Wearable technology

MzTEK is an arts and technology education organisation which addresses the gender gap between men and women working in computing and technology. Our aim is to encourage women and girls to learn and experiment with technology creatively whilst highlighting the amazing, creative and innovative work that women are contributing to the field. We do this partly through our projects such as Chi-TEK, which showcased 15 technologically modified teapots designed by leading women artists, in the setting of a giant tea party as part of the London Design Festival at the V&A Museum in 2011.

Our latest projects have explored wearable and fashion technology in workshops using the Lilypad Arduino,a microcontroller designed by Leah Buechley that can be sewn into clothes to make them interactive. We are currently working on a project with Guerilla Science called Hacked Human Orchestra. For this project we are developing wearable electronic synthesisers to be embedded into clothes by people at music festivals this summer – turning them into human musical instruments!

E-textiles, soft circuitry and wearable technology are an exciting area of research, spanning art, design, fashion, sports and medical sciences. As technology evolves it is becoming smaller and lighter, making it more portable and discreet to wear.

Designer Syuzi Pakhchyan runs a blog called Fashioning Technology which showcases inspirational fashion design within e-textiles. She has also written a book entitled Fashioning Technology that contains her own work. Fashion designer Hussein Chalayan used technology to amazing effect in his 2007 Spring collection. Other fashion designers know for their amazing creations are Moritz Waldemeyer and Dianne Eng.

Artists are also very important in the e-textiles movement. Kobakant is a collective established by Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson. They explore the use of e-textiles and aim to comment on aspects of today’s ‘high-tech’ society. Artist Rain Ashford writes a blog called I love kittens…, showcasing her work within e-textiles as well as her research into creative technology.

There are everyday uses for e-textiles which can be very beneficial. An example of this is for cyclist safety, in the form of a jacket with an indicator built-in, by Leah Buechley and created with the Lilypad Arduino. You can check it out on Instructables.

The e-textiles community is growing fast with people around the world sharing their knowledge and skills. This includes the E-Textile Workspace at V2_ in The Netherlands, the London Threads Space in the UK, the Electronic + Textile Institute in Germany and the Textiles Interaction Lab in Finland.

If you want to have a go at making some things yourself there are some great resources online:

…And if you want to get involved in this fast-paced field combining technology and fashion, you could be:

  • A fashion designer – designing clothing and fashion  ranges which include the latest wearable technology
  • A textile technologist – involved in the development and production of the latest fibres, yarns and fabrics
  • A technical textiles designer – designing and developing fibres and fabrics that are produced mainly for their technical performance and functional properties
  • A garment technologist – supporting design and buying teams through all stages of product development, from design to manufacture
  • A textile designer – creating fabric designs and patterns for woven, knitted and printed materials used to make clothing, interior furnishings and other textile products whilst keeping up to date with developments in manufacturing technology


Article kindly written by Emilie Giles and Sophie McDonald of MzTEK.