By Brian T. Horowitz, Editor and Contributing Writer
LED lights, smart jewelry and dresses embedded with sensors were on display at a FashionWare event in New York City on June 24. The event was part of the CE Week consumer electronics conference.
Chris March, costume designer for artists such as Lady Gaga and a former contestant on Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” was the emcee.
“Geek can be chic,” March said in a statement. “It’s exciting to see technologists and fashion designers working side by side to create beautiful, stylish, yet functional fabrics and wearable tech accessories for all the fashionistas out there.”
Tech conference organizer Living in Digital Times hosted the event.
“Our bodies are the showcase for the next generation of CE devices,” said Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times. “We continue to see designers push the envelope with creations that use everything from sensors, 3-D printers, Arduino chips, LEDs and even brain controllers. From one-off prototypes to commonly available wristwear, eyewear and accessories, wearable technology is making a fashion statement.”
Designers for the runway show included eyewear lens manufacturer AdiensFocus and 3lectromode’s Valérie Lamontagne, who is a creative lead for Cirque du Soleil’s C:Lab.
“Not since the invention of the sewing machine has fashion had such a renaissance,” said FashionWare organizer Linda Nessim-Rubin, founder of Design Concepts DMC, a production company that hosts corporate events. “She predicted that this will be the year of fashion tech.”
Electro-pop band Sidney York kicked off the show with a performance synchronized to LED lights on their costume, designed by Angela Dale, who is based in Canada.
Wires out of the way
For Dale, the strategy for a successful design is not allowing electronics to get in the way of fashion.
“I like to embed it so you don’t know it’s there until it comes on,” Dale told Power More.
“It has to be a really interesting-looking outfit without the electronics on, and then when the electronics — the LEDs — kick in, it’s like another level,” she said. “It’s like creating magic.”
When designing a costume for a performance, Dale considers the qualities, the fabric and the diffusion, or the way light reflects from an irregular surface.
“When I go shopping for fabric, I bring LEDs with me and I test out how it looks underneath,” Dale explained.
If LEDs are reflecting and diffusing well underneath the fabric, Dale says she’s on the right track.
Designers are able to control the LEDs in outfits using the DMX standard from the Entertainment Services Technology Association (ESTA).
Theaters use DMX to run lighting cues, and the technology runs over a radio frequency that doesn’t interfere with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, Dale said.
Designers struggle with finding the right amount of power for the electronics in an outfit without making batteries visible, Dale noted.
“I’m always looking for the next best thing and trying to figure out better ways to wire things where this dress isn’t going to rip apart in wires,” Dale said.
One of the dresses Dale contributed to the FashionWare show was damaged in transit to the event due to being thrown around in a suitcase by a cab driver, Dale said.
“There’s always a bit of a challenge with how to travel with these pieces,” she said.
Batteries in fashion tech
The battery pack worn by performers Sydney York are designed to run for about two and a half hours. They’re the same type of lithium-ion batteries that can be found in smartphones and PCs, Dale noted.
Dale reduces the power used by the lights by blinking them on and off in an animated fashion.
“If they’re always blinking on and off, they use way less power, Dale said. “And they’re more interesting to look at when they’re animated.”
Check out our slide show below to see highlights from the Fashionware runway show at NYC’s CE Week.
CE Week: FashionWare takes over