When it comes to dressmaking, most designers stick with fabric, needle and thread.
But for Becca McCharen, the designer behind clothing line Chromat, a 3-D printer replaces the sewing machine at times, and materials like Flexinol wire and shape-memory alloys are part of her sewing kit.
The 3-D printed “Adrenaline Dress” debuted last Friday at Chromat’s Spring/Summer 2016 fashion show, during MADE Fashion Week. It was the result of a collaboration with computer chip maker Intel, and yet another example of technology’s increasing presence in the fashion world.
The dress uses the Intel Curie Module, a low-power hardware solution with sensors and connected capabilities, made specifically for integration into wearables, like fitness trackers and other “smart” accessories. Attached to the back of the 3D-printed, black sheath dress was an hourglass-shaped, carbon fiber framework made up of 365 interlinked pieces. The dress stood out not only for the large, geometric backdrop it provided the wearer, but for the fact that said backdrop could contract and expand based on the wearer’s adrenaline and stress levels. McCharen said she took her design cues from nature.
“When animals are in fight-or-flight mode, when they feel stressed ... their silhouette expands. That concept of [an] adrenaline response is the inspiration behind the dress,” McCharen said. “In the scenario where this dress would be interacting would be when the wearer feels that they’re in danger or when they feel that they need to be the most strong, powerful version of themselves."
McCharen explained how an adrenaline sensor in the waistband could detect the wearer’s shortness or quickness of breath in stressful situations, and relay that information to Flexinol wires atop the dress, which then trigger the expansion of the carbon fiber framework behind the dress.
For McCharen, whose architectural designs already evoke a futuristic version of fashion, the integration of technology seems to be a natural evolution.
The Adrenaline Dress "is a dress that kind of represents what is possible in the future of fashion technology," she said.
It may not be the most practical solution for everyday wear, but the dress presents possibilities for even more personalized and customizable fashion, one that takes its cues from the wearer’s own body.
“My goal for the long term would be complete customization, complete accessibility,” McCharen said. “Having clothing be downloadable like an .mp3, and having that change the entire industry where you’ll just be like, hacking a collection, downloading the files, applying it to your body scan and printing it out in the color of your choice. That accessibility ... is something that I find really interesting.”