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If you ask the researchers, entrepreneurs, designers, and storytellers at work on the cutting edge of clothing tech what they think clothes are, you get a range of tantalizing answers.

“Clothing is a tool awaiting radical reinvention,” says Steve Tidball, co-founder of menswear label Vollebak, who have used pomegranates, copper, ceramic particles, and the Nobel Prize-winning material graphene in their apparel. “For the last 50,000 years, clothes have been tools for stasis — to stay warm, to stay dry, to let everyone know which person is king. But they’re going to become tools for plasticity. They’re going to enhance your strength and intelligence, administer your medicine, and tell you when you’re about to have a heart attack. It’s as basic as fire or a stone wheel right now — but it’s going to be a rocket.”

“Fashion is manufactured for convenience, but it can carry way more purposes and roles than to keep us warm or make us pretty,” says designer Dian-Jen Lin. “Maybe you can form a symbiosis with your garment where you produce carbon dioxide to feed it and in return it makes fresh oxygen for you?”

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