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Fashion X Technology: Ricardo O'Nascimento

Popkalab's founder turns "what if?" into the wearable future

by Meghan Killeen in Style on 11 September 2013

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British sci-fi author and 2001: A Space Odyssey writer Arthur C. Clarke famously claimed "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Evidently agreeing with that concept is Popkalab, an innovative platform that helps turn "What if?" into a pioneering step towards the future. Founded in the Netherlands and Brazil by new media artists and researcher Ricardo O’Nascimento, Popkalab develops interactive video installations, walls and prototypes for intelligent clothing. O’Nascimento—who has a background in social science, having studied in the Interface Culture Department at Linz University of Arts—explores human behavior through haute-tech textiles.

Paving a path for intuitive clothing, O’Nasciemento teamed up with designer Anbasja Blanken to create the tongue-in-cheek piece "Paparazzi Lover," a futuristic dress comprised of 62 lightbulbs that simultaneously light up when sensing an absence of movement—"to remind the photographers who the real star is." Popkalab’s "Head Bang Hero" is a riff on popular video games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band that have now become cultural phenomenons; the music and dance video game tests one's head-banging prowess while simultaneously monitoring health risks. By raising awareness about injuries, "Head Bang Hero" playfully studies the relationship between entertainment such as going to a metal rock concert or playing video games and our physical health.

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With so much innovation occurring all the time, Popkalab uses social media to make tech-minded fashion accessible for everybody: With tweet-capable technology. When asked to showcase a piece for Moondial and CH's co-curated Fashion X Technology exhibition, O’Nascimento paired up with Opening Ceremony to embed electronics in their collaborative shoe design with Adidas. The result was a piece aptly titled "Jump!"—sneakers that enable their wearer to leave both a physical and virtual path. One jump allows a post to Twitter, two jumps take a Google Streetview photo and posts it to Facebook, while three jumps enable the wearer to pin their personal Google map. The shoes are connected to an Android app on the Moto X via Bluetooth and are performed via a tailor-made app.

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Exploring the body’s relationship with technology further, Popkalab teamed up with Berlin-based fashion store Bless Services to launch Recording Shoes. These shoes record the wearer's steps and then hauntingly play them back when stationary. O'Nascimento explains, "We wanted to create a sound confusion by extending the sound and detaching it from the real action." A compliment to the echo of fallen footsteps, O'Nascimento and Bless also designed the multi-faceted Orchestra Scarf (also on show at Fashion X Technology) which is a shroud that contains different sound modules linked to fasteners. The music starts up when buttoning up, enabling the "possibility to hear different parts of an orchestra separately, but still ensuring the sounds worked well with one another." How the shroud is fastened dictates which sounds and, in turn, which "song" it will play.

Fashion X Technology is a show of innovative, tech-driven couture created in collaboration with Dr. Sabine Seymour of Moondial, presented at New York's OCBTW and brought to you by Motorola.

Lead image courtesy of Popkalab, other images by Josh Rubin

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