- 9 May 2017
"Microcontrollers are the Heart and Brains of my designs"
Anouk Wipprecht is a Fashion-Tech Designer and Innovator working in the emerging field of “FashionTech” – a rare combination of fashion design combined with engineering, robotics, science and interaction/user experience design to make fashion an experience that transcends mere appearances. She wants her garments to facilitate and augment the interactions we have with ourselves and our surroundings.
Fashion-Tech Designer Anouk Wipprecht has been working on wearables for over 12 years. She looks at the combination of design and technology and sees what it can do for people. More than in an assistant-robot way: how can it be part of us?
“Where technology was found to help us, it is now often a token for stress. Though wearables are technology that can actually enrich us since we can make them listen to our bodies. When I started my studies in fashion design, the connection with technology simply did not exist. I saw a high potential in this combination, so I started it myself by connecting muscle wire to fabrics to make them move, combining sensors with accessories and robotics with dresses in the early 2000’s. With our future wardrobe not being an analog, but a digital and electronic one – my designs raise questions about how these new technologies will socialize and co-exist with us. Microcontrollers are the Heart and Brains of my designs.”
"I like robots, but often our notion of a robot is modeled after a human, my robots are modeled after animalistic instincts and are being placed on the body."
Issues in Developing a Wearable
When developing a wearable, the designer will run into typical issues like how to wash it, how to maintain it, how to power it, how it should be connected and what happens when there is no network. In order to make the wearable commercially viable, those are important issues. “For me personally, the main question is how electronics can be connected to your body and your surroundings. Fashion is all about expression, and nonverbal communicating. Whether that is showcasing our culture, our personalities, or our interests.”
“I find inspiration in biomimicry; in nature, structures and animals. For example, the Sensoric Smoke Dress, it’s based on an octopus. It releases smoke to escape and hide. The Spider Dress is about personal space, it attacks when you invade that personal space. I like robots, but often our notion of a robot is modeled after a human, my robots are modeled after animalistic instincts and are being placed on the body.”
The currently open WEAR Sustain call focusses on sustainability and ethics. “Sustainability is a loaded subject in fashion, due to the cotton industry. Many people die of pollution. In fashion, something is trendy or not. That evolves so quickly. Our closets are much too big and we don´t wear most pieces. We need to make things more durable. Like a favorite leather jacket that forms to your body. In the field of wearables, we develop clothes that you can get emotionally attached to, that grow with you. That jacket has been with you through a lot and becomes part of you; a buddy, a companion. It actually hurts to lose a piece of clothing like that.”
Being in this business for many years, Anouk thinks that the biggest factor to success is collaborations and understanding each other. From the start, she worked together with the industry. Because she was one of the first in combining fashion and technology, brands were very interested and wanted to work with her. “I work with companies like Audi, Intel, Microsoft, Disney, Google, and many more. The assignments were always very focused towards a specific goal or request. For me, that focus works way better than an ‘open assignment’, because I have an engineering mind so for me my work is about problem-solving. I became part of these companies and worked from their offices as a researcher, so that I knew what was going on there, so that I understood their DNA.”
Contributing to Society
A lot of Anouk’s work is open source. She’s very conscious about society. “When I studied fashion design, the link to other fields was not supported. I’m happy to see that nowadays, interdisciplinary learning is becoming more and more the standard. Knowledge sharing and working together are topics that became emotional for me. Everybody should be able to learn, so I contribute by making my work open source and supporting programs like teaching young girls how to program.”
Anouk Wipprecht is the ambassador for the WEAR Sustain Support Event on May 18 & 19, in Natlab. She will give a closing keynote session ‘Rethinking Fashion in the Age of Digitalization’.
More info and registration: www.creativeringeindhoven.nl.
Intel Edison Based Spider Dress Photography; Jason Perry
Sensoric Smoke Dress Photography; Michiel Kivits
Robotic Cocktail Dress Photography; Allan Amato