Who is Anouk Wipprecht?
Anouk Wipprecht is an innovative fashion designer from the Netherlands, who combines the two fields of haute couture and artificial intelligence. Originally studying fashion designing and tailoring from the age of 14, at the age of 17, she became disillusioned by the limitations of the world of fashion, and her interest in robotics began. It was at that time she decided to merge the two things she loved the most, and thus we have FashionTech. At 33 years old, she’s been in the fashion industry for over a decade her client lists boasts such clients as Cirque du Soleil, Microsoft and Fergie from the Black Eyed peas. Her pioneering, unique designs have secondary purposes utilising biofeedback and her medical applications of this technology could quite possibly change the worlds of technology and fashion altogether.
Technology and Human Body
Wipprecht believes that fashion is a way of personal and cultural communication and expression but the standard analog fashion world lacks the interaction which modern technology offers. She’s particularly interested in the field of biomimicry; studying animal and plant behavior from the perspective of technology and engineering. Due to her interest in the way fashion can convey nonverbal communication, she’s also interested in creating garments that include monitoring devices which are able to measure heartbeats and brainwaves and can be used to indicate the level of stress or excitement in the human body. Her designs are equipped with similar mechanisms which are there to help influence well-being either in an emotional, physical or psychological manifestation. Her wearables are alive. They move, they breath, they interact with the environment and they help you connect more with yourself. Rather than just smart watches and heart rate monitors, she sees wearables as technology that can actually enrich us. From dresses designed to keep personal space, to tech to assist with ADHD, Wipprecht sees technology and fashion combined to impact positively on our lives.
The Spider Dress
One of Wipprecht’s signature dresses is the ‘Spider Dress’ named thusly due to the artificial limbs that are attached to its shoulders. Those limbs are not only a fashion statement but they also serve an important physical purpose. Inspired by the territorial displays of arachnids, the limbs are there to create more defined boundaries of personal space. When the sensors on the dress’ limbs sense someone in your personal space, they attack, warning the invader to back off. Using unconscious biosignals, the speed of the approach will influence the defensive behavior; walking towards the wearer quickly will cause the arms to extend and retract quickly, but approaching the wearer more slowly will cause the arms to move more leisurely. The legs constantly move, reacting to real-time biometrics based on social norms and violations of the same, pre-programmed into the Intel Edison chip that acts as the interface between the wearer and the external world. The closer the invader gets, the stronger the attack will be. Clothing as a defence mechanism is a very poignant commentary of the state of the world for women at the moment.
Agent Unicorn is another pioneering design that also serves dual purposes. It is a helmet with a horn (similar to that of a unicorn) and it was created to help children with ADHD or autism. The playful design contains a small camera which records the environment around the person who wears it using neurosensory technology powered by a computer chip. When the wearer’s level of excitement rises due to medication or other factors, the camera is there to record those changes. It detects what triggers their attention and helps them understand how their brains work. It is indeed a very helpful tool that can contribute to the improvement of the lives of ADHD patients and those with autism. This can also be used by therapists to help find out what triggers them.
The rapid development of technology this last decade has brought changes in many fields of our lives. Fashion has always been, and always will be about innovation and difference, so her marriage of technological advancement to the fashion industry seems to be an almost natural next step. Anouk Wipprecht was one of the first designers who saw the inevitability and effectiveness of this combination and one of the few who turned this idea into action. It won’t be long before clothes and technology become inseparable, and Wipprecht’s name will certainly pop up to the mind of those who will be searching for the roots of this innovation.