Van Dongen’s New Jacket Will Make You Love Touch #WearableWednesday #wearabletech #fashion #tech

Issho Jacket

This new jacket by Pauline van Dongen is ready to jolt the wearable tech world because it’s not about the quantifiable you; it’s about understanding the emotional connection behind why you wear clothing. The jacket Issho, which in Japanese can translate to “together”, emphasizes the feeling of wearing an outer protective layer. Van Dongen offers explanation on her LinkedIn:

Focusing on the tactile qualities and the symbolism of the jacket, the jacket should encourage a sense of security and inclusiveness in which the jacket responds to being touched. This translates by the touch of its wearer as well as by external bodies that can influence the jacket’s integrated touch sensors.

As you might guess, this project is with a partner, ItalDenim, resulting in an interesting weave with conductive yarn. I want to highlight the interesting design of the garment, which is all moto jacket up front and swing coat from behind. Check out the flowing movement of the style in the video; this is not your tight fitting ’70s jacket.

The conductive yarns seen on the outside are allowing touch to be translated inside the jacket. Although the response is not clear (most likely intentional on the part of van Dongen to de-emphasize the tech), I suspect it uses vibration sensors. It’s interesting to imagine how this might affect the wearer on a typical day. I can imagine placing keys in my pocket, getting jostled while entering a subway car, crossing my arms while waiting in line at a store and carrying a tote bag on my shoulder. Many of these actions would trigger a reaction from the jacket, keeping me mindful throughout the day. In a time period when we are bombarded by insane schedules and notifications on our phones, it’s nice to see an experiment in being present. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, van Dongen is less interested in metrics and wants the discussion to be how we use our clothing. In fact, she wants to redefine wearables as mentioned on her site after a trip to SXSW.

I personally would like to encourage everyone to no longer hold on to the distinction between fashion and wearables. To clarify how a garment is different from the ‘non-augmented’ garments we are used to wearing, something could simply be named technology enabled, interactive, intelligent or smart. It has proven to be very hard for customers to appropriate intelligent clothing and make it their own, and designers in this realm certainly struggle with this. Especially when 1) we don’t manage to break out of the smartphone paradigm 2) we fail to show that intelligent garments are in many ways just like any other item of fashion.

It’s going to be a long haul to change the vocabulary in the industries, but it does help to re-center design, considering the emotional and physical impact of what is created. Clothing can communicate many things, and if you find yourself wanting to explore that notion then check out Make: Wearable Electronics by Kate HartmanYou’ll learn how embedded electronics can make garments react, creating interesting social implications. Design your own fashion experiments and throw a party to see the reactions. Don’t forget to share your work with us!

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  1. I really wish it was clear what this actually DOES. A “subtle bodily sensation” could mean just about anything. Heck, when I touch someone over the jacket without the tech involved at all it still produces a “subtle bodily sensation”. This is a great example of art-speak ruining documentation and excluding anyone not directly involved from understanding or enjoying the piece.

  2. Hey @pelmel, yes, it’s a bit of a mystery. Normally I would cry artspeak as well, but van Dongen has a history of being open about her work, despite a fashion industry that is full of proprietary culture. Check out her Instructable for FlipDot wearable That is why I think she is making a point of talking about vocabulary here. Still a fan here.

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