What Fashion Will Be Like In The Near Future

Photographed by Frances Tulk Hart.
Imagine a jacket that helps you navigate the streets of an unknown city by tapping your shoulders in the direction you should be moving. Or underwear that vibrates based on a touch of a smartphone app, physically uniting long-distance lovers. These aren't futuristic pipe dreams, rather a few of the ideas that Billie Whitehouse has brought to life with her tech-apparel company, Wearable Experiments. And if that doesn't sound cool enough, just wait until you hear what she predicts fashion will look like in 2050.

As the cofounder and designer of the forward-thinking biz, Whitehouse is bringing her acute sense of style and vast fashion-industry knowledge to the table, while her business partner, Ben Moir, delivers the engineering and software insights. Together they create one unstoppable duo, not to mention, groundbreaking products. When we met with her, the Sydney native was keen to fill us in on how much further our clothing can go, the tech must-haves she swears by, and a few words of wisdom that she's gleaned while shaking up the worlds of technology and personal style. After you read up on this chic Aussie, head to Styld.by for the low-down on her polished aesthetic and how she dresses to take on the world.
How did you become interested in something so niche as wearable technology?
"I started thinking about how clothing could do more than protect you from the sun and the elements — there are actually endless possibilities for this thing that sits so close to our skin and what it can do for us. I began researching and was really curious if you could build something that would transfer touch over the internet. I had no idea how to do it. I was just so excited about the possibility — I think it was my enthusiasm and excitement that got it over the line."
What exactly goes into making wearable technology?
"There are four projects that run at once: hardware, software, apparel, and industrial design. I handle the apparel and industrial design, while Ben [Moir] does the hardware and software."

So how does a piece of wearable tech work? Can you walk us through one of your products, like the Navigate jacket (a blazer with GPS technology that allows you to get to your destination without looking at a map or your phone)?
"To start, you turn on the device inside the clothing. Then when you open the app, you choose what form of travel you're taking — whether you're walking, cycling, etc. — and adjust the intensity of vibration you'll feel. Once you do that, you just enter your destination, and it’ll tap into Google Maps. The jacket will tap you on the left or the right shoulder to navigate you to your destination."

Okay, that's pretty innovative! What other products are in the works?
"We're moving into the activewear space. Later in the year, we're launching a smart pair of yoga pants that'll correct your form by giving you a little nudge in the knee, hip, or ankle."

How long do you think it'll be until these products move into the mainstream and everyone starts wearing them?
"Obviously they have to be well designed, and the technology has to be as invisible as possible. It's about all-around experience for the wearer. People haven't been able to embrace the designs yet — everything has to be seamlessly integrated before that happens."
Photographed by Frances Tulk Hart.
Any thoughts on what people might be wearing in 2050?
"I don't think we're headed towards an overtly futuristic, sci-fi, and neoprene vibe. We use nostalgia with design — it's an elegant way of looking back and forward at the same time. My version of futuristic fashion is far more Hogwarts and Harry Potter. Technology is enchanting and can make clothes feel magical. I'd say we're headed towards a more ethereal place than sci-fi."

And what about your personal style — how would you describe it?
"Classic, subtly experimental, and fun."

Does your work uniform differ from your off-duty look?
"When I'm in go-getter mode, I've always got sneakers and a backpack. But I'll wear sneakers with a corporate dress, that's my general go-to work look. I usually save denim for the weekends, unless I'm meeting with athletes or a sports company. People are far more willing to share if they feel like you're one of them, so that's when I'll whip out Gap denim and a varsity jumper. Your clothing is your first form of communication, so why not start the sharing early?"
What other techie must-haves are you obsessed with?
"I currently wear a notification ring called Altruis by Kovert. It's so subtle, I even wear it when it’s not charged. It notifies me of emails or messages from my cofounder and boyfriend and that's it, so I'm not interrupted by any others. I'm also into Muse, which helps with brain concentration and meditation. It tracks your brain waves and sees where you can create more focus."

At this point, technology touches every aspect of our lives. Do you see this as a good thing?
"I love that phrase: technology touching our lives. I see our phones as this amazing source — it’s constantly spewing out information. If you can visualize it, it’s like a heart beating. We're living in this sharing environment, sharing some of the most intimate things ever. Now we have a very transparent world. That was the aim, that ease between sharing and transparency and having technology as a part of that.

"I think going forward, people will be more cautious about what they are doing, and that’ll be evident when it comes to personal data. We have to empower the consumer with the information rather than the corporations."

To tap into some of your expertise: What's the most valuable skill a young entrepreneur can have?
"I would say listen first to what's happening to the people around you and to the whole market. And act quickly: When you release what you've been working on, make a lot of noise about it in a big way."

Have you encountered any challenges as a female tech entrepreneur?
"I never wanted it to be a male/female battle. The challenges were due to coming from a design background. If I'm not as respected, [I thought it was] because I'm a designer and not an engineer. Maybe it's naive for me to say these things, but I consider myself a designer before I do a woman. [Ben and I did] an interview where they cut out my entire half and just included my cofounder. I think it's because they didn’t care about design. I know there's so much value in it, so I just brush it off."

If you could share one piece of advice that you've learned along the way, what would it be?
"You need three things sorted: What are you good at? What are you known for? What do you love? If you can answer all three of those with one career or one passion, then that's what you should be doing."

For more, follow Billie Whitehouse and Wearable Experiments on Twitter.

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