Although there has been much talk of smart eye wear and timepieces like Google Glass and the Apple Watch, the high-tech fashion craze goes far beyond the old bulky wearable tech look that is already dead. We have light up clothing, 3-D printed shoes, stylish smart bracelets and statement-making dresses equipped with smart materials. Wearable technology is changing the face of our everyday routines, while making our lives much easier. Just recently, these gadgets had their moment in the spotlight with Turkish designers like Ezra Çetin and Tuba Çetin, the owners of the fashion brand, Ezra+Tuba.
Ezra Çetin (L) and Tuba Çetin
This sister duo, coming from a family that has worked in the textile industry for years, has worked abroad for international brands ranging from Victoria's Secret to Nick Nora. Specializing in haute couture and read-to-wear items, they have been intrigued by design and art from a young age. Their collection uses wearable technology, smart materials and software platform communication with smart mobile devices, while also reflecting traditional patterns such as Seljuk-era attire. The duo's latest innovative contribution to the high-tech fashion scene is the "Butterfly Dress," and as Intel reports, the dress is made from a luxury jacquard that is interwoven with metallic fibers and adorned with about 40 butterflies. The dress is embedded with a proximity sensor that allows the butterflies to react to external stimuli - anyone who approaches the person wearing this dress will see the butterflies start to flutter. The butterflies can also be released from the dress using a mobile device with a Wi-Fi connection. Daily Sabah got a chance to talk to Ezra Çetin and learn more about today's high-tech fashion scene and the inspiration behind the project.
Daily Sabah: When did you first think of blending fashion and technology? Can we describe this trend as innovation or is technology gradually becoming a necessary part of fashion?
Ezra Çetin: In 2009, the year when we were officially registered with Paris Fashion Week, we asked ourselves the following question: "Every designer has millions of dollars in investments backing them up. What we have is our own circulating capital, personal designs and PR power. We need an authentic difference to make ourselves stand out. But, what should it be?" Two years later, the answer was clear for us. With technology, consumers have become more conscious about various things, as they become more aware of what is happening around the world. They seek a more comfortable, fast and happy life and have helped us focus our attention on wearable technology. What we were looking for, as an answer, was improvements to systems that could be integrated with the human body. In 2012, we began research and development into wearable technology. Then, our path crossed with Intel. We also developed our work in collaboration with Zorlu Tekstil, Orta Anadolu and Fabra Tekstil. As a requirement, the fashion and technology industries have been developing, while synthesizing at the same time. Consumers search for products that have the potential to meet their needs for comfort in a faster way.
DS: Have you always been interested in technology or was your interest sparked later on?
EÇ: You may remember that calculator watches were very popular in the 1980s. They were a kind of wearable technology. Just think of what an amazing experience it was for children at that time. We grew up watching cult sci-fi movies like "Star Wars" or "Star Trek." Characters were communicating via calculator watches. In those years, we had a one-track mind; we wanted to design a talking dress. We used to put walkie-talkies in clothes and behave like an inventor. Now, we travel a lot, and when we are not in the office, we have a mobile life. Laptops, smart phones and necklaces are quite important as they enable us to work online. Technology is the only way to communicate without worrying about time differences when we are in different parts of the world. Yes, technology has always been a part of our lives and we have closely monitored developments. In the past, people considered us daydreamers when they did something or created a project on wearable tech. Today, all these have become a part of our lives.
DS: As you already mentioned, wearable technology is a combination of fashion and intelligence. Primarily, we come across wearable technology among sportswear collections. To what extent can we look stylish, while using smart designs at the same time? Can you evaluate your own collection from this specific aspect and share with us the main features of a smart design?
Neither smart phones nor tablets ... Wearable technology will be a hot topic in the near future. Thanks to printed electronics, now we have products that can generate energy, control our health status and perform certain tasks via voice commands. In a short time, they will also be affordable and reach the masses. Wearable technology started with sportswear, but designers - like us - are the ones who can turn these gadgets into stylish items for daily use. Among our collection, there are casual clothes along with gowns and bridal dresses. For our work, the keyword is "wearable."
DS: If we move to your Intel project, can you share with us your laboratory work? When did the project kick off, and what kind of items can we find in the collection?
What we are working on are systems that can run in an integrated way with the human body. When we describe a product as wearable tech, then it must have smart sensors, an Internet connection or Bluetooth connectivity. We work on smart fabric and thread. What we want to achieve is to design colorful but healthy products that can make life easier and faster. We considered it a big success when we were invited to the Paris Fashion Week. However, we realized the shortcomings following our runway show. [As I already said] We had to do something different to make us stand out amid other brands that have entered the market with million-dollar investments. Our work was previously driven by our personal, circulating capital. Two-and-a-half years ago, we began to collaborate with Intel and departed from the concept of blending technology and nature and how technology is inspired by it. We came up with 10 different ideas before designing the Butterfly Dress. We shared what we want for the Butterfly Dress with Intel engineers, and they designed its software by prioritizing our dreams. Working in the laboratory with them was like re-learning how to read and write. The first rehearsal was very exciting for us.
DS: Can you tell us some worldwide brands that successfully use wearable technology?
"Opening Ceremony," the fashion brand that was Intel's face before our project, is one of them. Zac Posen has designed a new smart product. Diana Von Fustenberg and its sportswear are also on the list. Primarily, Japanese and Chinese designers focus on wearable technologies.
DS: When we talk about smart designs, some questions still come to mind. Which products can be labeled as smart designs?
Wearable technology is a limitless concept. Many products that are beyond your wildest imagination are already underway, and many more will emerge in the future. First, smart design must be a product that is good for your health. In other words, it must have sufficient intelligence to enable you and your relatives to contact each other. Second, this technology must make your life more comfortable. We can say that these are smart products that help you communicate through a pair of gloves or a pocket, instead of using a mobile phone. Like our Butterfly Dress, they must have smart sensors or an Internet connection that makes your life more colorful.
DS: Before ending our conversation, what would you like to say about futuristic makeovers that will be waiting for us in the fashion world?
Wearable technology is an innovative field and a very broad concept. What we believe is that this innovative concept will break the vicious cycle that exists in the fashion world. A new era will begin in which performance and comfort will surpass traditional form. Design and fashion do require technology, but technology also needs design and fashion.