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Fashion powers future thinking

21 October 2019

The potential to blend fashion with technology to improve our lives is unlimited – from providing therapy and preventative care to capturing the power of the sun.

This was the message to participants in Renewal SA’s first Future Thinkers event for 2019, which was presented by Dutch fashion designer and wearable technology specialist Pauline van Dongen at Lot Fourteen innovation neighbourhood recently The Future Thinkers series is being held by Renewal SA help inspire a more connected, creative and innovative future in South Australia and is supported by Lot Fourteen. The series offers free public talks featuring industry leaders and innovators who can give an insight into how the future may look in many aspects of our lives. The next Future Thinkers event - Urban Design and Wellbeing on 31 October is booked out but seats are still available for Are Robots Taking Our Jobs? on 11 November (more information below).

Pauline talked about her work to integrate flexible solar cells and printed electronics into textiles and gave participants a sneak peek at garments she has created which enable wearers to generate sustainable energy to power their mobile devices. She has also worked on integrating solar panels into backpacks and tents which could be used by refugees.

Pauline’s approach is part of her advocacy for a more sustainable industry.

“The fashion industry wants to innovate but is reluctant to change,” she said. “Research takes time and there is no time for research and development in the fashion industry.

“You have to produce two collections a year, which contributes to it being the second most polluting industry in the world. I didn’t want to be a part of that,” she said.

Rather than create disposable fashion that is quickly discarded, Pauline has focused on creating clothes with extra functionality which will be valued in the long term.

She has collaborated with engineers, physicists, technology companies and clothing manufacturers on projects including a denim jacket which imitates the sensation of a gentle stroke on the upper back to encourage the wearer to stay in the present moment; a vest which measures haptic signals in the upper body and sends subtle vibrations to reminds the wearer to maintain a healthy posture; and sports tops illuminated by LED ribbons to make running safer at night.

Future Thinkers – Solar Fashion, A Conversation with Pauline van Dongen was facilitated by CityMag editor and publisher Josh Fanning and supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Solliance Solar Research and the Holst Centre.

Pauline’s visit to Adelaide coincided with the World Solar Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide and she gave a workshop, entitled Sun Laced, on the integration of solar cells into clothing and everyday soft products at TAFE SA for fashion, textile and product designers and students.

For an insight into how the future with robots will look, join Professor Anton van den Hengel, Founding Director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) and a guest panel on Monday 11 November from 5.15pm to 6.45pm.

Professor van den Hengel will be joined by panelists Dr Michelle Perugini, Founder and Chief Executive of Presagen and Life Whisperer, both based at Lot Fourteen; and Adrian Fahey, Chief Executive of SAGE Group, based at Tonsley Innovation District. Audiences can ask questions of the speakers and there is free admission to all Future Thinkers sessions.

For more information and to book, visit:

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