To an ordinary person, clothing that “interacts” with the environment sounds like a euphemism for spilling ketchup all over your pants. But fashion designer Ying Gao is no ordinary person. What she calls interactive clothes are in fact tech-rigged wearable sculptures that rustle, breathe, and glow in response to changes in their surroundings. In her hands, fashion literally comes to life.
Last month, the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec opened Ying Gao: Art, Fashion and Technology, a solo exhibit that shows off the best of Gao’s intelligent couture. That includes Walking City 2, a pleated dress that puffs in and out like a lung when visitors breathe into a microphone nearby. (The garment was inspired by Archigram, the vaunted ’60s-era architecture collective that made inflatable dwellings a form of avant-garde art.)
Here’s Living Pod, a frilly leather and organza confection that’s equipped with light-reactive sensors. When triggered, the sensors activate motors, forcing the fabric to slowly expand and contract:
Our favorite, Playtime (a reference to Jacques Tati’s bestest-ever film of the same name), features two dresses that respond to flashing cameras. One shimmies and appears like a big blur, while the other emits its own burst of light. Both make it exceedingly difficult for photogs to snap a decent picture, which is precisely the point. It’s a clever middle finger to the cultishness of fashion shows, where, as the museum points out, “photography is king.”
The exhibit runs through Aug. 28. More videos here.