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iStyle: The future of fashion

From dresses that display digital messages to 3D-printed clothes, technology is set to revolutionise our wardrobes, says Stephanie Hirschmiller

How great would it be if someone invented a dress which doubled up as a mobile phone? Turns out they have already. The wearable-technology label CuteCircuit designed a prototype back in 2005. More recent creations include the LED dress donned by Katy Perry on American Idol last year and the Twitter dress Nicole Scherzinger wore to the launch of EE in Battersea Power Station in November. Fans could literally tweet the dress, which displayed their messages in real time.

The design house’s co-founder Francesca Rosella was one of the speakers at a workshop on wearable technology last week at a girls’ school in London and where the school’s Year 9s (and yours truly) got down to the serious business of designing some flashing LED T-shirts and programming pairs of sunglasses.

The event, run by Little Miss Geek (LMG; littlemissgeek.com), a social-enterprise arm of Lady Geek, a campaigning agency making technology accessible and appealing to women, also featured talks by LMG’s chief executive, Belinda Parmar, and Clara Mercer, the marketing director of the British Fashion Council (BFC), and sponsorship from tech giants Microsoft and Dell.

The BFC has a partnership with  Vodafone which sponsors designers to work creatively with its technology. Last year, it was Richard Nicoll, who unveiled a bag with a built-in charger for a mobile device. Most excited about innovations in 3D printing, Mercer is confident it will crop up in a Marc by Marc Jacobs accessories collection in the not-too-distant future.

Francesca Rosella started out designing for Valentino, but when ideas for GPS handbags were not met with enthusiasm, she launched her own firm. In 2010, her “Galaxy” dress (created from 24,000 micro LEDs) was displayed at Chicago’s MSI museum, caught Katy Perry’s attention, and the rest is history. A SIM card slotted into the tag on her prototype mobile-phone dress and a microphone and speaker in the cuff mean you just lift your hand to ear to answer. (It’s also washable!)

But back to that circuit board. With a little help from the LMG team, my LED was soon flashing with the best of them.

It is testament to the power of fashion that Google chose the US designer Diane von Furstenberg’s New York show last year to premiere its Google Glass augmented-technology specs. According to Parmar, fashion and technology “have collided and fashion is driving how we integrate technology into our clothes”.

Parmar is also hugely excited about innovations in 3D printing – not least the first dress to be produced on a 3D printer unveiled this year by Dita Von Teese – but she is more interested in wearable technology taking on a pivotal role in our lives. Current favourite invention is the programmable GPS shoe created by Dominic Wilcox: “They have an antenna which tells you which direction to go via flashing LED lights – just like Dorothy clicking her heels in The Wizard of Oz!”