Anke Loh is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Fashion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has taught since 2005. Her current research entails finding ways to integrate stretchable circuitry into textiles, ready-to-wear fashion and accessories.
Anke Loh has collaborated with a range of interdisciplinary teams. Her work on incorporating fiber optics into interactive fabric included working with Luminex (Italy and Miami) and the computer science department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She broke new ground by integrating Philips Lumalive panels into dresses and skirts, featuring video imagery on soft embedded LED screens. She is presently collaborating with the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin to research and explore the possibilities of stretchable circuitry.
Anke earned a Master’s Degree in Fashion Design from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1999. She is impassioned by travel and observing compelling and dissonant cultural dynamics.
I believe in fashion as a mirror for the Zeitgeist of a culture, its society, politics and very nature. Fashion reflects that Zeitgeist in an instinctive, immediate way, via the body. As a designer, I explore ways for wearable micro-sensors to collect and transmit information for therapeutic and aesthetic reasons, among others – effectively fusing art and science. Imagine sensors embedded in interactive clothing and accessories, or conforming to the wearer’s skin, that perceive, record, store and transmit.
Advances in the process of embedding stretchable circuitry into soft, supple surfaces, as thin as skin itself are making this possible. By enhancing these surfaces to render them sensitive and interactive, the concept of a second skin becomes reality. The process of working with tiny micro-controlled sensors, LEDs embedded in these new stretchable/flexible thin membranes, places the Zeitgeist directly on the body’s surface as a desirable and dynamic layer.
Over the past decade, I have been collaborating with engineers and researchers to design ways to wear this new sensory mode. A first round of collaborative research and development focused on ways to fluidly incorporate supple, stretchable circuits into LED accessories. The second round turned these accessories into a new kind of interactive jewelry. An acceleration sensor measures kinetic activity, transforming movement energy into varying light patterns that respond to the wearer’s changing movements.