Generative fashion design Fashion between art and technology

Random Shirt
Random Shirt | Photo (detail): Katrin Passig

In times in which aesthetic standards for Google’s high-tech head-worn display “Glass” are being sought, designers are demonstrating that linkages between art, technology and fashion often show the most promise where technological aspects serve to realise a conceptual idea.

Loss of control

Shirt 31477980, Kathrin Passig Shirt 31477980, Kathrin Passig | © In early March 2013, Solid Gold Bomb made headlines. The fashion label, originally from Australia but now located in Massachusetts, and which up until a few years ago had been producing in Düsseldorf and later in Metzingen, had offered T-shirts for sale on Amazon that outraged an international public via Twitter and Facebook. The reason was allegedly a computer application that automatically randomly picked out half of the slogans on the T-shirts from the dictionary, generating sentences calling for murder or rape, without the results having been checked beforehand.

41121250000000 motifs

Trikoton Lookbook Trikoton Lookbook | Photo: Marie Jakob, 2011 Kathrin Passig, a journalist and author living in Berlin, who – in addition to winning the 2006 Ingeborg Bachmann Award, the most prestigious German-language literature contest – is also known as co-founder of the Berlin network for creative professionals “Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur,” has taken precautions. To prevent a case like this from occurring with her product “Zufallsshirt” (i.e. randomness shirt), the texts on the T-shirts she sells come from writer friends – and not least from Passig herself. In an online shop (of the company Spreadshirt), “Zufallsshirt” advertises with the slogan “Dieses Shirt jetzt kaufen! Kommt nie wieder!” (i.e. buy this shirt! One time only!), and is based on a principle whereby software generates motifs for customers from among an immense number of short texts, typefaces, patterns and images, whose respective combinations are for all intents and purposes unique.

You have messages

Scarf “The Paul Auster Edition” Scarf “The Paul Auster Edition” | Photo: Trevor Good Passig’s concept stands for a trend in linking art, fashion and technology, in which the technology does not directly interact with the material while the garment is being worn. Instead, it is only used in manufacturing and simply produces a trace, and thus an all-the-more characteristic pattern or motif. In recent years, the Berlin label “Trikoton,” for instance, founded in 2010 by fashion designer Magdalena Kohler, product designer Hanna Wiesener and interaction designer Hannes Nützmann, has been successful in the field of generative fashion design through interactive production processes. Trikoton’s principle consists in having the customer speak messages with his or her own voice onto the label’s website or record songs, whose distinguishing features are then digitalised into the garments’ knitting pattern, giving them a personal touch. The label, which cooperates with local manufacturers and with artists for limited editions, speaks of a “special combination of traditional crafts and high-tech proficiency.”

Taking your pulse

Alba Prat Alba Prat | Photo: Alex Waespi A similar generative principle is to be found in the project “TK 730” (2011), a group of four designers working in the Netherlands, one of whom, Anja Hertenberger, comes from Germany. Instead of one’s own voice, entering a text in a typewriter keyboard generates a knitting pattern, where the installative moment of the machine, which has also been redesigned according to aesthetic principles, also contributes to the sensory perception of the product and the project. The young designer Alba Prat, originally from Barcelona and living in Berlin, takes a more minimalist approach in her collection “syn chron.” Inspired by an installation of the same name by the artist Carsten Nicolai, Prat had her pulse registered before and after physical activity, and generated patterns and blue or red colour gradients from the two frequencies respectively. Prat won the “H&M Design Award 2013” audience prize for the realisation of this concept. Practically overnight, her collection became one of the most-blogged examples of generative fashion design.

DADAgear DADAgear | Photo: Ebru Kurbak, © DADAgear, 2008 The “DADAgear” team’s idea, on the other hand, is textile communication that can be playfully generated among several participants. In this project, media artist Anika Hirt, who was born in Hamburg, designer Onur Sönmez, originally from Izmir, and Italian artist Mauro Arrighi apply principles of randomness-generation from the DADA Movement of the 20th century: conceived as “a technology project, happening and electronic-generative poetic tool,” DADAgear’s hoodies are staged by their wearers as a tool for generating a poetry slam.

DADAgear DADAgear | Photo: Onur Sönmez, © DADAgear, 2008 Equipped with pressure sensors, Bluetooth-technology and linked with a databank with sounds and spoken words, the literary text resounding in the room becomes all the more complex the greater the number of participants touching each other – “Zufallsshirt 2.0.,” so to speak.