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The Big Idea: The Future of Clothes?

A company called Wearable Experiments is exploring the possibilities of digital fashion.

The Big Idea: The Future of Clothes?

Wearable Experiments' (We:eX) Alert Shirt

[Photo: courtesy of Wearbles Experiments (We:eX)]

When designers try to mix fashion and digital gizmos, often the results are neither nice to look at nor especially practical. But one company, Wearable Experiments, is working to merge clothing and tech in intriguing ways. "We want to make sure that the garment is clean, comfortable, and elegant," says Billie Whitehouse, who cofounded the New York– and Sydney-based company in 2013 with Ben Moir. "Then we can impregnate it with technology from there."

Birthing wearables: Cofounder Billie Whitehouse wants to "impregnate" clothing with technology.

Rather than merely create bracelets, rings, and watches, Whitehouse is interested in more ambitious concepts, ones that might somehow heighten normal experiences. The Navigate jacket, for example, is a stylish, city-specific jacket that helps its wearers find their way around. The coat's built-in technology ­gently "taps" the user on the shoulder to indicate when and in which direction to turn. It's a simple, intuitive way to get directions in cities like Paris and New York.

Other Wearable Experiments products include Fundawear, which lets couples "touch" each other from afar, and the Alert Shirt, which simulates what professional athletes are feeling during televised sporting events. "We connect people with other people and the places that they love," says Whitehouse. "Technology no longer has to be just a distraction."

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A version of this article appeared in the December 2014 / January 2015 issue of Fast Company magazine.