Designing functional fashion is and should be more than just the latest smart jewellery with the ability to give you notifications or a handsome tech bag that charges your mobile on the go. When it comes to ‘needs vs. wants’, we should try to keep in mind that what is functional for some, like a smart watch that reminds us of our business appointments, could quite easily be a life saver for those who depend on a smart watch to remind them to take their medicine.
A great example of functional fashion that caters more to ‘needs’ than ‘wants’ is Cute Circuit‘s sound shirt. It is capable of translating sounds into sensations in order to help those who are hard of hearing to ‘feel’ music. In my opinion, such innovations are born when one selflessly asks ‘what can we do to make your life better?’ .
When it comes to exploring functional fashion,it is important that we first recognise that technology is a tool with the ability to help us reach our end goal. As it gets smaller and more nifty we are given more freedom to use new technology in ways that could improve someone’s life. This is a realisation that companies such as MagnaReady have come to appreciate.
Founded by Maura Horton, MagnaReady has come with a clever way of magnetically infusing buttons on shirts so those who find it difficult to button their shirt can do so with greater ease. Inspired by her husband, who lives with Parkinsons disease, Horton designed a man’s shirt that assists those with limited mobility. The classic Oxford shirts are 100% cotton, stain resistant, wrinkle free and each shirt is hand sewn with a side pleated back. Besides the popular shirts, MagnaReady technology has also been used in their ties, giving them the same easy to put on capabilities as the shirts. With 9 shirt and 3 tie styles currently available, MagnaReady is proving that when it comes to fusing men’s fashion with technology, the sky is definitely the limit. Shirt prices start from $62.95 and ties $17.99.
Another brand designing the kind of stylish, functional fashion that benefits those with health restrictions is Nike. The sports giant was inspired back in 2012 by Matthew Walzer, a young teenager with Cerebral Palsy who complained that due to his illness he could not tie his Nike shoe laces. Realising that their customers also included those who are physically challenged like Matthew, Nike decided to solve the problem by developing a technology that gave birth to the LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease. Released last summer (2015), the innovative trainers brag a wraparound zip system that opens the back of the shoe near the heel, the stylish trainers can be opened with one hand, making them the perfect addition to the fashion wardrobe of those with disabilities.
For those who live with autism Reveal, created by Awake Labs, is a handsome wearable that measures and tracks anxiety so loved ones can better understand the behavior of a sufferer. Designed to prevent meltdowns, Reveal measures and tracks physiological signals in real time using state of the art sensors that are combined with an advanced algorithm to measure and track physiological signals. We love that it has the ability to notify the parent, caregiver, teacher, or therapist about changes in physiological signals. Fashionably functional, we definitely need more wearables such as Reveal, so be sure to support their Indiegogo campaign here.
Which brings us to 3D printing, an innovation that has been striving to make a difference in the fashion industry for a while now. Who doesn’t appreciate its ability to create amazing fashion pieces, I know we do, hello Iris van Herpen but 3D printing technology can also be applied to help those with disabilities. Companies such as London based Layer Design founded Benjamin Hubert, have come up with a whole new concept to the term ‘made to measure’ with their stylish 3D printed wheelchair named ‘Go’.
It took two years of research before Layer Design came up with a wheelchair that boasts a custom form seat and foot-bay that is driven by 3D digital data derived from mapping each user’s biometric information. Accurately fitting the individual’s body shape, weight and disability, the 3D printed wheelchair is available with an accompanying GO app that will allow users to participate in the design process by specifying optional elements, patterns and colourways, and to place orders. With 3D printing still struggling to create practical clothing, Go is a great achievement because it is truly both functional and fashionable.