Decoding Design

Wearable electronics are starting to become fashion statements

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Soon, you might need to make sure your batteries are charged up before heading out on the town -- not to power your phone, but to illuminate your duds.

Sure, it's not surprising that hackers and makers are starting to integrate electronics into their wardrobes. Companies such as Adafruit, which sells do-it-yourself kits for things like iPhone chargers, are starting to offer wearable electronics kits, designed to control and illuminate lights and displays that are sewn into clothing or accessories.

But in haute couture? Yep, the technology is landing there, too, as described in the New York Times' Novelties column last weekend. Soon, you might need to make sure your batteries are charged up before heading out on the town -- not to power your phone, but to illuminate your duds.

After years of research and development in media arts labs and university, advances in flexible, stretchable circuitry and increasingly compact, discreet microprocessor designs have helped usher wearable electronics past the prototype stage.  The Times calls out Moon Berlin, a German clothing line (launched by the label Franken & Bruns) that is now selling evening wear with integrated LEDs, which brighten as the wearer moves around.

Bridging the geek and fashion worlds are Adafruit's iCufflinks, handsome aluminum cufflinks with a computer on/off symbol over a pulsating LED.

Vega, a line of outerwear designed by Canadian Angella Mackey, has a bit more utilitarian value. "Invisible by day and indispensable at night, the lights’ glow helps you be seen while walking or cycling in the dark," boasts the Vega website. For the maker set, Adafruit is working on smartphone apps that could be used to make clothing even more functional, says the Times. One could use the app to "make T-shirts for joggers, for instance, that include LEDs that glow red or orange when air quality is poor, with a Bluetooth connection to tweet the information to other joggers."

In the nearer term, look for more high-end labels to start weaving LEDs into their lines. Think of it as sequin on steroids. Here's a video showing Moon Berlin's line, in action:

Moon Berlin Show1811 from Manuel Stettner on Vimeo.

Via: New York Times

Image: Copyright Emily White, Berlin Moon

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure