Article by Jane Stringham | 605 words
Solar-powered gadgets are nothing new in the green tech world, but fashion designers like Andrew Schneider and Mae Yokoyama have appropriated the technology for somewhat less practical energy uses—like twinkling statement necklaces and unique string bikinis. While some of the designers’ creations lean toward the realm of novelty items, Schneider’s bikini actually allows its wearer to charge their iPods and iPhones via a USB connection.
According to Gizmag, the green bikini light bulb hit Schneider during a brainstorming session for an interactive telecommunications program at New York University. He initially (and jokingly) envisioned a bikini capable of chilling cold beers at the beach. Once he realized that photovoltaic technology coupled with a Peltier junction and mapped onto a bathing suit couldn’t quite replace a Coleman Cooler, Schneider shifted gears. The resulting solar bikini can power an iPod or iPhone—two tools that may be just as integral to a social butterfly’s sunbathing success.
The bikini design seems to draw from that of the solar-powered bra, which was introduced in Tokyo in 2008. It too was meant to charge smartphones and iPods, according to the business website Thomson Reuters. Unlike the bra, which requires wearers to strap an unwieldy solar panel around their waists, Schneider’s bikini uses multiple solar panels throughout the bikini itself. The body of the bathing suit consists of photovoltaic strips held together with conductive thread. As such, the suit resembles a traditional bikini and keeps sunbathing soundtracks in play. However, it is not meant for wet environments, so it won’t be outfitting the Olympic swim team any time soon. The solar bikini is available for custom order through Schneider’s website, SolarCoterie.com.
While the sun-harvesting bikini turns energy into sex appeal, Swedish design student Yokoyama states that her solar panel necklace was born from a desire to “turn energy into beauty,” according to Ecouterre.com. It’s no surprise that Yokoyama studied her Masters in jewelry design at Konstfack University College of Arts in Sweden, as the country is at the forefront of renewable energy endeavors. Last year, the Swedish chain Ikea even began selling solar panels. And, according to its national website, 48 percent of Sweden’s energy is drawn from renewable sources; 95 percent of this comes from hydropower.
Yokoyama’s design aims not only to beautify the solar power movement but also to comment on the value of renewable energy sources in general. Given the popularity of solar-powered cell phone charms in Japan recently, it makes sense that Yokoyama would pursue her goal by designing a similar accessory—albeit a much larger one. By fashioning a necklace from solar panels that power tiny LED lights reminiscent of expensive, sparkling pearls, Yokoyama seems to suggest that the sun, once harnessed as a renewable energy source, becomes of such value that it’s on par with precious jewels. The pearls only need to charge for two hours before they glean enough sunlight to twinkle for four more.
The necklace, deemed the “Lux” by the artist, is certainly less functional than the bikini, but comments on energy sources in a stronger symbolic manner. To beautify rather than sexualize oneself by donning fashionable, renewable energy tools is to broadcast a belief in their ever-burgeoning and all-pervasive impact. Even avant-garde, high-end jewelry can be green—“Lux,” in fact. Furthermore, sun-powered jewelry is bling for the masses. Anyone can skip a trip to a pricey jeweler and instead stand in the sunshine for a few hours for similar, sparkling results—an act that will surely up vitamin D levels and, in turn, the wearer’s overall mood. The “Lux” is a win for fashionistas and environmentalists alike.
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