Final Project Thesis

Project Thesis

Introduction

Robotic skins, microelectronic circuits, conductive threads and supple sensors may sound like the hallmarks of computer science, but when combined with high-tech textiles and advanced materials, they have the power to extend both the functionality and appearance of clothing to entirely new levels.
Through the use and exploration of materials and technology, I aspire to design a series of five fantastical sculptural garments that equip the body with new skills. Along with these garments, I will create narration in the form of short stories, poems, and images, that further develops the garments character, time period, and scene. By moving back and forth between writing and the creation of these garments I hope to create a collection of work that meshes the two mediums together in new and interesting ways.
Common themes that have emerged in my ideas and brainstorming all revolve around the senses: sight, smell, sound, and touch. If garments could become multi-sensory, multi-purposeful, the wearer would gain a sort of super-human ability – abilities that traditional clothing couldn’t achieve. I’ve considered working with aspects of light; glow wire, fiber-optic fabric, and possibly integrating digital screens into garments. I’ve also thought about sound; garments that can speak to each other, talk to the wearer, or even react to body movements. Ideas of transformation have crossed my mind; if garments could change texture, or change their shape, blurring the lines of the body.
With all of these ideas comes different outcomes – when placed in a public space how do people react? How does one feel while wearing the garment? How do others feel? Who wears the garment? These are questions I hope to solidify while creating my series. The final work will be displayed on mannequins, however, some of the garments might be more interactive and need to be worn by a model in order to trigger some of the technology. Photographs, or photoshop collages (of one or more images), of a model wearing the pieces will be placed next to the physical garments. The photos will resemble the character who wears the garment from the narration I compose, and will be photographed in a similar location as described in the narration. The narration itself will be next to each photograph, and will take the form of poetry or short story.

Creative Work

I have a closet full of obscure clothes that I pick up from thrift stores, online boutiques, you name it. I have a collection of about fifteen wigs, and way too many shoes. I like to dress up in these clothes and take photos with friends, and post on blogs and on a website called Lookbook.nu. With each outfit, I create a different character in my head. These characters are mostly related to my mood at the time, but I frequently dress in these outfits to put myself in a better mood, to almost find a new persona to embody with different behavioral traits as my own. This embodiment of a new character or being is an idea I’m bringing to this project. Essentially I will be creating five different “looks” for someone to wear that puts them in a scene, in a new place, new world. The photos I take will be in the same format as my images I create blogging.
For my first garment, I used an optical illusion called the “infinity mirror”, to create depth on the body. This result is created with two layers of mirror: one is a normal mirror piece with a backing, and the other is security mirror. Security mirror is the mirror where you can see through on one side, but the surface appears to be a mirror on the other. I placed these two pieces of mirror together so that the mirrored sides are face each other. When a light is placed between these two mirror pieces, the light bounces back and fourth on the inside. Since the viewer can see through the one side of the security mirror, the infinite light appears to be bouncing back and fourth on the inside.
After doing some tests with this material and illusion, I found I liked using triangle forms best, only lining one side of the triangle with the LED lights. At this point I needed to create a base garment that would hold these pieces together. I wanted this base garment to create a cocoon around the body, with harsh edges and lines forming a protective case. The mirrored pieces are attached to this shape, creating panels with the illusion of depth.
The base of this garment is constructed from two layers of fabric, and a layer of heavy-duty fusible interfacing in-between the two layers to create a stiff material that could support the weight of the infinity mirrored pieces. I then banded and sewed the edges to create the creases.
I found the infinity mirror illusion similar to the “Eyespot” or eye-like markings found on butterflies. Eyespots are a form of mimicry in which a spot on a butterfly resembles the eye of a different animal to deceive potential predators or prey species. This eyespot draws attention away from the most vulnerable body parts, or to appear as an in-edible or potential predator. Since the infinity mirrors create a sense of space and illusion of depth, this causes the viewer to be confused, possibly achieving the same effect as the eyespot. This changed my view of the garment – it became more of a protective garment, like something a warrior would wear. I envisioned it with some sort of silver hair-like hat with fiber-optic lights, the wearer wielding light swords, and protective infinity-mirror boots/shin guards. These visions give me hindsight for the character or personality embodied in the garment, and how the narrations will be written.
Moving forward, I plan on incorporating more lights into garments, but keeping a monochromatic color palette. The narration will follow these traits. I imagine most of the characters to live in the same world – apocalyptic future with little to no light. Similar to movies such as Bladerunner, or Tron, where light is a heavy element in the story or scenery.

