Clever Clothes


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
23 Sunday 23rd October 2011

Main image: Rainbow Winters S/S 11

Silly String for Clothes

I figured we should kick things off with one of the more ambitious and alternately rather hilarious forays into techy fashion: Dr Manel Torres' spray-on clothes. Where once the phrase 'spray-on' was only the domain of people making fun of/expressing disdain at the prevalance of super-skinny jeans cropping up all over the damn place, this fashion designer and Imperial College academic has interpreted the idea quite literally. And he's pulled it off, too.

Dr Torres' spray-on clothing in action

Creating a cotton polymer solution that shoots out of his canisters in a sort of silly string-like manner, Torres has the proud title of being the first designer to ever successfully execute a reusable spray-on fabric. His prototype can be worn, washed and worn again. More than that, it can also be dissolved in a specific solution and reformed into another garment too. Now, it's apparently pretty icy when first applied, but quickly dries to the weird semi-woven looking garments that we can see in this video. Luckily for us and all those with a love for aesthetically-pleasing fashion, he seems more keen to push the idea into the frontiers of medicine and more useful fabric coating. To be fair, I'd probably rather have a bandage than skin-tight top that looked like that, so I support his direction.

Dress of the Rising Sun

Rainbow Winters A/W11

Designer and theatre enthusiast Amy Winters channels her love for the unusual and reactive into her work for Rainbow Winters: a brand whose clothes transform according to light, sound and liquid. The head designer has made it part of her remit to put together collections that are both interesting to the eye, and somehow tech-savvy too. Case in point, her dresses that react to sound waves and bass. Wearing one of these in the club will make it first of all light up under any UV light, then have its pattern and print pulsate in time to the music playing. Winters is a Central St Martin's graduate, who initially worked on that Clubbing Couture collection of 2009 with fellow fashion school student, Kesniya Zagodornyuk. Though I can't say I've personally seen someone hit a dancefloor wearing one of these pieces, I'm assuming it's initially intriguing then perhaps a little distracting/hilarious.

Branching out on her own now, Winters is expanding her use of smart textiles. Her pieces not only interact with sound and artificial light but are also 'activated' by sunlight. In her watercolour-inspired ranges for spring/summer 2011 and 2012 she's handled fabric that changes colour according to the amount of sunshine it absorbs. What may start off as a plain white structured top bleeds into shades of green and pink. Some of her designs also appear to dye themselves when dampened with water. So I guess if it's a rainy day out, fans of her work get to wear two different outfits in a day; once her Rainforest Dress gets hit by stray droplets it changes colour from white to soft pastel shades of pink and blue. (Ed - isn't that a bit like wearing a pregnancy test?) Not perhaps the most practical on a cold winter's day, but one way to make the most of England's showers.

Style-Conscious Conveniences

The Raincatch coat demo

An odd sense of practicality can also factor into the design of intelligent garments. If you'd rather protect yourself from the rain, then this Raincatch raincoat could be the one for you. It's not only an actual raincoat but one that keeps you hydrated by filtering the rain dripping down your arms into a refreshing drink to trickle down your throat. Yes, there are some messy-loking tubes running all over the outside of the mac but that's a small sacrifice to make for having your own private and mobile water fountain, isn't it?

If you're after more of a calming experience, designer and researcher Dr Jenny Tillotson's come up with a dress that aims to mimic our circulation systems by pumping certain chemicals and oils around its fabric. The result is a nice cooling spritz of peppermint, camomile or whichever scent would apparently best lift a person's mood. Tillotson's also in the process of releasing a jewellery line that does the same. The next step would be for creepy dating companies to try and get the pieces to spray little doses of whichever scents are meant to make other people want to have sex with you or something.

Last in line come the variety of sportswear designs that monitor your progress when training for a marathon. Unsurprisingly Nike are pushing (and likely funding) this research as far as running shoes are concerned. They've collaborated with Apple to develop a trainer that pretty much tells you how far you've run, how many calories you've burned and how close you are to your running goals. It doesn't seem to tell you that just running is generally fine, but that would work against the marketing. Merino shirts from Twisted Citrus do the same, sending your vitals over to your laptop and even posting them on Facebook (if that's the sort of status update you're after).

Seen any other smart clothes on your voyages around the net? Tell us here.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.