TECHNOSENSUAL Review + Interview with Kobakant



When we think of wearables, we tend to associate futuristic streamlined shapes, innovative and synthetic materials, and sports or body enhancing technologies. Rarely do we envision the poetry of the combination of craft and narrative to bring wearable technologies alive, and emotionally vibrant. Kobakant’s recent project, “The Crying Dress,” is made for a speculative future where crafts are highly valued, and widows are bequest dresses which may cry for them. The design is Kobakant’s first foray into fashion, where previous projects saw them honing their craft and DIY e-textile skills. It is interesting to note how Kobakant foregrounds the importance of context, story telling, and of imaginative expectations of the future of wearables which are incumbent on the re-valuing of hand-skills over the machine made. “The Crying Dress” is exquisitely poignant and melancholic, suitable for a distant future that is sure to reawakens the past.

Q: What is your background?

Mika: Media Art, Graphic Design
Hannah: Industrial Design, Media Arts and Sciences

Q: What led you to your being involved in fashion and technology?
M: We used conductive fabric for our first collaborative project “Massage Me”, and we got hooked with the material property of the E-textiles.
H: Yes, the materiality of E-textiles got us hooked on electronics. “The Crying Dress” is our first real fashion project and we really enjoyed combining E-textiles with fashion as a medium to tell a story using visual aesthetics and the craftsmanship of the work, as well as the functionality and materiality of the electronics.

Q: What kinds of materials and technologies are used and integrated into your designs? Could you describe the process / challenges / advantages of using these particular materials in fashion and garments?
M & H: First of all, our projects are not necessary focusing on fashion or garments. The use of conductive textile materials in electronics brings us interesting ways to understand technologies instead of leaving them in a black box. Also incorporating textile techniques, such as embroidery, in the production of electronic objects gives us different ideas of time and skills involved in makings.

Q: What does technology add to fashion?

M: I do not have a particular answer to this question. I feel that it is similar to asking “what does Hat adds to fashion”, and I will not have answer to that.

H: There are so many different kinds of technologies involved in fashion design and production, but what does fashion add to technology? Fashion is a fun medium for telling stories, being extremely visual and bringing technology close to the body.

Q: If you could have anyone alive or dead wearing your fashion-tech design, whom would you pick, and where would they be?

M: Our project comes with the story of a rich man ordering a dress for his wife to wear for his funeral. I do not know who will be romantic enough to do that.

H: Designing “The Crying Dress” for a fictional character in a futuristic story was a lot of fun and gave us a lot of inspiration and room to make statements about the future of technology. I would love to work on another piece in similar style, where the garment exists within a context that adds meaning to the piece and also inspires details of the design and it's electronic function.

Q: How do you envision the everyday fashion-tech of the future?

M: I do not think it is necessary that we are wearing fashion-tech in everyday life in future. We may be still wearing wool sweaters and cotton shirts. I think we are at the point to experiment and to play with this technology/techniques to see how we want to have them in future. We may end up not wearing them at all except for one day in your life. Let's see.

H: I agree with Mika, in our work we are more interested in combining fashion with technology to explore ideas, rather than make our ideas an everyday reality.

Q: Tell us about the piece you developed at Quartier21 during your Artist-in-Residency.

M & H: During our one-month residency at the MuseumsQuartier, we explored the idea of exquisite electronics, electronics as high-end custom crafted goods in contrast to today's mass-produced affordable electronics designed to suit the needs of many. As a basis for their exploration, we took on a fictional commission for a funeral gown that would accompany the wife of the deceased during her time of mourning. The result of this commission is “The Crying Dress.” Inspired by cultural customs that employ professional mourners to express sorrow for the deceased, the dress is designed to shed tears of mourning that drip from a headpiece onto the gown, passing over hand embroidered sensors that trigger a weeping soundscape played out through embroidered speakers.

Credits: Photographer:  Kiki + courtesy of the artist.
Vienna, August 2012

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Comment by Melissa Coleman on October 30, 2012 at 9:13am

That's not Hannah in the dress, it was a model and these pics were taken at the end symposium of TechnoSensual. But now that you mention it I do see the resemblence. This dress is sooo pretty in real life and yes, the concept is great. I hope Mika and Hannah will do a real photoshoot with it at some point.

Comment by Vanessa Carpenter on October 23, 2012 at 6:02am

Beautiful project and Hannah you look amazing in that dress! The dress and hat are gorgeous with all the details in the conductive thread. It's incredible, and such a lovely concept. 

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