Wearable Technology

Story by Jeremy Young

Faculty of Architecture and Design, 2018

1,000 Hand Cut Paper Petals

Paper probably isn’t the first material that comes to your mind when you think about clothing, however this incredible dress is made out of 1,000 hand cut paper petals. What’s more, when the lights are turned out the dress transforms with the help of LED lights hidden in the petals. Named Ester, the dress was created by Victoria graduates, Flavia Rose and Ash King, and became a finalist in the World of Wearable Arts (WOW) show.

The skills needed to create Ester were learnt when Flavia and Ash took the Wearable Technology course in Victoria’s School of Design run by senior lecturer Anne Niemetz. “The course set us in motion to take the same materials, methods and ideas to make a WOW entry. I’ve always been captivated by things that light up,” said Flavia. Wearable Technology at Victoria looks at many different aspects of combining technology and wearability; such as wearable computers, fashion influenced by technology, and ‘smart’ jewellery and accessories. The course examines the many categories of wearable technology, as well as closely related fields, such as wearable computing, techno fashion, electronic textiles, intelligent jewellery and smart clothes. Anne Niemetz said that every year students exceed expectations and push boundaries in inventive ways.

Ester combines traditional hand-made craftsmanship with modern technology. The dress has a classical seventeenth-century style of a small waist, accentuated bust, and circular skirt, while the skirt also resembles an upturned lotus; adding a contemporary element. The skirt’s skeleton is flexed cane, covered in the hand-cut petals.

Hidden in the layers of petals are hundreds of tiny controllable LED lights. These lights allow the petals to blossom, transforming the dress into a moving display of shadows and lights. Ester was designed to be equally stunning in both light and darkness. Ester was created to explore cutting-edge wearable technology to emphasise the more traditional construction.

Ester

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  • <p>Ester. </p>
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  • <p>Ester. </p>
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A Look Underneath

Featuring 340 individual LED lights hidden under the paper petals, Ester took just three months to design, code, and create. Ash said that the garment is “fantastical, but fairly robust". During the WOW exhibition, the dress had a host of people looking after it to make sure that everything worked as planned every night it was on display. This team made sure that the dress’s three four-volt batteries were charged before every show and that the light show ran smoothly.

Flavia and Ash stated that they worked well as a team but the creation took a great amount of time and effort and, "we weren't confident at all. We had no idea what to expect. To us the garment feels very humble … it took us time and effort but we had no idea how it would go in the show”.

The dress performed perfectly throughout its 20-plus public showings, however the duo received the dress back with some odd additions. "We got the piece back with something called a nipple covering—I hadn't known this was part of the garment, it wasn't included when we submitted it."

Where the Duo is Now

After finishing their studies, Flavia and Ash both tutored subsequent students in Wearable Technology at Victoria, while also working at Weta Workshop and Weta Digital. Ash has found her niche as an artist for Weta Digital on movies such as War for the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, while Flavia is focusing on her freelance design after having worked on projects such as Ghost in the Shell and the Power Rangers movies at Weta Workshop.

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