The exhibition ‘Weareable’ at the Gaité Lyrique, Paris, re-imagined the purpose of our wardrobe. Fusing technology with garments, a group of artists created surreal new clothing for the modern day woman. The week’s events centered on the question: ‘What will our clothes be capable of doing in the future?’ The general public like myself would simply answer ‘nothing more than it can do today’. However, these enigmatic artists shared a plethora of new ideas, advancing the functionality of today’s clothing. It was all very strange and abstract, the majority of the pieces must be taken with a pinch of salt, and they were prototypes, ideas, but by no means ‘wearable’- for now.
The exhibition had 15 pieces of clothing on show that were grouped under 3 categories. The first group named ‘We are Conscious’ was intended to engage and take into consideration its wearer to a deeper scale. The introductory piece, which on the surface resembled your Grandpa’s average green jumper, had integrated technology to measure the fluidity and movement of its wearer. This allowed for a convenient form of diagnosis for the patient, better than the stress of several needle pricks at the hospital. Another piece, created by 2 young inspiring Denmark artists, was a backlash to the conformist nature of fashion. ‘Everyone buys the same clothes at H&M, we would like each one to be different’ they said. To achieve this, their computer test analyzed the facial expression and personality of the wearer to create an abstract arty jumper- each one is unique.
The second category ‘we are expressive’ imagined clothing as a second skin, in a very primitive sense of the term. Capable of thought and communication, the clothing was deeply imaginative, but leaps and bounds away from the conventional clothing of today. The collection consisted of a spider dress, skeletal and threatening in appearance, which opened its claws to an impending enemy. A pulsating jacket, rubbery and skin-like in texture, which could panic or calm down depending on its environment. The piece resembled real skin and when pumped up with anxiety, it transformed into the menacing octopus in Pirates of the Caribbean!
The most aesthetically pleasing of this collection was a reptilian top, which slinked and shook in response to the approaching person. Inspired by Van Gogh’s ’Starry Night’ the top was exceptionally beautiful but extremely fragile. Similar to many of the pieces at the exhibition it was not turned on, but an informative television screen displayed the piece in action. The expression of protection through clothing had been shown, but how about expression through music? There were two unique tops on display that transformed into musical instruments. A jacket could be played as a keyboard and a Japanese Kimonos could turn into a beautiful calming harp.
Lastly, ‘we are evolutionary’. If the human has had to evolve to adapt to its environment why can’t our clothes do the same? One day, will we have to use entirely organic products to make our clothing? An artist managed to create a t-shirt made entirely from mushrooms. A copy was shown at the exhibition, as the smell of the original would have apparently been unbearable. This reflected the fragility and the overall paradoxical nature of the clothing. It was intended to be worn as a t-shirt but practicality, how would this be possible?
The final dress tackled the issue of global warming, and the devastating consequences in the near future. The dress, made of thin lace had a beautiful swirling design, which swooped down to the ground. The fabric of the dress was intended to absorb the ever- increasing amount of CO2 that is pumped into the air. The most controversial of all the pieces, the dress stood as a drastic solution to what is likely to be one of the main challenges of the future.
As well as perusing the free exhibition, the public could be hands on at the fab lab station. The laboratory consisted of several 3D and laser printers with a large workbench in the centre. Under the supervision of fab lab specialists, you were able to create a little brooch, or accessory with plastic, and watch it be transformed into a 3D product. The process of creating our own products from scratch is a new and innovative approach in a consumer- obsessed world. It stems back to a very human desire –building our own objects. The fab lab has the potential to completely transform the industrial economy and bring back the old age tradition of craft.
We are able. We are capable of protecting, expressing, evolving and creating our own clothes. The exhibition gave an insight into future needs and desires, and how our clothes will have to adapt to this. Yes it all looked crazy, unrealistic and incredibly impractical to wear. But in today’s evolving consumerist world, wearing a mushroom scented T-shirt might just be the answer.
By Anna Quinn M1