each person.
Although individually customized clothing is poised to be an interesting industry change, the new products can benefit our environment as well. Lasers have made it possible to create textiles from recycled polyester. The lasers bond and print the patterns onto the fabric, making the harmful dyes from textile industry unnecessary. If laser printing took over the industry, it would be possible to eliminate the 17-20 percent of water pollution caused by world textile production. The fabric can also be recycled with ease, even more beneficial for the environment.
On the performance side of the exhibit, customization is also heavily emphasized. One of the dresses has LED lights inside it, making pictures and colors dance across the dress. Next to the dress is a small tablet that allows you to pick what is displayed on the garment; options range from bubbles to dancing deer. The colors are bright and pictures defined, making the dress hard to tear your eyes away from.
A particular piece that grabbed my attention was a shirt decorated with pins that look like they would be dangerous to whoever might wear the shirt. I was immediately curious to see what the shirt did. Reading further, I found out that the pins are electronic sensors that move based on nearby voices. The pins create wave motion based on the voice. Watching the garment on a projector nearby I can see the pins move slowly to change the look of the shirt. It’s as though the movement of the pins creates an image on the shirt.
I left the exhibit astonished with what fashion has accomplished since pairing with technology; however, at the same time I felt slightly anxious about how technology is becoming increasingly incorporated into every aspect of our lives.