As the dust settles in NYC and Fashion Month marches on in London, various trends are emerging on the runway for the coming seasons. But delving far deeper than simply looking gorgeous on the catwalk is fashion technology and interactive designer Birce Ozkan, whose naturally intuitive and cutting-edge work is at the intersection of innovation and style.
Özkan is expanding the possibilities of fashion with her sartorial inventions inspired by the harmonization of nature and art with fashion, technology, and the mechanics of the human body. At the center of her work lies sophisticated function underscored by beauty and fluidity—works of clever genius that one would actually want to wear without feeling like a science experiment.
Take, for example, the Augmented jacket and matching skirt. The hip-skimming jacket features a crisp, slim silhouette in black cotton, topped with stately shoulders piled with rooster feathers. The plumes aren’t just quivering randomly in the wind, but are embedded with a microcontroller, servo motors and an electronic compass that measures earth’s magnetic field. When the wearer is facing north, the feathers flare up ever so slightly, in beautiful form. Elevating humans to the grace and savvy of a bird, Özkan grants them the power of navigational prowess under sharp-looking cover.
According to Özkan, she became interested in wearable technology while she studied for her Master’s degree at Parsons. “During my research and exploration, the idea of mimicking nature’s system became my main purpose in creating my garments, and using the technology as an instrument that can enhance human’s awareness of our surrounding environment,” she told JustLuxe. “If we think about our daily clothes, we only change them based on temperature. What if when the temperature got hot suddenly, our clothes would start to break apart in response? What if they had the skill to behave depending on the surrounding conditions? What if garments had the ability to sense the environment just like living organisms? Those questions let me find the purpose for my work.”
Instead of static fabric, Özkan seeks to push past what we throw on every day and turn her garments into dynamic, living pieces. Her Fall dress, which served as the basis for her thesis project, mimics the process of defoliation in a delicate, ethereal sheath dress which responds to changes in light and temperature. The Enlightenment interactive skirt features a flamboyant butterfly at the hip, whose wings flap in accordance with the meditative state of the wearer, as read by an embedded EEG monitor and a series of motors.
As a lecturer at Parsons, Özkan teaches an Interactive Garments class to students who she says are “working together to envision the future of clothing.” As they bring their ideas to life, the designer encourages them to believe in their insight first and foremost, whether the application be artistic or practical—in Özkan’s world, it’s all capable of being nearly magical.
Özkan’s innovation is stretching across the fashion world as she works to design new, interactive pieces to make runway shows more interactive. “Imagine Victoria’s Secret Angel wings moving faster or slower depending on surrounding data,” she said. “The music level or the audience’s applause, or even the models’ body movements” could affect the visual spectacle, as the wings flutter on, fueled by the mood in the room. As boundaries blur and the raw materials to create smart clothing become more advanced, it’s safe to say that Özkan’s work will set the stage for what fashion will be able to achieve in the future, thus creating a whole new definition to the idea of “working it.”
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