Synergy. That seemed to be the underlying theme of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) #techstyle exhibition earlier this year. The kind of synergy between designers and tech designers or scientists to push the boundaries on how we create and interact with clothing. The innovative exhibition featured 33 designers, including the likes of Alexander McQueen and Iris Van Herpen, in two themed sections. That is, performance and production. The production showroom focused more on how emerging technology such as 3D printing and laser cutting is being used in style, while the performance showroom looked at how clothing reacts not only with the wearer but individuals and the environments around the wearer. Here are some of the exhibitors that stood out:
Alexander McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis Collection
In McQueen’s final runway presentation and what is now considered his finest one, he returned to his original muse; nature. The scene is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where all the ice caps have melted. From the meltdown rises an evolved species that belongs to the sea. With this in mind, McQueen and his team engineered prints to emulate the species’ metamorphosis. The dresses were silk plain weave that were digitally printed and embodied with enamel plaques, taking into consideration the aerial views and natural camouflaging effects.There are several elements of this spring 2010 show that has landed it on our list. For starters, McQueen was already using digital printing in 2009! Secondly, he chose aesthetically captivating pieces to highlight technological advancements and global climate change in just one runway. Thirdly, he was one of the first designers to live-stream a couture fashion show; breaking the divide between the fashion elite and the public. Then there were those iconic shoes that had elements of digital printing. Sure they look like they’re extremely uncomfortable and excruciating to walk in. But you can’t argue that they are a fantastic design that worked with the overall theme. Plus, Lady Gaga swooped them up directly from the runway and wore a few pairs in her hit single ‘Bad romance’
Francis Bitonti’s “Molecule” ShoesThis was definitely part of the production showcase for its software innovation that mimicked molecules natural state of existence in nature. Bitoni took the simple mule shoe-type and mixed it with mathematics, proving that calculations can become a tangible reality. To replicate the growth-like nature of a molecule, he worked with a mathematical model created by British mathematician, John Conway, called ‘Game of Life’. This software that generates cellular structures has unique variants inbuilt to ensure each pixel would be printed on top of the next. Adobe came on board with 3D software to create the algorithm need for designing the shows. Once the design is approved, they use the Stratasys 3D printer to build the shoes up in layers, pixel by pixel. This works with an algorithm that was created to cater for the colour and texture of the pixels. While it doesn’t quite fit into the everyday scenario, it’s a sign that the engineering and science behind the shoe is being worked on t eventually be used for future practical application. The video below explains more:
Viktoria Modesta’s “The Spike”
The bionic artist and MIT Media Lab fellow, Viktoria Modesta, is on a mission to change perceptions around amputation and prosthetics. The same ‘Spike’ prosthetic that was featured in her music video ‘Prototype’, was created in partnership with Ability Matter and The Alternative Limb Project. Although the piece is strikingly beautiful with a hint of menace, it was commissioned to be a functional alternative for amputees. The placard near the exhibit explained it as, “[Modesta] has embraced what many consider a disability and turned it into an alternative idea of beauty”. While ‘The Spike’ was put on display, the artist has quite a few prosthetics she uses that are aesthetically appealing and edgy.
Kinematic Petal Dress
Produced by Nervous System, a design studio founded by an architect and a mathematician, this 3D printed gown is customized to fit the intended wearer’s body. Through 3D scan, they get the measurements down to a T, and then it comes off the printer in one piece as a ready-to-wear dress. It’s impressive that they have created a flexible, dynamic fabric that is completely customizable to suit the individual wearer. The future of ill-fitting clothes because designers don’t cater for your body type, is on the horizon. I personally can’t wait for this kind of technology to be readily, and affordably, available to the masses. Learn more about it in the video below.
