National Geographic : 2003 Jan
Adress from Japanese designer Issey Miyake's A-POC collection (short for A Piece of Cloth) is woven into fabric then liberated by cutting along the lines, as shown by Alvin Ailey dancer Dwana Adiaha Smallwood. The technological revolution is responsible for A-POC," says Miyake. But my design cannot exist without the person hidden behind the cloth." head spin. Visions of flying hotels, spider silk pulled from the milk of a genetically altered goat, a smart bra that knew when to shape up, a disappearing cloth bag being evaluated by the French Atomic Energy Commission for who knows-what made me long for something sim ple and uncomplicated. Something, it turned out, exactly like the bright yellow pillow the size of a magazine that Asha Peta Thompson showed me at the Design for Life Centre at Brunel University in the south of England. "It's a television remote control for some body with motor-skill problems," Thompson, a weaver, explained. The pillow, which has large numbers and volume control icons embroidered on it, relies on a switch made of a layer of mesh sandwiched between two layers of copper-coated nylon, allowing a person lacking manual dex terity and strength to manage the controls. It was functional, simple, and fun. It should be, Thompson explained. She has the admira ble mission of not only designing products for people with disabilities but also making those 72 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * JANUARY 2003 things so appealing that able-bodied people will want them too. Thompson also showed me a soft fabric mat that a child with cerebral palsy could sit on and, by leaning forward or back, use as a joystick for video games. The marriage between textiles and technology made perfect sense, she said. "We sur round ourselves with textiles. You come out of the womb, and they wrap you in a cloth; then they put you away in a coffin in a cloth. When you get out of the bath, you wrap yourself in a towel. It seems natural that what we wear should be combined with technology." Dreamweavers I met like Asha Thompson are creating astonishing things. Who could resist a textile that could communicate with the world, even save your life?