The burgeoning field of wearable technology has seen significant developments in recent years, with multidisciplinary designer and researcher Iga Weglinska at the forefront of innovation. Weglinska's seminal work, Emotional Clothing, explores the intersection of fashion, industrial design, and new technologies, providing valuable insights into the potential for wearable tech to transform our experiences with clothing.
Central to the conception of Emotional Clothing is the theory of the Extended Mind, proposed by philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers.
This theory posits that the mind is not exclusively confined within the brain or body but can extend into the physical world through material objects. According to Clark and Chalmers, objects such as diaries or personal computers can assume specific cognitive functions, acting as peripheral elements for the process of perception.
Weglinska's Emotional Clothing project serves as a tangible embodiment of the Extended Mind theory, as it employs smart materials and biofeedback technology to create garments that effectively extend the wearer's cognitive and sensory abilities.
By signaling psychophysiological changes such as body temperature, heart rate, and galvanic skin response (GSR), the clothing functions as a sensory prosthesis, enhancing the wearer's awareness of their body and emotions.
"My parents quickly noticed my interest in design and nurtured it. At the age of 8, at their suggestion, my grandma and grandpa gave me a small sewing machine. At the age of 10, my dad taught me the basics of electronics, while my mom taught me sewing, crocheting, and knitting."
The materials used in Emotional Clothing include self-moulded thermochromic materials, heart rate sensors, GSR and gesture sensors, and LED lights. These elements are combined with conductive threads and textiles laminated onto the fabric, which serve as wires. The garments also feature rechargeable power sources, such as small, flat batteries or power banks. In the future, solar panels integrated into the textiles could offer an environmentally-friendly power solution.
"During my years in an art school, I was convinced I wanted to be a fashion designer. But when I saw a plastic corset designed by Issey Miyake in a Taschen album, I decided that after completing my studies in fashion design, I would also study industrial design to explore the possibilities of materials other than textiles. Continuing my interests towards new technologies and materials felt natural to me."
In crafting the aesthetic of the garments, Weglinska intentionally chose materials that evoke associations with human skin, using skin tone colours and soft, sticky textures.
"When it comes to tactile mediums, I am fascinated by materials that simulate skin, which can either replace, enhance, or integrate with it. As for non-tactile mediums, I would love to experiment with holograms."
The creation of Emotional Clothing required extensive research and development, including collaboration with chemists, psychologists, neurocognitive scientists, ergonomists, programmers, and technical engineers. Though the current iteration of Emotional Clothing is more conceptual than practical, the project has significant potential for future development. By exploring the possibilities of wearable technology, Weglinska's work offers a speculative glimpse into a world where garments could play a vital role in non-verbal communication, mental health support, and sensory enhancement.