Theorizing Fashiontech as an Emerging Design Practice

Anne Galperin
Associate Professor
Graphic Design
SUNY New Paltz

Like so many other endeavors contemporary designers find themselves involved in, fashiontech (a marriage of conventional apparel and electronic/digital technology for fun and/or function) unites a variety of professionals in collaboration. Experience and interaction designers, industrial and fashion designers, engineers, programmers and users all have a role to play in the conceptualization and creation of fabrics, garments, hardware, and programming.

Hybrid practices such as this one require new theoretical frameworks in order to describe, understand and innovate in emerging fields.

As an initial step toward the creation of a such a framework for fashiontech, selected concepts originating in areas as diverse as tangible computing, fashion, semiotics, sociology, women’s studies, craft and maker culture will be described, compared and contrasted. (This will not exclude issues of concern in the apparel, technology and design industries including unsustainable or ethically compromised resource production, labor, and manufacturing, and the planned obsolescence typical of both fashion and technology.)

This synthetic construction is intended to be useful to students, educators and makers in fashiontech-related fields as they envision, create and theorize about such garments. As a demonstration the framework will be used to analyze and position pivotal fashiontech garments, one possible example being the Cute Circuit-designed dress Katy Perry wore to the 2010 Met Costume Institute Gala.