In conversation with INTERLACED the designer of Rainbow Winters talks about the link between fashion-tech and emotion
Artistic might not be the most common adjective to describe tech-infused fashion, but its definitely a concept that runs along Amy Winters designs. The London-based designer of Rainbow Winters doesn't shy away from drama; in fact she seeks it. From a dress that lights up like a thunderstorm in response to sound (see main picture), to a gown with sun and water reactive ink, Amy has brought over the past five years a range of innovative and environmentally-inspired designs. A regular attendee at International CES in Las Vegas, showcasing her projects in 2014 and 2015, Winters has been featured by Wired, Marie Claire and Stylist, and her designs have been shown at a variety of exhibitions like 'Made in Future' in Milan, 'Lightwave' at the Science Gallery in Dublin and at The House of The Lords.
Experimenting with interactive textiles, colour changing inks, led lights and motion sensors, the designer has managed to become a voice in the realm of performance tech-fashion, proving that there is a forgotten link between technology and fashion: art and narration."My work seeks to express the emotive and aesthetic capabilities of emerging technologies through unique cross-discipline research and commercialisation ideas, which marry cutting-edge science and fashion" explains Amy. "Rainbow Winters creates emotional experiences from smart, textile-based garments and gives the ‘wow’ factor to the entertainment, fashion and advertising industries with interactive wearable design."
As a costume design student at Central Saint Martins, Amy loved creating special effects on her designs, and she hasn't stopped weaving a story into each garment since. "Theatre design is about creating a visual narrative and smart textiles do exactly that - they start to create a story through material.," she says. Though she has a daring, tech-savvy customer in mind, her pieces can easily fit in music videos, concerts, red carpets and editorial projects where a striking performance is required. She is sure, however, that there is a also market for her fashion-forward clothes among a more traditional public. "Consumers are humans and humans are interested in emotional experiences," she thinks "A lot of what’s out there is about measuring and quantifying but once we start concentrating on human and emotion-centric features then the real interest will start." With many fitness bands out there that measure from our heartbeats to how many good hours of sleep we get, and accessories that connect with our smartphones to deliver notifications, Amy's assessment might be right on point. So drawing her inspiration from nature is how the designer chooses close that gap and cast an emotive light on her garments. "Of course, we are still prototyping but the creativity and technology are nearly there."
From the range of technologies she plays with, Amy thinks that the one that has the biggest potential to become mainstream is stretch reactive fabric. "For a mass-market appeal the stretch-reactive polymer opal technology probably has the most commercial appeal for sports-wear. It is created without using dyes or other applied colourants, polymer opals reflect specific colours due to their physical structure which could potentially be used to replace some of the toxic dyes currently used to colour fabrics in the textile industry. Not only would the polymer opals be more environmentally friendly and safer to work with, but also, unlike dye, their color wouldn’t fade or run," she explains.
Currently focused on developing a proprietary technology to be patented and licensed out for wearable/fashion applications, Amy believes that the biggest challenge in the wearable technology field often comes from the business of fashion. "[...] The ‘language’ of fashion-tech is a bit of a barrier for the fashion industry. The fashion industry tends to take a conservative approach because they need to make money, which comes first. This means they need an easy-to-manufacture approach and the fash-tech market is not quite there yet," she says.
"I think smart watches and tech accessories will have their moment and then evolve into something more interesting. Right now though they don’t offer us anything apart from an extension of our current gadgets re-worked into an ‘on-body’ format, but once the technology becomes part of the textile and is soft, flexible and conformable, then we will start to see the killer applications!" she says.
With Google's Project Jacquard now in the picture - and the scalable technology that turns fabric into an touch-pad now soon to become available - Amy's prediction might sooner than expected emerge as reality.
If you want to find out more about the future of fashion join us at #INTERLACED2015 on 3rd September. Early bird tickets are on sale now.