Technology always has something to contribute to the fashion industry. For a few decades now it’s given society an entirely new perspective on fashion shows and their high-end critics. A year or two ago, we got the Apple Watch and other jewelry items that intersected technology with fashion. Now, technology is debuting some of the strangest new fashion items you will see in 2017. There’s a jean jacket from Levi Strauss that will you answer your smartphone and check text messages at the wave of a sleeve. A newly-invented dress that can change color and pattern at the swipe of a finger or click of a mouse. Yet, tech’s most intriguing fashion piece this year isn’t centered around color or social media. This new photobomber is all about the absence of an image. In this particular case, the absence of the human face.
Why wear clothes designed to obscure your face? Technology developers say the answer is privacy. Today’s world is bombarded with internet posts. The web is so prevalent it’s practically like living in a glass house. Even if you’re careful, anything you do could show up on social media. To counter this risk of exposure, artists and designers are trying to use recent advancements in fashion to hide people’s identities in plain sight. Their latest release designed to protect people against the intrusive nature of social media is the photobomber. Technical philosophy aside, this is one innovative jacket. It plays on light and shadow in a refreshing way, taking a natural approach to obscuring the human figure. If you want a jacket that magically makes you disappear, this is the 2017 fashion piece for you.
People don’t just disappear. To create that illusion, the people behind this counter-technology jacket had to be incredibly savvy. Still, the structure is deceptively simple. Though officially title “the photobomber,” this privacy jacket more resembles a classic ‘90s windbreaker. It’s got that unmistakable waterproof, hybrid fabric and lightweight flexibility. The secret to its madness lies in the material. Embedded in each strand of fabric are glass nanospheres that reflect vibrant light in every direction. When a camera flashes in your direction, the glass bits throw the light around, leaving your face backlit and indiscernible. If you can hide from peeping cameras and facial recognition software, perhaps the internet will pose less of a privacy threat.
OTHER PRIVACY-INSPIRED CLOTHING
Other companies are also experimenting with ways to thwart facial recognition algorithms with clothing. Some of their techniques are almost comically simple. In Amsterdam, artist Simone Niquille emblazons photos of celebrity look-alikes on over-sized t-shirts to trick identification software. Other brands have inserted nano spheres into designs for scarves, visors, and metallic t-shirts. People have been theorizing for years about the balance between style and function in fashion design. These statement pieces are an excellent example of that balance, even if their function is hidden. None of them appear to be revolutionary. They only come to life when actually faced with a camera. Most intriguing, privacy-inspired clothing is technology battling technology. It’s a whole new brand of fashion tech, refreshing in its departure from typically media-frenzied fashion and beauty trends.
What do counter-technology products mean for the future of fashion? That’s still up for debate. While some say privacy clothing could help slow a technological takeover, most agree contemporary society is too far invested in tech and social media to be turned back. It’s hard to truly halt technology’s far-reaching influence. Even break-throughs like nanospheres don’t always work. Technically, all you have to do to counter a photobomber jacket is turn off the flash on your camera. This new brand of fashion is innovative and cool, but it’s also young. To really challenge the fashion beauty tech world, designers are going to need a few more tricks up their sleeve.
— Nathan Young