Fashion Report: MakeFashion 2.0
MakeFashion 2.0 was a runway show unlike any other. This wearable technology show drew a crowd of around 400 people, all out to see creations of technology crossed with Couture Fashion.
Over the course of 6 to 7 months, fourteen designers teams collaborated with staff, technicians, and engineers of the MakeFashion community to create different ways to incorporate sensing technology into fashionable garments.
Amilee Hagon, our Beauty Editor, attended and covered MakeFashion in 2013 as a guest tweeter for Calgary Fashion.
“Although it’s only two months into the year, I can state that this show is certainly going to make it into my top ten events of 2013 that I loved. The mesh of art, lights, and fashion stunned me beyond words.”
So, when the designer call was released in Summer 2013, Elle wanted to be part of the wearable technology movement and submitted a project with Javeda by Aman Dhalay – The Dragon Queen.
“We both work in the fashion industry and wanted to build something that would not only push us into the world of wearable technology but also share our individual brands to the world. We wanted to show that we were more than just a fashion designer and a website technician. We wanted a challenge, but we still wanted our project to reflect our work.”
The Dragon Queen was a fusion of the designers’ two cultures: Indian & Chinese. Aman Dhalay paired a traditional cut Indian dress with Chinese embellishments and accessories. The elements were brought together by artistic structure & design.
Aman & Elle are heavily business minded individuals. They were not focussed on creating art. “We wanted a piece that was crowd interactive,” says Elle. “It had to be something more than just lights on a dress,” added Aman. “Our focus was wearable and purchasable fashion first and foremost.”
The first step was dress design. “We had a lot of ideas,” says Elle, “but that was Aman’s specialization so she had free range on how it would look and feel. I trust her”.
The Dragon Queen dress was a traditional Indian cut gown. The top was of sheer, soft net fabric decorated with jewel stone embroidery, mixing in different colors, sizes, and shapes to create a beautiful, flowing pattern from sleeve to collar.
The bottom half of dress was lined with a beautiful paisley, self-printed satin fabric, a black lace overlay, and a sheer black net fabric.
On the bottom border, Kundan work (traditional Indian embroidery) and Chinese character applique work – showcasing and repeating the characters for “Fashion” all around the dress – finished the look of the dress.
To accessorize the dress, a handcrafted belt and wrist band were created from jewel stone embroidery and hand crafted embellishments.
All the actual sewing work took place in India at Javeda’s production house of sewing and embroidery specialists.
Usually, for bigger collections, Aman would preferred to travel to her production house to ensure that design requirements and quality expectations were met. For one dress, however, Skype and telephone calls would have to suffice.
The dress was completed in three months and was shipped out to Canada, ready to be paired up with a silver dragon.
On the day of the MakeFashion event, makeup was provided by The Art of Beauty by Lyana Gilbert. “Debra Kelly invited me,” says Lyana, “I just got my certificate for makeup”.
The look is high fashion crossed with an evening glamour look – brown smokey eyes accentuated with long eyelashes, defined brows, and bright red lipstick.
Elle’s hair was styled by Jason Mellor of Edges Salon & Spa. “I wanted the hair to be really messy but still defined and elegant,” says Aman and Jason delivered just that.
The dragon piece started off as a small scale model. Using aluminum wire and scotch tape, Elle moulded the dragon piece, ensuring that the structure didn’t cover up the dress. The actual materials for the dress would be nearly feather light, so Elle was just concerned about the overall design.
“I wanted to know how big I could make it before the parts become too flimsy to wear,” says Elle.
When the small scale design was finished, Elle consulted with a local illusionist, Yeats of Yeats Magic Company, to discuss which materials would be best for the design.
In the end, the dragon body was formed from thin aluminum sheeting, cut into little rectangles and attached with aluminum wire.
“Cutting the pieces was easy, but it was creating the attachment holes that concerned me.” This was the first time that Elle used “heavy machinery”.
“I know it’s silly. All I used was a drill press to punch holes, but with hand tremors, I was concerned about consistency and accidentally hole punching my fingers.”
For future projects, Elle would suggest using a laser cutter for thin aluminum work. “I think I had access to one, but I needed the pieces immediately to play with – to see how they work with each other in curves and straight lines”.
After attaching the pieces, she did change the overall design of the dragon body to increase hardiness and longevity. “I discovered that making more circles and curves made the piece more durable, even when I pressed it against a wall or pushed against parts of it.”
In addition, Elle presented Yeats with her design for the robotic head. In return, Yeats offered a few different options for better range of motion and structural integrity.
Initially, the robotics of the dragon head was controlled by Flexinol, a wire that contracts when an electrical current is passed through it. “For all the projects listed in my Flexinol workbook, the wire worked great,” says Elle, “I made load bearing levers and even a butterfly!”.
When she applied it to her project, the motion generated from the Flexinol was minimal. The movements would have been too subtle for a runway show. Distressed, she talked to Shannon of MakeFashion and he teamed her up with Jeremie of EZ-Robot.
Elle and Yeats arrived on location with a dragon head prototype and worked out the kinks in the design with Jeremie. Once again, the dragon structure changed – for the better, of course!
“When Jeremie and Cory of EZ-Robot joined the team, it was like perfection,” says Elle, “life just became easier and SO MANY more options opened to for us”.
When Elle met Jeremie for the first time, she only expected one axle of movement for the dragon head. She was sure that anything more than that would require a lot of work, but the team was able to accomplish much more than that!
The movements of the dragon were powered by servos connected to an EZ-Robot controller. This controller was connected via Wi-Fi to a mobile device (Elle used her Samsung Note II phone and her backup was a Nexus 7 tablet). Using the EZ-Robot app, anyone was able to make the dragon survey the crowd, quietly laugh at the crowd, sniff, or roar loudly.
“When people interacted with our piece,
we could tell the Dragon Queen became one of their favourites.”
The last step of the Dragon Queen design was to add some LEDs to the dress to bring attention back to the embroidery and handcrafted work. “You have no idea how tough this was,” says Elle. She wanted the lights to NOT appear as a straight line, so she cut up the LED light strip and soldered them separately in place.
“In 9 hours, I was only able to solder seven lights and a small light strip together … that’s how bad my hand tremors were…but it worked out in the end. The lights were subtle and did their job.”
After positioning the lights, Elle tried to activate them with a Raspberry Pi, but all she could do was turn the strip on. Apparently the light strip was not compatible with the Raspberry Pi and may have need a lot more rigging and/or technical knowledge to control the LEDS. Thanks to Vlad Lavrovsky of Synthesia, Elle was able to create a subtle light effect that flowed up the sleeve and across the front of the dress.
In the end…
The Dragon dress was a success at the MakeFashion event. “Our best compliment was when one of the audience members ask if we could build three more pieces to showcase overseas,” says Elle. She was ecstatic and stressed, one right after the other.
“We would love to build another three pieces, but the idea of coming up with three more interactive designs just makes my mind spin. We put so much work just into one piece!”
Elle is currently working with DMacStudios to exhibit the Dragon Queen at their booth for the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo on April 24 to 27th, 2014.
For more information or to book the Dragon Queen dress for exhibition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.