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Fashion | LOCAL COLOR

The Outer Limits

Combining Technical Wizardry With Personal Style, Rotor's Mark Vanco Makes Futuristic Clothing You Should Be Wearing Now

September 25, 1997|JOANNA DENDEL and MARY KAY STOLZ

The designer: Mark Vanco, 28, is the force behind Rotor, a high-tech, high-concept, computer-generated line of clothing with a wearable message for the new millennium. Son of a computer wizard, Vanco was a computer wiz himself by the time he was 9. His product, he says, is his message. That is: "The old guard is out." A hybrid fashion culture of video game warriors, X-Game players, Net surfers and ravers is in.

"I use the computer the way other people use their coffee maker," Vanco says.

And how does he use his computer? To create clothing that would be almost unimaginable before computers. He doesn't use the computer to design his clothing, only to research the ideas that drive his Rotor designs.

He is working on software that will help him develop his prototype "remote data acquisition suit"--a model for clothing that would someday "read" your body's needs and adjust to match them. "When worn under another garment, the suit will measure pressure patterns based on any given activity or sport so that the over garment can be more responsive." Well, OK, if researchers are working on electronic paper, can electronic fabric be far behind?

"Sensors in clothing will no longer be exclusive to astronauts," Vanco predicts. "On a hot day, you may have to put on your jacket so coolant can be digitally monitored to air-condition you!"

The story: Vanco was only 22 when his mysterious and complex ads for Rotor were offered free space in trendy, techie West Coast mags UHF and Mondo 2000 as well as the French mag Interactif. This was one year before Rotor had a single product to sell. The message in the ads, as so intricately and outrageously served up on Rotor's Web site (http://www.rotordrive.com), is that fashion is just another way to communicate.

"I want to give [my customers] a product that leads them into this new computer age," Vanco says. "When fashion catches up with technology, you will see clothing you would never believe could exist. Improved functionality is the future. Garments will have more than one identity."

The goods: Vanco has seen the future and his clothes look like it. Nylon satin flight pants, sexy cyberspace age jumpsuits and brightly colored synthetic sportswear. Rotor's Web site features a "video game" with characters named Yve Androgyne and Yowana Feelmore modeling a Rotor "wondersuit" that "accommodates natural or silicone breasts." The site also shows off WORM (Wear Once, Removal Mandatory) disposable jackets and pants, as well as Vanco's Armpitter jacket with zip-off sleeves.

T-shirts retail for about $22. Pants range from $90 to $300; jackets start at $350.

The customer: "The future generation. How people dress has always been to identify themselves with [like-minded] others. People want to belong to a group." Rotor's group, Vanco says, includes snowboarders and hip-hoppers, computer nerds and recording artists.

The inspiration: "Making an impact on the way people perceive themselves--the nomenclature of self-representation--is what inspires me."

The stores: X Collection, Red Balls on Fire, Hot Topic, all in Los Angeles; Patricia Fields, New York City.

The last word: "Young minds are drawn to fashion. So if you have something to say, even if it has nothing to do with fashion, speak through fashion."

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