Updates and Opinions:
Will My Business Take Off? Speculating on if LED Fashions will go Mainstream.
Transcendent or tacky: Can LEDs really be mainstream fashion? I took a bet on it!
Since organizations combining fashion and technology like MakeFashion have pioneered the space, LED garments have become increasingly popular. But the question still remains: will these garments ever become a part level of mainstream couture, or are illuminated garments destined to be limited to niche audiences for raves, costumes, festivals, and nightclubs?
Since co-founding MakeFashion and during the journey of producing my own line, I’ve often received comments along the lines of “that’s cool, but nobody is ever going to buy this”. Taste is subjective, but these comments introduce a good question of if the mainstream fashion world will ever really embrace the integration of light into clothing.
With the rise of the Maker Movement, an entire generation of creators are exploring new ways to work with electronics, including fashion. In 2018 and 2019, we’ve seen increasing how-tos in the space, including the Make It Wear it book from Amped Atelier, and the Hackspace book by Sophy Wong. The materials themselves are getting easier to come by, with companies like Adafruit suppling easy-to-use components, and I’ve also recently launched my own DIY wearables kit that available for purchase.
My new wearable tech LED kit starts at $14 and allows you to create garments with the same tools I use for my line.
The “Make it, Wear It” book from Hal Rodriguez and Sahrye Cohen teaches DIY wearable tech projects.
Sophy Wong’s Hackspace edition has a variety of projects for makers of wearable tech fashion.
But we know that makers are gonna make, and the nature of the maker movement is that it pushes the boundaries of the mainstream – because if something is already out there in the mass market, there wouldn’t be much point in making it yourself, right? The uniqueness and one-of-a-kind nature is part of the magic of DIY projects.
But as far as mainstream fashion goes, new trends and norms need to gain certain momentum and popularity before they take off into the mainstream. We’ve seen some examples including the Met Gala where illuminated garments have had a mass audience, but these are still in the realm of costume and spectacle. We’ve yet to see it translate to something the average person would go out wearing, unless they were at a festival or event where costume-like clothing is acceptable.
Above: Some of my designs for sale and rental.
When I launched Lumen Couture in October 2018, I knew that this was an unknown, and that creating a brand invested in this idea was a pretty big risk. But in my mind, the only way to answer this question was to be the first to try. Years of building products has taught me that there is only so much you can learn from research and date before you need to put an experiment out into the real world and see how your customers react.
The designs in my collection are deliberately simple styles and priced to be affordable. Unlike the work we do with MakeFashion, these are not about making a massive statement or break new ground – the goal is to have garments that can transition from day to night and pair well with a variety of styles.
So what are the results so far?
Although it hasn’t been a year yet, I’m happy to say that there has been positivity and interest in the designs. The customers I’ve interviewed wear the garments for a variety of reasons, including high-end galas, weddings, and special events. There are a number of customers who wear these to clubs and festivals, which is something that I predicted. So I have to be honest with you and say that the early results of this experiment are still mixed, and the question of whether LED garments will go mainstream is still unanswered.
I’m not ready to throw in the towel on this question yet, and part of my explorations this year are to continue to experiment with different styles to understand what designs will be hit.
So what do you think, am I making the right bet that LED styles can go mainstream: or will LEDs forever be in the realm of costumes and novelty? The only way I’ll ever know is to gather feedback, so if you look at these designs and say “nah, not for me”, let me know with real talk on what is or what isn’t doing it for you.