Technologists and fashionistas are often cut from a different cloth, but NYC-based designer Joshua Mudgett is finding ways to stitch these two worlds together.
“I always wanted my work to have a basis in tech and science rather than just being aesthetically driven,” says the 24-year-old entrepreneur, who studied computer science and electrical engineering from MIT before enrolling in the Parsons School of Design and starting J//MUJET, an NYC-based fashion label that uses AI, sustainable bio-materials, 3D printing, and other cutting-edge technologies in its design and production processes.
Speaking at Techonomy 2018 last week, Mudgett cited cyberpunk fiction as a major artistic influence, and many of his latest designs reflect the edgy high-tech themes that define the genre. The outfit below, for example, invokes images from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a 1984 cyberpunk classic in which hackers jack themselves in to computerized consoles and literally surf through cyberspace, encountering digital structures that sometimes manifest as geometric shapes and patterns similar to those on this jacket and skirt combo (both are available for purchase here).
To support his design process, Mudgett built Chimera, an “intelligent design assistant” that sounds like a character from a cyberpunk thriller. The system uses a “chimera of different AIs” to process freeform text, images, and body scans to co-create designs that account for an individual’s aesthetic preferences and body type. While still in stealth mode, Mudgett intends to launch an e-commerce platform that allows buyers to interact directly with the system.
Mudgett also sees potential for technology to help reduce the environmental and social footprint of the fashion industry (many garment manufacturers are major polluters that profiteer off low-cost labor and lax regulations in developing countries). His pieces are made in small factories that employ ethical production practices and often use bio-fabricated materials like Meduso, a silicone alternative made with jellyfish DNA that biodegrades in seawater. The jacket below, which hit the runway last year, uses cloned “cruelty-free” leather.
While Mudgett’s artistic vision is undeniably unique, he is not the only entrepreneur working to apply cutting-edge technologies to fashion and design. Stitch Fix, for example, uses AI to help designers build custom wardrobes for their clients (see more in this October 2017 article). And beyond fashion, many companies and researchers are exploring new methods to produce art, music, and even poetry with intelligent machines.
As the artbots grow increasingly powerful, some worry that AI might eventually replace designers and creatives, but Mudgett sees humans and machines working hand in hand: “We are hoping to create technologies that enable humans to be their best, most creative selves,” he says. His work reflects that potential.