Anke Loh

Spring 2024

Anke Loh

Anke Loh is a Chicago-based fashion designer and is Full Professor in the Department of Fashion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Loh is a fashion designer by training, and has worked at the nexus of art, technology and fashion for more than 15 years. Her current work focuses on the development of touch-sensitive textiles for the medical community, utilizing the Residency to gain an understanding of how pain before and after surgery can affect the five senses, and how that has changed over time.

“My current research explores the potential for touch-sensitive pillows to encourage users to listen to their bodies, to others and to the sounds around them, to discover new modes of self-expression. My exploration of the five senses—vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste—during this residency will inspire the visual and haptic aesthetic design of the touch- sensitive embroidery and the overall textile design for the touch-sensitive pillows. For the outcomes of my residency at the International Museum of Surgical Science, I envision the final touch-sensitive embroidered pillows to be exhibited in a way that will create a space that nurtures and fosters connections among varies communities to foster healthy connections through our senses.”

Anke Loh, 2024

Anke Loh Artist Statement:

I am a fashion designer by training, and have worked at the nexus of art, technology and fashion for more than 15 years. With a focus on textile development and wear- able technology, my practice explores ways of supporting people with disabilities, those recovering from disease, and people who are socially isolated or marginalized. My collaborative approach often convenes physicians, scientists, designers, artists and community members.

A major focus of my work has been the development of touch-sensitive textiles that trigger sound recordings and other kinds of outputs. On numerous occasions, my work has been integrated with the medical field. Under the auspices of a DAAD Faculty Research Grant, I developed a new kind of touch-sensitive head covering (“cap”) with the capacity to record the brain waves (EEG) of patients with epilepsy, in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University and Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. As a result of that work, I subsequently became involved with the Los Angeles-based Not Impossible Foundation for the design of BrainWriter, a path-breaking technology that enables people to communicate using their brain waves. Our design and the process of training patients how to use it was presented at Digital Revolution, an immersive exhibition of art, design, film, music and video games at London’s Barbican Centre in 2014. These projects ultimately enriched my work, curriculum and student experience, with the inclusion of a section on fashion for people with disabilities.

The initial phase of the project I am proposing launched in 2021 as part of a collaborative project called Re-FREAM | Embroidered Touch | Life Space, with the goal of exploring the future of fashion and technology. I collaborated with the Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin to develop touch-sensitive embroidered sweaters.

When touched, circuits embroidered on the sweaters’ surface trigger sound palettes recorded from communities in Berlin and Chicago. The results were exhibited in Berlin, Madrid, Bilbao and in Chicago (Spring 2022). An earlier iteration of the project I am proposing to the International Museum of Surgical Science features embroidered touch-sensitive tablecloths, called Table Talk, A Sense of Place and Play. Touching the tablecloths triggers sounds assembled from field recordings of nature and urban spaces. The work was exhibited at FACILITY Chicago in Fall 2022, and will be shown in Montreal in Fall 2023 for the exhibition: Textile Design Now at Centre de Design de l’UQAM.

My long-term research objective is to expand and discover new ways for technology to impact, as well as alleviate, feelings of isolation among marginalized communities. This approach is informed by the pandemic, as well as social unrest in the US. It also is a response to a need for change throughout the fashion industry to foster more sustainable practices for creating, producing and consuming garments.

In addition to serving a functional purpose, clothing acts as our second skin, conveying who we are to the world. Creating responsibly made textiles that communicate with diverse environments informs my current practice.

RE-WIRED installation exhibited at Facility, Chicago.
TOUCH (AND STAYING IN TOUCH) installation exhibited at Facility, Chicago.
TOUCH (AND STAYING IN TOUCH) installation exhibited at Facility, Chicago. Includes custom-made table with re-purposed components and touch-sensitive embroidered tablecloths. To see the video being screened on the back wall:
The Re-FREAM collaboration resulted in two sweaters for adults, which communicate through sound and also change color in response to touch.

The process and final results are documented in the six-minute video.

Unisex Youth Sweater: Conductive fabric is laser-cut into a touch-sensitive ear design, laminated
on green sweater and then heat-bonded to hardware/circuit board to make the design touch sensitive.

About the Artist:

Anke Loh embraces technology as another way of communicating with the body and its environment. With a background in fashion design, she focuses on textile development and wearable technology, aligning with society and craft. Her collections have been featured in international runway shows and exhibitions including New York Fashion Week, The Centre Pompidou in Paris, Japan’s Osaka Collection Show, and the Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago. Her artistic projects, including INTERKNIT and Dressing Light, have attracted international media coverage and recognition, including being honored as a Laureate at the Festival International des Arts et de la Môde in Hyères, France.


She has forged multiple collaborations with technology-focused individuals, research teams, companies and universities in Europe, Asia and the USA, with the objective of blending fashion with the latest technological advances. She broke new ground by integrating Philips Lumalive panels into dresses and skirts featuring video imagery on soft embedded LED screens, and has partnered with the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin to research and explore the possibilities of stretchable circuitry.

Loh’s work has been shown at many international exhibitions, including the Fashion Biennale in Seoul, Korea; Goethe Institut Chicago and NY; TechTextil, Frankfurt, Germany; On You: Wearable Technology at MODA, Museum of Design Atlanta, Georgia; Design Exhibition at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers, Osaka, Japan; A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival, Polimoda, IFFTI, Florence, Italy; Wear IT Festival, Berlin; EXEMPLARY: 150 Years of the MAK: from Arts & Crafts to Design, Vienna, Austria; Sense and Sensuality: The Art & Aesthetics of Wearable Technology, ADM Gallery, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, The Arts Club Chicago; Brainwriter Installation, Barbican Museum, London;


Anke has served as a fulltime professor in the Department of Fashion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2005, and as Chairperson of the Department for five years. She studied fashion at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, earning an MFA in 1999, after which she launched her former fashion design company, Rosso NV.

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About the Residency Program: As artistic practice occupies an increasingly pluralistic field, The International Museum of Surgical Science believes that artists are uniquely equipped to extrapolate on Museum collections in innovative ways and introduce novel perspectives to the institutional depiction of medical history. The IMSS Artist Residency Program provides working artists with:

  • Access to the Museum’s extensive collections and archive
  • Visibility on the Museum’s website and social media channels
  • A month-long capstone Solo Exhibition (or equivalent presentation) at the Museum

This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

This project is supported, in whole or in part, by federal assistance listing number, 21.027 awarded to the International Museum of Surgical Science by the US Treasury through the American Rescue Plan Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the amount of $125,000.00, representing 83% of total project funding.

This project is partially supported by a Chicago Arts Recovery Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

The International Museum of Surgical Science acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.