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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 08:50 GMT
Fashion for the digerati
BBC Go Digital's Jon Wurtzel casts a wry eye over developments in the world of technology

A new form of interactive fashion has emerged that aims to turn the consumer into the designer.

Origami fashion pack
Shoppers receive a flat rectangular pack
It is called origami fashion and it is being prototyped at the Design Laboratory at the Central Saint Martins School of Art in London, UK.

In origami fashion, a person takes a piece of material and through a series of simple folds, transforms a two-dimensional layer of fabric into a three-dimensional accessory.

Currently, the designs being modelled turn out to be bags suitable for carrying those essentials of a digital lifestyle: MP3 players, digital cameras, etc.

Stylish and different

Origami fashion starts with a question. Shoppers will be asked how they intend to use their product and given three options: listen, play, or shoot. Depending on how they respond to these cryptic options, the shoppers will receive a specific, flat, rectangular pack.

The pack, about 30 centimetres square, looks like a computer chip with a red tab running across the top. When you pull this tab open, a set of instructions along with a piece of fabric spills out of the pack.

Origami fashion
After unfolding, the material is transformed into new products
The instructions guide users to fold the fabric in simple, marked ways. After a series of roughly five folds, the material is transformed into new products.

On offer at the moment are a range of stylish bags aimed at different functions. These include a rucksack with a pocket for an MP3 player, a wraparound bag offering easy access to a camera, and a foldout carrier that can hold digital toys and games.

And where bags lead, a range of clothing may also be marketed in the future.

The material is made from a polyester laminate that is strong, durable and does not fray. It is also recyclable. Abstract patterns of computer chips run across the fabric, giving away that Intel is one of the sponsors of the project.

Vending Machines

Currently, the fashion range exists only as a prototype. But, when they do go to market, the Design Laboratory would like to see them delivered in alternative methods, outside of retail shops.

origami fashion
It can be a bag to hold your digital accessories
With the goal of enabling easy and constant access, the lab is thinking about selling them in vending machines. Alongside these machines would be recycle bins where the used products could be discarded.

This fashion range was designed for a European audience, though they may also be launched in America. It may be a few seasons, however, before you can purchase these pouches.

The practicalities of selling recyclable street fashion via vending machines are, unsurprisingly, still being assessed and worked out.

Recyclable fabric

The recycleability of this material affords some interesting opportunities.

origami fashion
In the future you could wear it
It means that users can change their creations from day to day, quickly recycling their old products in exchange for new ones.

The designs can also be easily updated and transformed, yet still emerge from the same piece of recyclable material.

For the Design Laboratory to make good on this promise of recyclable fashion, it will have to demonstrate that this polyester laminate material can be effectively recycled in ways that are environmentally sustainable and cost-effective.

Otherwise, this specific origami fashion risks becoming another trend to be used and discarded with perhaps even greater rapidity than other products.

Digital fashion

The lifestyle aims of this project are clearly targeted towards digital technology.

These are, after all, accessories that are designed to enable people to listen to MP3 music files, take digital photographs, and have easy access to their games, all while on the move.

Digital toys, handhelds and MP3 players have been successfully marketed as trendy, must-have gadgets.

More than just digital tools, they have become fashion statements. Now, a new interactive fashion range has been tailored to merge with this digital lifestyle.


You can hear Jon every week on Go Digital, which is webcast on the BBC World Service site and BBC News Online every Monday at 1500 GMT. It is broadcast on BBC World Service radio on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Local times vary.

See also:

25 Mar 01 | Business
CeBIT: A digital fashion show
24 Mar 01 | Business
CeBIT shows higher tech future
27 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
The future is at hand
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