Fashion Sensibilities: Rings versus Ringtones
May 6, 2014
      Technology is not new to fashion.  Its history includes uses as fashion tools.  Examples are
Warby Parket 2013 Eyewear. Bing. May 4, 2014.
sewing machines, steam irons, needles, and measuring tapes.  They may be so antiquated, manual, or integral to the production of fashion that they escape our notice.  We may not define other more personal, that is, wearable technologies as fashionable.  Eyeglasses, purses, and umbrellas certainly qualify.  Despite their functional necessity, the scope of their styling is extensive.  Even clothing is technological.  It is intended to protect the human body from the sun, rain and snow, extremes in temperature, and dirt.  Although decorative, buttons, zippers, elastic, and snaps function to permit the comfortable fit of clothing and mobility while dressed.
   This respectable technological heritage constitutes a foundation for the integration of emerging technologies into fashion.  Already, the fashion industry is attempting to classify the mobile phone.  Should it be an accessory, an ornament, or jewelry?  Some confusion has ensued due to the liveliness and expansiveness of mobile phones (Fortunati, 2013).  Unlike purses, embroidery, or necklaces, mobile phones summon their wearers with customizable sounds and movements.  Instead of emulating more restrained earrings and bracelets, they colonize the body with wires that traverse the space between ears and hip pockets.  The declining size of mobile phones and earpieces discourages their comparison to tote bags, handbags, or briefcases. 
      Hopefully, then, the innovative mobile phone will prompt creativity among fashion designers.  Its ubiquitous visibility and audibility necessitate an effort to improve its aesthetics.  Even more, the nature of its functionality requires similar sensibilities in its presentation.  A diamond ring only sparkles.  A mobile phone permits the exchange of affection in real time with a spouse (Fortunati, 2013).  Yes, it is composed of readily sourced plastic and metal.  Still, doesn’t its purpose warrant the same attention and reverence as a diamond engagement ring?  Clothing is just as ephemeral and common, yet legions of designers and journalists have devoted their lives to it.  
     It is the need for environmental sustainability and human safety that has prompted scientists to invest their knowledge, time, and laboratories in clothing.  They are developing more humane fashions such as more comfortable boots for firefighters and stronger bulletproof vests.  Their inventions and protocols for them also improve the design and manufacturing process (Berkowitz, 2013).  3D body scanners have more to offer than embarrassment to airline passengers.  Their cousin the 3D printer may enable the production of materials from natural fibers such as jute, sisal, and ramie.  Casts for fractured bones and self-heating clothing are just the beginning (Berkowitz, 2013).  The appeal of fashion, then, must grow to encompass all people and all senses.  It isn’t just fashion models, actresses, and corporate executives who need fashion.  It is firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and hospital patients.  Visual attractiveness must be joined by textural comfort, ambient security, and aural bliss.  Far from obsolete, fashion is just preparing for its entrance into the information age.
Berkowitz, K. (2013). High tech meets high fashion. Human Ecology, 41(2), 16-19.
Fortunati, L. (2013). The mobile phone between fashion and design, Mobile Media &  
    Communication 1(1), 102-109.
 Geek Fashion: An Oxymoron?
    By Laura Rizzardini
   February 1, 2014
     The information age has brought us numerous, famous billionaire geeks.  The front pages of newspapers are full of their corporate accomplishments.  Due to their wealth and high profile companions, they also populate the gossip columns.  Their mansions, vacation islands, and elaborate weddings challenge the stereotype of the unfashionable techie.  Given the global reach of informational technologies, it is hardly surprising they are popular among fashionistas.  Couture, though, doesn’t describe the appeal of tablet, notebook, and laptop computers, mobile phones, and eReaders.  Their color palette is still limited.  Their shapes range from clean to sleek; there’s little variability or ingenuity in their design. 
    It is due to their ever increasing functionality that they can be deemed sophisticated.  Their power and portability continue to improve.  Memory and battery life are extended; the size and weight of these gadgets is declining.  These improvements encourage their use around the clock.  Yet, their appearance prevents them from being a suitable accessory.  At best, bright pink plastic, polished chrome, or zebra striped leather exhibit a casual appeal.  They suggest children’s toys, beachwear, or preteen clothing.  Not only these postmodern communication devices, but also their cases detract from the appearance of stylish suits and formalwear.   Vintage technologies such as wristwatches were jewelry due to the beauty of their design, materials, and artisanship.  Their functionality never impinged upon the lines of a tailored dress or three-piece suit.     
   If this common industrial age technology successfully became a respected fashion accessory, why have taste makers neglected digital devices?  As a necessity for coping with postmodern American life, they are a response to the environment (Harms, 1938).  The disappearance of payphones, call boxes, and ambulatory beat cops requires urban residents to carry mobile phones to ensure their public safety.  Global commerce and digital accounting, design, administration, marketing, sales, and purchasing necessitate laptop computers.  They enable the management of ever increasing workloads and 24-hour work days.  Stock brokers can begin trading when the markets open overseas.  Marketers can review and respond to social media posts by customers on evenings and weekends.  Retailers can sell products to international customers. 
    As fashion’s “form is determined by [people’s] own characteristics, and especially by their mental traits” (Harms, 1938), it is understandable that the appearance of digital devices reflects their functions.  Their creators’ focus was upon their utility rather than their aesthetics.  They have been defined as tools or instruments rather than accessories.  At least in developed countries, the declining cost of mobile phones, laptop computers, and tablets fosters their egalitarian distribution.  They have become a necessity for lawyers, plumbers, homemakers, and police officers.  Children, grandparents, and teenagers use them, too.  For these reasons, the usual distinctions in age and social class afforded by fashions don’t apply (Harms, 1938).  
  Instead, fashion designers, manufacturers, and retailers have become absorbed in the sustainable and egalitarian aspects of the technological production of fashion.  Their efforts have brought organic cotton and recycled clothing to market (Scaturro, 2008).  This success has reduced the environmental impact of some cotton clothing.  It has also extended the life of clothing through serial ownership or tailoring of original designs.  Through economical second hand or vintage purchases, designer clothing is affordable for low income fashion aficionados (Scaturro, 2008).  These developments reduce the use of technology in the production of fashion.             
   Paradoxically, though, sustainable fashions are fostered by newer technologies and synthetic textiles.  Fabric production from natural sources like bamboo and corn can require more energy and chemicals.  While synthetic materials are created from fossil fuels, these fabrics last longer than natural fabrics.  They reduce energy consumption because they don’t have to be cleaned as deeply or as often as natural materials.  When fashions made from synthetic textiles are tattered, the fabrics themselves can be reconstituted.  No re-manufacture of cotton blend fabrics is possible, so synthetic purity is needed for this process (Scaturro, 2008).  Given their differing goals, collaboration between engineers and fashion designers may seem remote. Still, their continued success with more informed consumers may require it.  Aesthetics and functionality, that is, both style and substance are needed to sustain the environment and commerce. 
Harms, E. (1938). The psychology of clothes. American Journal of Sociology, 44(2), 239-250.
Scaturro, S. (2008). Eco-tech fashion: Rationalizing technology in sustainable fashion. Fashion        Theory, 12(4), 469-488.

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