Wearable ArtViktor Horsting & Rolf Snoeren took the idea of wearing art literally for their Fall 2015 couture show that took place during Paris’ Haute Couture AW15 Fashion Week. And created their ‘Wearable Art’ collection. The ‘art’ creates exaggerated silhouette over simple denim dresses but once rolled out reveals details of the prints within the canvas that recall still life images as well as centuries-old portraits. According to an article in Vogue US by Amy Verner, “[The] toile was actually linen bonded to white crepe. And the fragments of imagery that began to materialize toward Look 8 were laser-cut jacquard enhanced with embroideries and appliqués to achieve the blobbed reliefs. The point, said Horsting and Snoeren, was to express action painting in a nonchalant way.”
Anthozoa 3D Printed Cape & Skirt
Iris Van Herpen is no stranger to the world of fashion and tech, so it comes as no surprise that her 3D-printed cape-and-skirt ensemble was included in the exhibition. Made via the Stratasys Objet Connex Multi-material 3D printed Tech, the dress combines both hard and soft materials that were crucial for the mobility and texture of the outfit. This came from the inspiration of creating a ‘second-skin’. Van Herpen teamed up with MIT’s Media Lab’s architect, designer and professor, Neri Oxman for this project.
Crystallisation Water dress
Van Herpen also worked with photographer Nick Knight to derive her inspiration for this dress. Using high-speed cameras, they were able to capture the moment water thrown at the model – Daphne Guinness – made contact with her body and the shape the water made. Using these photographs, Van Herpen made a dress using plastic and acrylic spray. This way, she was able to create an authentic representation of water in motion. You can watch the whole project here
The Possessed Dress
It’s not a Halloween gimmick, but the work of designer Hussein Chalayan as commissioned by Pam Parmal; the Chairwoman of the MFA museum. It was dubbed possessed because it reacts to motion by changing shape and thus affecting the wearer’s movement. Chalayan was one of the first designers in the fashion industry to start using 3D and digital printing in his work, and continues to be an artist that approaches his fashion with elements of performance. This is because he believes that clothing should always embody more than just function, but ideas as well. The Possessed dress was also featured in a dance performance known as “Gravity Fatigue” in London. You can watch the performance below:
Giles Deacons Spring Summer 2012
British designer and illustrator, Giles Deacons, is no stranger to the fashion awards arena. He’s taken home the British Fashion Awards’ Best New Designer, the Elle Best New Designer award in February 2005, British Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2006 and Fashion Designer of the Year at the GQ Awards in 2009; just to mention a few.
His silver metallic leather fringe dress from his Spring/Summer 2012 collection, made it into the exhibit because he chose to use pre-existing laser technology to make it; as well as other pieces in the collection. The leather dress derives its leather panelling from the laser-cut precision and its shimmer from the Swarovski embroidery detail. By using laser cutting technology, they were able to manipulate materials such as leather in interesting and more accurately executed ways. Laser tech has the ability to create a lace effect on solid fabrics such as leather, as well as, having a notable impact on the draping of any fabric.. See the rest of the SS12 collection here
CuteCircuit MFA Dress
This was one of the pieces commissioned for the exhibit and seemed to be the most notable of the group. It’s a simple black gown at first glance, but then you’re made aware of the 10,000 LED lights when visitors at the exhibit press options such as fireworks and waterfalls to be displayed on the dress. They took it a step forward and gave more people access to the dress. By simply tweeting #tweetdress with said image you’d like to see on the dress, it would then be displayed.
According to Parmal, the Exhibition was inspired by the Anthozoa 3-D Cape and Skirt, which was acquired by the MFA in 2013. From there, MFA wanted to create a platform that would encourage designers and scientists to push fashion to greater heights. It showcases the latest in tech from LED lights to lasers and 3D printers, albeit most being in the prototype phase.
The exhibition was necessary as it was a tangible expression of where the fashion-tech world has reached and what key points and ideas are being developed. It highlights the fashion revolution occurring – that looks to address concerns when it comes to improving movement and flexibility of traditional rigid objects in an organic way. But it also acts as a think tank o how the industry can improve and create more seamless and functional pieces for the masses.
The question now is, where will Africa come in, in terms of adoption and contribution? Know an African designer who would have fitted in perfectly into an exhibition like this? Share with us below.