Design Well Clothed

Interview by Charlene Chan
Photography by Jovian Lim

When we meet the participants of Project 10 Minutes, it’s a month and a half before SingaPlural kicks off. Jonathan, who runs design consultancy Roots, and Fizah and Ando, the duo behind design studio Machineast, are in the thick of preparation for their respective installations, which they will present together with UNIQLO. Their project—named in reference to the time it takes for the Japanese brand’s AIRism fabric to dry—will see them using the material in novel ways, incorporating them into an experiential space that visitors will be able to explore during the festival. They let us in on the process of working on a project of this scale, and how they envision technology to be used in design in the coming years.

A 3D representation of heat release, designed by Machineast for UNIQLO AIRism.

Please tell us about what you will be presenting at SingaPlural.

Fizah (F): We will be doing several visual art animations that will be projected on screens. These visuals will be used to create an immersive mini game, and visitors will be asked to spot the differences amongst all these abstract visuals. The game mechanics is similar to Where’s Waldo.

Ando (A): The idea is to inject a game into the visual so that people experience and observe the visual, rather than just see it. The game will last for 10 minutes, and there will be audio as well, very tranquil music so visitors can relax.

Jonathan (J): We thought it would be interesting if we could take AIRism and transform it into something else completely. The AIRism fabric allows water and sweat to evaporate very quickly. That led us to think about a humidifier, which evaporates water to increase the surrounding moisture. We wanted to create a fictional product with a product story that would highlight AIRism’s features from another perspective. We will probably even craft fake product manuals to give people a sense of it being almost real. It’s unexpected because UNIQLO makes clothing but we’re using that to make a product.

What do you want visitors to take away from your installations?

F: We want visitors to have a memorable experience. Most of us already know the key features of AIRism, so we just want people to have a good time. Hopefully they remember the visualisations that come along with the experience, and we spur a feeling among those who visit.Roots’ humidifier reimagines AIRism technology in an entirely different product design.

J: A few years ago, TOTO Japan did this toilet seat on a bike for a green campaign. Everyone remembers that because it’s outrageous, and this is something I hope to do. I want to see if I can create a story which is entertaining in itself, but at the end also links back to AIRism. People will think, “Oh, the humidifier!” and then think about how AIRism is something that evaporates sweat fast. (laughs)

UNIQLO (U): We want visitors to be entertained and these installations should be sources of engagement. They are really open for interpretation and visitors should feel they are free to take away anything that comes to mind. We wish for visitors to see the role of clothes in a different light.

Roots’ humidifier reimagines AIRism technology in an entirely different product design.

Technology is clearly a very big part of this project. What do you think is the role of technology in design?

F: I think it’s important to constantly innovate; innovation and technology have to go hand in hand to make your brand relevant in the future.

J: I think it’s not just about the idea too, but the way we embrace different media and technologies and use them in creative ways.

U: For us, the role of technology is to inspire. We created AIRism by putting modern technology into the fabric and we hope the thoughtful and modern details of the product and the difference it makes to users’ lives serves as a source of inspiration for this project. Technology and design work hand in hand. Technology empowers design and design inspires technological improvements. Together, they allow us to challenge conventional wisdoms.

Read more in The U Press N˚15 (Singapore edition).