Nayana Malhotra loves GIFs. Loves them. When she's not designing new fashions, she's filling her Tumblr with GIF after GIF. Now, the GIF-loving designer has figured out how to merge the two. Her new fashion experiment, Neurocouture, combines projection-mapping and brainwave detection to let people literally clothe themselves in their favorite animated files.
Debuting as part of VFiles' show at New York Fashion Week, Neurocouture is a projection-mapped parka hooked up to consumer-grade EEG devices. A nearby computer is programmed to detect certain brainwave patterns, then translate them into an animated GIF—which is then projected onto the parka as a sort of living animated texture.
So if you're feeling angry, Neurocouture could cloak you in the apoplectic visage of Donald Trump. Embarrassed after tripping? Raptor mascot eats it. Heart a-flutter after a good date? These cute kissing ghosts. "The awesome thing about GIFs is that they're decontextualized and universal," says Malhotra. The idea, she says, is to use GIFs in fashion the same way we use them on the Internet: to express the things we're not saying.
How did she come up with the idea? Malhotra thinks that some of it is reflective of her background. Born in India, where she had to "hack" her way into having access to media, Malhotra moved to high-tech Singapore, which she describes as "very Disneyland with the death penalty." This rapid transition from no tech to high tech helped make Malhotra hyper-aware of the relationship between technology and culture. After moving to New York in 2008 to study design at Parsons, the ideas behind Neurocouture clicked into place. "That's really where it started coming together for me," she says. "I wanted to find a way to wear the Internet in the language of GIFs."
Because the project requires projection mapping and an EEG headset, Neurocouture isn't exactly street fashion. But Malhotra says that she thinks animated fabrics and living textiles are a viable prediction for the future of fashion, and more. "What if you got into a car whose body responded to your mindstate?" she muses. And she's not the only one who's thinking that way. More and more designers are imagining a similar future for paint and pattern—when changing the look of your clothes or your cars will be as easy as changing the wallpaper on your smartphone.