OUR STORY

Earlier this year Mika and I decided that it is time for us to open an E-Textile Tailor Shop for Wearable Technology. We have been collaborating as KOBAKANT for over 10 years, realizing projects and maintaining our How To Get What You Want database of e-textile designs. Now we want to offer our skills and provide an alternative story about how technology can be made. Companies are working on industrializing production processes for e-textiles, and soon we will see wearable technology as a category in shops on every high-street. We’ve become so used to technology being something we purchase ready-made. You choose a brand, a style, a colour of plastic. But nobody asks you, given all the possibilities of technology, what would you like? We want to find out what people want e-textile and wearable technology to do for them by providing a place to come with your ideas. We will subsidize the work in our shop so that we can spend time developing custom solutions while keeping it affordable for as many people as possible.

The current name of the shop is KOBA Maßschneiderei. KOBA comes from Japanese, and we take it to mean a small family-run business, and Maßschneiderei is German for “tailor shop”. We will run the shop for one year and collect and document all that we make as open source designs as well as the stories of the people that commissioned them.


Görlitzer Strasse 72 (Kreuzberg)
10997 Berlin, Germany


Earlier this year Mika and I decided that it is time for us to open an E-Textile Tailor Shop for Wearable Technology. We have been collaborating as KOBAKANT for over 10 years, realizing projects and maintaining our How To Get What You Want database of e-textile designs. Now we want to offer our skills and provide an alternative story about how technology can be made. Companies are working on industrializing production processes for e-textiles, and soon we will see wearable technology as a category in shops on every high-street. We’ve become so used to technology being something we purchase ready-made. You choose a brand, a style, a colour of plastic. But nobody asks you, given all the possibilities of technology, what would you like? We want to find out what people want e-textile and wearable technology to do for them by providing a place to come with your ideas. We will subsidize the work in our shop so that we can spend time developing custom solutions while keeping it affordable for as many people as possible.

The current name of the shop is KOBA Maßschneiderei. KOBA comes from Japanese, and we take it to mean a small family-run business, and Maßschneiderei is German for “tailor shop”. We will run the shop for one year and collect and document all that we make as open source designs as well as the stories of the people that commissioned them.

You can follow what happens in our tailor shop on our KOBAKANT website and our first real attempt at social media using:
Diaspora
Riot
Flickr
Twitter


Background Story

Our interest in e-textiles and wearable technology has never been for the sake of designing products or manufacturing these. For us it has been an artistic medium, a storytelling tool for commenting on social, technological issues through artworks, performances, workshops. As part of our artistic process we’ve always open-sourced our designs and documented them on our website called How To Get What You Want.

E-textiles always felt like a futuristic technology to us, but this has changed. it is in the middle of becoming industrialized, this realization caused us to take a closer look at the reality of electronic textiles.

In 2011 we wrote up a paper titled Future Master craftsmanship: Where We Want Electronic Textile Crafts To Go that was presented at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts in Istanbul.

The following year, inspired by the ideas in that paper we realized a piece titled The Crying Dress. We speculated about a skilled-labor/craft-centric technological future, coming from our age of deskilling and labor exploitation especially in the electronics and textile sectors. The dress is funeral gown, a fictional commission set in a future of scarce resources, elaborately hand embroidered with circuitry that weeps in mourning along with the wearer, an example of highly skilled electronic craftsmanship.

Later that same year we organized a workshop titled Designing for the Loop in which we tried to apply LCA to gather information about the materials and processes we use in order to make more informed design decisions. Andreas Koehler co-organized the workshop, he was part of the LCAtoGo project specializing in the smart textiles part of their research.
The result of this workshop was a sense that because there are no straight forward yes/no, right/wrong answers, the designer feels lost amid a sea of conflicting, missing, uninterpretable information.

The following years we ran a series of workshops titled WishLab where the act of personalization as a means of making longer lasting connections with the technologies we make and use became the focus. In these workshops participants were trained to be “workers” in the WishLab factory, then tasked to interpret other people’s wishes as electronic gadgets and make these come true.

These excerpts from our works over the last years are what have lead us to the narrative of the KOBA Tailor Shop. a place where personalized wearable electronics are possible, a platform for discussion, experimentation and storytelling of alternative realities.


The KOBA Maßschneiderei

Electronic Textiles and Wearable Technology Made-to-Order

The Kobakant Manufaktur is an electronic textile tailor shop where anybody can place an order for custom-made wearable technology garments and accessories. By offering a place for individuals to commission tailor-made technology, in a society used to one-size-fits-all, we pose the question of “what can technology do for you?”.
Instead of speculating about a future in which tailor made technology is commonplace, we want to make this scenario a reality.

Besides providing the actual experience of visiting the shop and drawing upon its services, the project will produce documentation of the orders placed and realized in the shop. The KOBA Catalog will contain photos, interviews and accounts of the exchanges with customers, open-source patterns, circuit schematics and code. The physical artifacts produced in the shop will be documented in the catalog, but belong to the customers who ordered and paid for them.

By running the KOBA Maßschneiderei as a subsidized small tailoring business we want to demonstrate that other types of industry/economy/production are possible. Tailors and carpenters have been working this way for hundreds of years, taking custom orders and making them a reality, providing to the community a realm of possibility. But while tailor shops and carpentry shops continue to exist, many of us never experienced a time where there was an electronics shop in town, with limited selection, where broken devices were fixed, where gadgets were disassembled on the counter… these kind of places that offer us possibilities, open up our imaginations.

Kobakant Manufaktur is more than a shop, it is a space where fiction can become fact, where we encourage customers to fantasize about features, talk about their relationship with gadgets, ask us questions to understand better the technologies that are about to become part of their everyday lives.