'Tactile Matters' is driven by the following question: Which consequences would it have for the human, for the perception of his self and the environment, if we as a society withdrew more and more from the physical presence of objects and spent more and more time in digital worlds? For this I have examined to what extend clothing as a second skin worn directly at the body has the potential to positively act on its carrier´s well-being through its tactile qualities and to place them in the 'here and now'. I asked myself the question, what clothing could look like if we were already upon the design to think about which tactile stimuli certain materials, textiles and their surface textures or light, heavy, wide or tight garments exert on the tactile receptors of our skin and what sensations this triggers in us.
These questions are very exciting for me since these functional connections - for several reasons - do not get much attention in the design of clothing. In my function as a fashion designer, I have always wondered how strong design criteria and processes are visually influenced in industry and how often the haptic is completely disregarded in design.
Another reason I dedicated myself to this topic is, that through digitalization and its related automation and networking trends the way we interact and communicate leads to an overstimulation of our visual sense so that our sense of touch gets increasingly less stimulated. But what does this change mean for our physical well-being and for our health? The way we move, work, interact and communicate with each other gets – regarding the perspective of the participation of our sense of touch in these actions - increasingly abstract. Our communication and interaction has increasingly shifted into the virtual world and retracted from the physical room through the internet. From all cardinal points, the two-dimensional, mostly smooth surfaces are stretching towards us respectively our eyes and fingertips, which only perform small gestures yet – thus our sensual access to the environment is a different one.
In my thesis I explain why a continuous and varied stimulation of the sense of touch is very important for our physical well-being. In order to understand why this happens and to probe my surveillance, I have dealt with how the sense of touch works and how it develops in human organism - as a foundation of all other senses. My research has shown that it is essential for the understanding respectively comprehension of our environment and for all social characters. For only those who can feel the limit of their own body can experience themself as a physical unit and as an organism that can be separated from its environment – a fundamental requirement for any relationship with fellow human beings and the environment. For this I refer, among others, to the research work of Dr. Martin Grunwald of the Haptikinstitut in Leipzig, who has researched many correlations between human behaviour and the system of tactile senses – up to the development of therapeutical clothing for the therapy of diseases, which go back to a disorder of the same.
In my practical implementation, I used the knowledge from my research (such as that shoulder pads only make sense in this context if they have a certain weight but are not worn for too long, or that the ideal stroking speed is 4cm per second) to design three tracksuits with the help of which the sense of touch, the feeling of one’s own body can be trained and sensitised via different elements and which can act calming in stressful situations. Findings about the effects of various material properties on our behaviour equally played a role as a survey on our favourite items of clothing, the analysis of points of contact with clothing in different daily interaction situations and findings about therapeutical clothing that already finds application in body therapy.
For me, the tactile tracksuits are a speculative shape acquisition of my engagement with our tactile sense system on the one hand and the challenges we as humans are confronted with in the course of digitalization on the other hand. In dealing with them, I have become aware time and again of the potential that lies in this field, so that I believe clothing - maybe even in a daily context - is highly suitable to increase our well-being in different ways through systematic tactile stimuli that can be evoked situationally by material or its cut. But I also recognize my work as a thought-provoking impulse to request existing design logics in industry and our own handling with clothing – especially in the context of a visually ever faster pulsing fashion industry which is, through its dependence from the greed after trends, the main driver of the visually influenced design of our clothing. In my view there is plenty much potential for “new favourite clothing items” we would not want to miss anymore in case of stressful or uncomfortable daily situations and which could support us if the exciting interrelations between tactile stimuli, stimulus processing in our brain, our emotions and our self- and body confidence found stronger access in the design of clothes.