Contextual Discussion
In our society technology has been incorporated and transformed into an every day necessity and part of our existence. We have devices, phones, computers, entertainment systems, gadgets, appliances, and many others – all changing the way we live our lives. Some designers are beginning to fuse the gap between fashion and technology: Google Glass and the Nike fuel-band are more purposeful adaptations of wearable technology. These pieces aide the wearer in various ways, such as recording video from the perspective of the eye, or track the amount of steps you take in a day. For this project, I’ve pulled from designers who are appropriating technology into wearables in a more artistic way – less focus on function and more on fantastical aesthetics.
Techno Textiles 2: Revolutionary Fabrics for Fashion and Design, written by Sarah Braddock Clarke and Marie O’Mahony, explores the futures of fibers and fabrics, electronic and engineered textiles, and textile finishes, and the methods to which they are being applied. Artists and designers have developed many new textiles including ones that shrink or expand to fit a body, fabrics developed from carbon, steel, glass, and ceramics, and materials that protect the wearer from environmental extremes on earth and in space. I found this exploration very useful for my project, since I am exploring various textiles for my garments, as well as creating new ones.
Fashion Futures by Bradley Quinn explores advancing technologies and new materials that are reinventing clothing. It contains examples of many artists and designers who are inspired by biological science, climate change, space suits, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology. It’s fascinating and inspiring to see these new directions, and has increased my knowledge of various design processes, material manipulation, and technology incorporation in garments.

Conclusion

At this point in my creative process I’m focusing on moving forward with the 5 garments I began working on last semester, however I’m introducing the new idea of storyline, character, and scene. I’m thinking about where these garments live, who wears them, what purpose do they serve, and what contextual identity they have. I plan on creating some form of writing for each piece created, so five pieces total, ranging from short story, personal essay, and poems.

Bibliography

1. Clarke, Sarah E. Braddock., Marie O’Mahony, and Sarah E. Braddock. Clarke. Techno Textiles 2 :. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2006. Print.
This book contains information on different textiles and projects that have been created using technology – and how it’s progressing. It’s very helpful to see what has been
developed in this field so far, and helps me to gather ideas for garments.

Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century. Munich (Allemagne): Prestel, 2005. Print.
I’ve mostly used this book as fashion inspiration – lots of beautiful color images and a wide variety of garment design. Helpful to know and understand more about other
designers work.

Quinn, Bradley. Design Futures. London: Merrell, 2011. Print.

Quinn, Bradley. Fashion Futures. London: Merrell, 2012. Print.
The two books above are from the same series, Quinn speaks in depth about all of the technological clothing and designs that have been produced so far – and what the
future holds for them. Some amazing ideas, and very inspirational for my work.

Quinn, Bradley. Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. Print.
An older book by Quinn, with similar ideas as the two books above. Interesting to see what has developed in the two year gap between the books. Similar information but goes more in depth and more text verses the two books above that have more imagery.

Seeling, Charlotte. Fashion – the Century of the Designer: 1900 – 1999. Köln: Könemann, 2000. Print.
Beautiful imagery – helpful inspiration for the visual appearance of my work.

Travers-Spencer, Simon, and Zarida Zaman. The Fashion Designer’s Directory of Shape and Style. Hauppage, NY: Barrons Educational Series, 2008. Print.
A helpful reference I frequently look at – helps with garment construction and the
different shapes that can be made on the body with the use of textiles and patterning.

Websites:

8. “Ecouterre.” Ecouterre Wearable Technology Category. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ecouterre.com/category/wearable-technology&gt;.
Website that contains many articles about clothing and technology, and what has been developed. Very helpful source for gathering ideas.

“Fashioning Technology.” Fashioning Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://www.fashioningtech.com/&gt;.
Similar to the website above, except it’s written in more of a blog format. Here they have many postings and videos of technological fashion that has been produced. Helpful for very recent technological clothing developments.

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