Wearable Wearables: High Fashion Meets High Tech

Charge your phone on the go with your Pauline Van Dongen solar power dress

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© 2017 Louise te Poule

Having a flat phone battery is the bane of my existence. It always seems to die when I need it most. The battery life of these so-called ‘smart phones’ is so pathetic that I’m often tempted to return to my good old reliable brick.

If you’ve had the same damning thoughts, then you’ll be as interested as me in Pauline Van Dongen’s fashion projects, which incorporate technology into her clothes designs. And delightfully, her latest collection features solar-powered phone chargers.The solar panels are extremely discreet, and while the designs are quite neo-futurist, her technology is cleverly incorporated into the overall design.

Van Dongen has always been cutting edge when it comes to fashion and tech. In 2010 she was the first designer to 3D print a shoe, with visually stunning results. Van Dongen, a graduate of ArtEZ, Academy of the Arts in Arnheim, the Netherlands, began her own womenswear label in 2010.

"There is nothing natural in nature; technology makes our humanness giving form to our surroundings. The human habitat reveals a techno-morphed structure that can no longer be hidden behind the vestiges of a natural world: technology has to be naturalized."

With 3D technology, you can make structures impossible to make by hand, or injection moulding. She did an interview for Vodafone Firestarters and the Discovery Channel, who visited her studio as part of five part short documentary series, which looks at the integration of technology in the fashion industry and the innovation of the contemporary fashion craftsmanship.

She said that at first it is hard to get people used to electronics close to their skin but after a while people get used to it. She says that it’s easier to have new tech related to things we already wear...watches, glasses, etc. It’s more of a leap to go for something entirely new, and that it requires different consumer behaviour from the user.

Van Dongen believes that the likes of 3D printing will eventually result in more tailor-made solutions so that we can produce less overhead and waste. Likewise electronic components are getting smaller and more flexible, and cheaper, which will make tech and fashion collaborations easier.

My favourite thing she has made is a Mesopic Light Jacket (main picture). The jacket has been designed with nighttime visibility and safety in low-light outdoor scenarios, in mind. “Philips’ textile LED ribbons have been integrated in fabric resulting in a light-emitting jacket that merges with the city-lights glowing in the nocturnal surrounding.”

Image: © 2014 Mike Nicolaassen