Data meets fashion

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That we are living in a data-driven world will not come as news to anyone. These days, data is at the heart of our business and personal lives, with companies in every sector looking for a way to use that data to sell us more as consumers, or to gain a competitive edge in their business.

Data meets fashionData also promises to transform our urban spaces. Connected smart cities are the future, we are told, with reams and reams of data informing improvements in town planning, traffic congestions, and service delivery.

While we have been hearing about the possibilities of data and smart cities for many years, it’s very hard to see the benefits and improvements as an ordinary person living life day-to-day. Siemens decided to illustrate these possibilities in an unusual way – through a fashion show.

Siemens used data from the cities of Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg and wove it into unique fabrics which tell a story about each city. Three iconic African fashion designers then used the fabrics to create one-of-kind outfits.

The fashion show was intended to showcase how “digitalization of the industrial world is fast becoming the biggest transformation of our time”, and highlight how data, combined with smart technology, will ensure that tomorrow’s cities are more connected, efficient and powered.

“It’s time Africa equipped itself with information. Africa is often overlooked in terms of technology and science so pushing forward on these incredibly important aspects is the next step to propel the continent. Having more data about Africa means understanding our nations better and equipping ourselves to solve the problems we face,” said Nigerian designer Zizi Cardow.

Johannesburg-based designer Palesa Mokubung said this project had transformed her thinking. “It opened so many new elements of inspiration, it’s like I am only truly experiencing Johannesburg right now. I see Johannesburg as more dynamic with hidden opportunities underneath highways, pipes and houses. I’m forever changed when it comes to what I do and how I see the city.”

Nairobi-born John Kaveke said there was no better way to tell the story than through fashion. “Fashion and technology are a universal language and the two combined create a formidable team,” he said.

The three designers created 12 extraordinary outfits from fabrics depicting vast amounts of data extracted from the cities of Nairobi, Lagos and Johannesburg. The garments outline a variety of patterns, including power grids, shipping and tonnage, population densities, transport and areas of connectivity.

“This is how we thought to express the aspect of digitalization. As urbanisation rapidly increases, cities need to start preparing for the effects it will have on infrastructure, energy, water and transportation systems,” said Keshin Govender, Group Communications Head for Siemens South Africa.

“Data from each of these sectors tell a powerful story about each city and how digitalization can transform them. All of this is told through the universal language of fashion and design. Data gives greater insight on what makes each city tick, helping us make calculated decisions and improve service delivery to the people. This project has highlighted the need for access to data in order to make sound urban planning decisions.


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