Wearing your heartbeat on your sleeve

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A file photo shows designer Anouk Wipprecht. Cafe Neu Romance/CC BY

MILAN (AFP) – Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht has a vision for a world in which people stop telling themselves little lies about their emotions – and she believes high-tech fashion is the key.

Her creations, which combine digital technology with haute couture, play with social norms and aim to engineer a cold-turkey solution to our dearest deceptions, she said on the sidelines of Milan Fashion Week.

The 32-year-old has already seen her stuff worn by former Black Eyed Peas star Fergie during a performance at the Super Bowl. She has also created 3D-printed outfits for Canadian super troupe Cirque du Soleil.

Yet one of her most deviously disruptive designs is a piece she is developing with crystal-maker Swarovski that uses built-in sensors to blink in time with the wearer’s heartbeat.

It sounds simple, and maybe even poetic to put one’s vital force on display, but it also is incredibly revealing. Imagine wearing the thing while talking to a special someone you’d like to be more than just friends with or how about a job interview? They’ll be able to see that your heart is pounding with fear or excitement.

“It’s sort of almost like you are having goosebumps, you cannot control it or you start to be red in your face. So in a really pure sense, you are able to broadcast your emotions,” she said.

“If you are wearing your heartbeat on your sleeve it is a really pure thing. It also gets you in a lot of really awkward situations that for me are super interesting.”

This fascination with where human behaviour and digital couture meet has already led Wipprecht to conjure similarly striking experiments.

One of the most famous is called the “Spider Dress”. The 3D-printed garment is topped with a collar that is studded with robotic spider legs which jump out, or “attack” when someone moves too far into the wearer’s personal space. After showing off the dress in Europe, China and the US she has made some interesting discoveries.

“People in the Netherlands, they go very fast, very close by, while in America they are more gentlemen… they stand further away,” she said. “I sometimes need to push people into the person’s space a little bit… because they really have the notion of respect.”

Her journey to a creator’s life, started early. She was about 14 when she fell in love with fashion because it’s “expressive and you can communicate with it” and began to study design. Then came her discovery of robotics.

“For me the robots had basically a brain and a heartbeat. That’s what I wanted my fabrics and garments to have,” she said.

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