Why you should care
Because a mood ring can’t keep you warm on a crisp fall day.
Any child of the ’70s holds fond memories of mood rings — those magical color-changing gems that could mysteriously predict if you were feeling sassy or sad. But the cheap alloy turned fingers blue, and they faded from memory, along with slap bands, pet rocks and troll dolls. But now there’s a high-fashion way to experience that color-changing high again.
Netherlands-based fashion designer Aniela Hoitink has reimagined the mood ring as her Chameleon Mood Scarf, a floaty piece of silk chiffon that wraps around the wearer’s neck and changes color to reflect her mood and surroundings (white for stressed, orange for happy — and heat — and green for UV light). The layered fabric is imbued with three types of ink that react to temperature, using the principle that a person’s body temperature changes when his or her feelings alter. Hoitink admits that the mood scarf is “not that accurate,” saying “it’s more like an action, reaction,” and that it might be interesting to develop it to be more precise. The inspiration came from Hoitink’s disillusionment with the fashion industry and its repetitive output of identikit clothing. “I thought, how many blouses do you need?” she says. “I wanted to give more meaning to textiles.” Her explorations in the fash-tech space led her to start experimenting with LEDs, which morphed into working with solar fibers and fungi.
We just need manufacturers on board so we can make textiles more dynamic.
Hoitink’s scarf is part fashion, part political statement — a way of demonstrating how simply technology can be embedded into our clothes, using style and subtlety. She wants designers to start thinking about how their clothes can affect the body on an emotional level, aiding health. For example, she asks, why don’t we have clothes that feed vitamins into our skin, or broadcast a “do not disturb” field when we’re deep in thought? It’s not that hard, she explains; we just need manufacturers on board so we can make textiles more dynamic. And a growing number of designers have been experimenting with this — London-based Rainbow Winters’ rainforest dress morphs from monochrome to an explosion of color on reaction with water and sunlight, while Photochromia’s UV-reactive fashion collection starts shipping in September. However, they’re niche brands in a fast-fashion market.
But Andrea Kiliany Thatcher, author of From Atelier to Runway, says that for a fashion technology company to succeed, it has to have beautiful design. “We’ve had Hypercolor T-shirts since the ’80s; we’re no longer impressed with technology for technology’s sake,” she says. The scarf needs to be able to stand on its own as fashion, she explains, without relying on “the tech element for flash and appeal.” And, of course not everyone wants their clothes to advertise that they’re feeling cranky or sad. For those who do like the idea of their accessories sending a message — trumpeting, “Hey, this is how I feel!” — you can try DIY-ing them using Instructables tutorials.
Unfortunately, for now you can’t buy one of Hoitink’s scarves. Hoitink emphasizes that she’s a designer, not a manufacturer; the scarves would be sold only if a company bought and distributed them. It appears that owning a chameleon scarf is every bit as elusive as a real-life chameleon, but it’s a good reminder to us all to keep our eyes open — you might just see something wonderful.