Designers turn to tech: Science-based new fashion items offer fun, convenience

A model walked down the runway during Paris Fashion Week in September with an Issey Miyake clutch bag that changed colour from white to black, then to grayish gradations as it responded to the model's movements.

The gradual colour change was generated by "electronic paper," a high-tech display device used as one of the materials in the bag.

Issey Miyake jointly developed the product with Fashion Entertainments, a project of Sony Corp.

The e-paper device changes colour by using the team's original technology to apply different voltages to the corners of the e-paper.

"We proposed it as fabric you could have fun with, not paper," said Makoto Akagi, a Sony employee.

This is just one of several fashion items to debut recently featuring advanced digital technologies.

The products stem from flexible, entertaining ideas, such as changing appearance based on the user's movements and improving the convenience and comfort of daily life.

In September, a company called no new folk studio Inc. released Orphe sneakers, which the maker calls "smart footwear."

The shoes emit light in various colors in response to the user's movements.

The translucent soles have 100 built-in light-emitting diodes. Sensors contained in the footwear's front section change colors and have different light-flashing patterns.

The colour combinations can be designed by using a dedicated app for smartphones.

Sounds can be played based on movement.

The product was one of this year's Good Design Award recipients.

"We made the shoes as a tool of artistic expression that can make our lives more colorful and delightful," said Yuya Kikukawa, chief executive officer of the company.

Problems still to be solved

Minotaur sells dress jackets and zip-up sports jackets under its I/O Collection brand that have built-in heating devices, which can be controlled by a smartphone.

The clothes are warmed up in only 30 seconds to 60 seconds after the system is activated.

Users can choose four different temperature levels.

The colour of an icon attached to the chest changes to red, green and a few other colors in accordance with the temperature change.

Google Inc. and Levi Strauss & Co. are also jointly developing "smart wear" that can remotely control a smartphone or other device when the user touches the clothing.

There are several problems to solve about these new additions to the market, such as the battery's size and life, said Hiroaki Mizutani of DiFa, a website providing information on digital technologies and fashion products.

"But there are high expectations for the new market formed by such products, as the fashion industry is facing sluggish consumption. The market will continue growing," Mizutani said.

In the near future, fashion items may even be evaluated based on their performance and functions - just like home electrical appliances - as people wear such items on a daily basis.Speech