Wearable technology is so more than just watches and wristbands—and Pauline van Dongen is seeing to that. In fact, the Dutch designer goes so far as employing photovoltaic sciences and solar energy in the materials of her future-forward clothing, all the while keeping her silhouettes fashion-driven. On the surface, van Dongen’s designs are beautiful and stylish. Within the attire is a hub of integration. All her ranges include solar cells that absorb enough energy (and feed it to a standard plug) that they can charge mobile devices. If the sun’s energy isn’t a selling point, her eye for couture is. It’s this balance that defines her continued exploration into the marriage of fashion and technology.
“My work is a result of a hybridization or amalgamation of fashion with various other (scientific) disciplines,” van Dongen shares with CH. “I adopt new technologies in my work to create new values and meaning for fashion. Not only functionally, but also in the many ways in which we express ourselves through our clothes as well as the way in which they interact with our bodies…keeping us warm but also generating energy, changing shape, supporting our activities, etc. The garments we wear are thus becoming very intimate interfaces that allow us to interact with the world in unique and sometimes unforeseen ways.”
Van Dongen notes that, to her, technology is not a mere tool, but rather one of aesthetics. Materiality enhances expression. “There’s a strong focus on materiality in my work, since I believe the future of fashion lies in its premise to be dynamic and changing. The fact that we can now program it pixel by pixel, allows us to design new types of behavior and create materials that can actively play on the body.” This is beyond sourcing fabrics—this is the invention of new ones.
As for inspiration, van Dongen shares, “I continuously draw upon the interaction between humans and their surroundings. I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world around us.” On this quest, and acknowledging the intimacy of clothing, van Dongen hopes to turn technology into something more personal, and even more intuitive. “The most important thing for me is to frequently engage in dialogues with people from various disciplines that don’t directly relate to fashion. It’s so inspiring to hear their stories and it always challenges new ways of thinking,” she says. The rest of her work