JACKI LYDEN, host:
They make a dress, and personally I think I'd enjoy this dress, that lights up when you talk. I could wear it when lost in the woods at night. Fashion and technology have rarely been strangers, but as Ada Brunstein writes in the June issue of The Atlantic, designers are redesigning our second skin to merge with our electronics. Ada Brunstein, welcome.
Ms. ADA BRUNSTEIN: Thank you.
LYDEN: This was a fun and thoughtful piece. It began - you attended a February show by a designer Diana Ng and she operates a company she calls Fairy Tale Fashion. What was she trying to do with little LED lights?
Ms. BRUNSTEIN: Mainly, I think she uses them for the purpose of really drawing attention to some social aspect of the wearer. So, for example, in some of her designs, the dress lights up when the wearer speaks. In other cases, the dress will light up when the wearer is moving more quickly rather than more slowly. So, for example, it might indicate the energy level of the person wearing the dress. So, those are the various ways in which she uses the LED lights.
LYDEN: I love the hug shirt. That's the one where you put it on, a significant other or friend puts it on and you can feel the love, feel the hug.
Ms. BRUNSTEIN: Yes, exactly. Thats - I have a few favorites and that one is certainly up there.
LYDEN: Fashion's always pushed the edge. I mean, fashion is about taking us someplace we haven't been before. But what's happening to our minds and imaginations when our bodies become part of technology? When we're literally wearing our phones?
Ms. BRUNSTEIN: Yeah, this is the question that really fascinated me throughout this whole process. So, what happens when simple gestures that in the past we might have used to greet someone on the street, you know, a simple hand wave, for example, now activates a piece of technology that we're wearing?
I actually spoke with Andy Clark, who is a cognitive scientist and philosopher and author of a book called "Supersizing the Mind." And we've been talking a lot about this idea that tools, including technology, actually help expand the mind. So, when you are wearing a dress that does something, that has some electronic functionality in the form of either storing information or activating phone conversations, they sort of become not only an extension of your bodies but an extension of your mind.
LYDEN: So, do you think that younger people are more likely to adapt and use this? Because I can't imagine Queen Elizabeth, with her little wave, accessing, you know, directory information.
Ms. BRUNSTEIN: Well, I think as these designs become more mainstream, then, yeah, probably the younger generation will be the ones to probably be more open to them.
I've been seeing more celebrities wear these designs. So, for example, Cute Circuit that designed the hug shirt, it turns out the British celebrity Imogen Heap wore something called the Twitter dress at the Grammys this year, which was basically a dress that ran a Twitter feed along the collar.
So, I think these are maybe some signs that the world outside of the science labs and universities may be exposed to these designs.
LYDEN: Ada Brunstein's article, Gadgets Gone Glam, appeared in the June issue of The Atlantic. It's really been fun talking about this with you. Thank you so much.
Ms. BRUNSTEIN: Thank you, Jacki.
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