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Fashion Tech Pioneer Creates First-Of-A-Kind Designs Like The Spider Dress


Now we meet a pioneer in fashion tech. That is the name for an emerging industry that incorporates computers into apparel. Anouk Wipprecht has been working on this since she was a teenager in the Netherlands.

ANOUK WIPPRECHT: On a day, I am coding, I am designing, I am sewing, anything and everything that has to do with the body and technology and electronics, basically.


Twenty years later, she's creating first-of-their-kind designs, such as a Spider Dress printed in 3D. And as the name implies, there are spider-like tentacles on the shoulders that move with the help of sensors.

WIPPRECHT: They are measuring up to 25 feet in front of the design. So basically, it measures the intimate space, the personal space, the social space and the public space of the wearer. Whenever somebody comes into the personal space, it's attacking because of the mechanical cell use (ph) that the dress has.

INSKEEP: Now, when COVID hit, she adapted that idea to make the Proximity Dress, which was intended to signal people to maintain social distance. It worked even though it had nothing so dramatic as tentacles on it. This was a white dress. It looks just like a dress but uses ultrasonic range finders to detect when someone gets nearby. And when that happens, it inflates a bit at the hips. The designer says she wore it herself outdoors and says people got the message.

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, get me that dress. I'm a smedium (ph).

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: She now has moved on to work on clothing with body sensors intended to capture signs of a person's anxiety or depression.

WIPPRECHT: We live in a time and age that sort of the negative emotions start to take over. A lot of people start to get into more depressive modes, maybe not wanting to speak about it and all of that stuff. So it might even create a situation that these things become more discussable, you know?

MARTÍNEZ: Anouk Wipprecht's next projects focus on ways to treat depression and stress.

(SOUNDBITE OF MADONNA SONG, "VOGUE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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