Hussein Chalayan’s High-Fashion Take on Wearable Technology

There’s a new theme every day on It’s Vintage. Read more articles on today’s topic: The History of Wearable Tech.

Long before designers set their sights on our wrists, Hussein Chalayan was experimenting with wearable tech in more grandiose forms. For instance, how about a dress with a mind of its own? For his spring 2007 show, titled One Hundred and Eleven, his frocks lifted and unfurled themselves thanks to embedded microchips. (The designer told the New York Times, “The challenge was to do something less predictable than Robocop.”) Over the course of the show, the dresses cycled through 111 years of fashion history, from the buttoned-up Gibson girl to the free-spirited flapper era to Dior’s sharp New Look silhouettes. The dresses took six months to construct and were done in collaboration with the same Italian company that worked on special effects for the Harry Potter movies.

That show wasn’t Chalayan’s only foray into making automated clothes. The designer, who has said he considers fashion design to be “an industrial product” as much as it is an art, created a remote-controlled dress for his spring 2000 collection. A young boy stepped onto the runway with a remote and “operated” the dress, so that its fuselagelike fiberglass outer layer was unfurled to reveal soft tulle.

Chalayan has also collaborated with artist Jenny Holzer to project text onto clothes and built 15,000 LED lights into a dress, which served as a screen for a mini-movie. Another one of his designs, part of his spring 2008 Readings collection, contained 200 lasers. And the following season, his pieces were equipped with moving spotlights that projected a re-creation of the Big Bang. Can your smart bracelet do that?

Remote-Controlled Dresses Are Real, Spectacular