The animated GIF is the internet’s handiest shorthand for expressing complex emotions. With GIF-obsessed fashion designer Nayana Malhotra’s new experiment, called Neurocouture, you can now wear your animated emotions on your sleeve, literally. Malhotra combines projection mapping, brainwave-reading EEG devices, and GIFs — of stripy op-art, pixelated skulls, Donald Trump’s pukey face — to make clothing that visualizes its wearer’s emotions in real time. Think of it as a high-tech, high-fashion mood ring.
The concept pushes the idea of fashion as self-expression to its most literal extreme. Without a projection mapper, these garments are plain white cloak-like parkas. But they’re equipped with those consumer-grade EEG devices that measure the wearer’s biodata. A nearby computer analyzes that data and sorts it into basic moods — love, anger, and sadness — then matches it to an appropriate GIF. A projection mapper, on the runway, projects the GIF onto the parka’s fabric, turning it into a responsive video screen. Imagine a sad James Van Der Beek with the sad James Van Der Beek GIF looping on his jacket and you start to realize the possibilities.
Malhotra is far from the only designer playing with animated textiles and fabrics that visualize our biodata. Her designs bring to mind those of London-based fashion/tech company CuteCircuit, which makes dresses equipped with LED lights that change color, glow in the dark, and play video loops based on a smartphone app.
Neurocouture is an example of wearable tech at its most artful and, so far, least practical. The collection recently debuted as part of VFiles‘s show at New York Fashion Week and is still in conceptual prototype stages. But the more designers experiment at the intersection of fashion and tech, the closer we get to the strange day when our clothing reads our minds and doubles as TV screens, à la Teletubbies’ stomachs.