DDW16, Today’s Design Thinkers Planning for the Tomorrow’s Future [Roadtrip Series]

Muchaneta Kapfunde
Founding Editor in Chief at | editor@fashnerd.com

Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She also contributes to other digital news sites like Wareable.

In its 15th year, Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2016 is a creative event that brags over 2500 national and international visitors. Invited to attend, FashNerd was excited to be part of the crowd, discovering the latest minimalist, experimental, innovative and unconventional design aesthetics.

Photo Credit: Dezeen
Photo Credit: Dezeen

More International than Dutch, the 9 day event brings together solution-oriented thinkers and doers who are not afraid to take a different perspective on what the future could look like. Taking place in Eindhoven, DDW gives attendees a sneak peek into the minds of what today’s free thinkers have planned for the tomorrow’s future.

“Design does not stop with a beautifully designed product. It has become an attitude to life.”- Vrij Nederland

As we walked through the different exhibitions, fellow FashNerd Mano ten Napel and I found ourselves drawn to the more unconventional creatives, whose unique projects explored possibilities without borders. We also looked forward to meeting young designers from the three Dutch universities of technology practicing different disciplines and exhibiting their work at Mind the Step.

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With so much on offer, there were a few projects that stood out, and one of them was the anti-surveillance coat. Drawing a crowd, the jacket’s super power was its ability to protect you and your privacy. It is the kind of power that gives you back control so easily lost in our current information driven environment. Designed by Project KOVR, the unisex smart jacket makes use of metalliferous fabrics to not only shield the chips in your cards but to also make your mobile untraceable.

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We loved this coat. It comforted me knowing that I have the option to protect my personal data. Especially since the security of private information is a hurdle that stops some people from adopting certain technology products. I do not think that we should have to choose between our privacy and owning a technological device. Blocking every in and outgoing signal, project KOVR offers us the kind of privacy that allows us to choose to be reachable or unreachable on the device of our choice. Impressed by Project KOVR, we did not think it was possible to find a cooler product until we ran into the InMoov Robot.

A project by Parisian sculptor and model-maker Gael Langevin, InMoov is the first open-source 3D printed robot. What makes it special is that anyone who owns a 3D printer can make the InMoov robot themselves at home. Seeing the robot as his ‘contribution to the open source 3D world’, Langevin published the first blueprints back in 2011 and presented the first prototype in 2013. Since then the InMoov robot has been benefiting from everyone improving its components for the better. With the potential to be developed and distributed, Langevin’s end idea is to be able print our own prosthesis at home, imagine that!

Wowed by 2016’s answer to Will Smith’s i-Robot, we soon stumbled upon Angella Mackey a pHD student from Eindhoven University of Technology. Specialising in wearable technology, Mackey is also founder of Vega Wearable Light, a collection of illuminated outerwear for fashion-conscious cyclists from 2011-2014. At DDW 2016, her project promised ‘never a dull moment’ when it comes to our clothes. Exploring digital fabric, she is looking to solve the daily dilemma faced by many women (and some men), on how to liven up a boring outfit. Known for designing hyper-functional garments, her answer to this everyday problem is the digital chroma key technique. Chroma key, also known as chroma keying, is a special effects technique where you layer images or video streams together based on color hues- the chroma range. Mackey, who lectures on the design challenges of wearable electronics, explores the dynamic fabric and mixed-reality fashion whilst questioning what does this mean for the aesthetic perception of fashion? and how might this create shifts in fashion?

With these questions whirling through our minds, we continued to nosey around the Mind the Step exhibition were we ran into future concept designer Kristin Neidliner, the founder of Sensoree. Curious about how wearable technology could be therapeutic, emotive and enhance sensory awareness, Kristin works with futuristic fabrics made from sustainable materials embedded with sensitive technologies. We love how Sensoree gives our body a voice that speaks a language of self awareness, insight, communication and empathy.

Sensoree Mood Sweater
Sensoree Mood Sweater

Deciding to catch up over a coffee, we quickly settled into an easy discussion about all things fashion tech, before deciding that DDW was the perfect place to try on the fabulous GER Mood Sweater a highlight at the Manifestation exhibit. For those unfamiliar with this famous Sensoree garment, allow me to enlighten you. The Mood Sweater is a ‘device’ that interprets emotion and displays excitement levels instantly with an illuminated collar. Kristin describes it as a  “whimsical approach to new forms of communication inspired by the body”. As she helps me put it on, Kristin explains that the technology she used was based on Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which reads electrodermal activity. GSR allows the sweater to promote what Kristin calls “extimacy”,  an externalized intimacy that showcases how you feel on the inside to the outside world.

Once on, Kristin showed me where the sensors are located, which was on the hands. Designed with a high cow neck like collar, the mood sweater has LED lights that reflect onto the self for instant biofeedback. On me, the mood sweater turned blue. Curious on what this meant, I asked Kristin, who told me that blue read ‘calm and focused’. Smiling, I wanted to know what the rest of the palette colours meant. Smiling back at me she informed us that;

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After spending some time in the world of Sensoree, we left appreciating how the visual interface can truly offer new forms of speaking. As we left the DDW, we found ourselves looking forward to meeting more designers of Kristin’s calibre, innovators who think outside the box like project KOVR, natural born thinkers who make the impossible possible like Gael Langevin and talent the likes of Angela Mackey exploring design challenges of wearable electronics. The day ended on a positive note. We left DDW excited about the next batch of futuristic doers who will be showcasing in 2017.

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The FashNerd team’s Roadtrip Series takes readers on a journey that explores the person behind the accomplishments. Be sure to catch up on previous articles.