CLICK@MoMA: Wearable Technology!

Diana Eng introduces the concept of illuminated fashion

This season, as part of our third CLICK@MoMA digital technology course for teens, we teamed up with the amazing crew over at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center to collaborate on a course that blends cutting-edge technology, beautiful fashion, and MoMA’s collection of incredible artwork into one amazing set of workshops. The teens, under the guidance of Diana Eng, have been hard at work getting their final, technology-based designs ready for another In the Making first: a teen-created, teen-modeled fashion show! Below, Diana shares her thoughts on one of the class’s first successful experiments.

—Calder Zwicky, Associate Educator of Teen and Community Programs

It’s week eight and our Click@MoMA class is preparing for our huge wearable technology fashion show, presented as part of the upcoming In the Making teen art show. On the runway we’ll have inflatable superhero costumes, LED embroidered jackets and tops, and even computer-programmed electroluminescent garments. During the semester we introduced the students to bits from the tech world (hacking electronics, experimental materials) and bits from the fashion world (sewing skills, the garment district). But we spent most of our time together creating wearable experiments that combine technology with design elements from outside the world of fashion. These experiments have all been inspiration for the final garments that will be displayed in the fashion show on April 27.

From left: taking inspiration from Leo Villareal’s Field; capturing video of Henri Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy. Shown: Leo Villareal. Field. 2007. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), custom software program, electrical hardware, and diffusion material. Gift of Lisa and Richard Baker. © 2012 Leo Villareal; Henri Rousseau. The Sleeping Gypsy. 1897. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs. Simon Guggenheim

Claude Monet's Water Lilies was an obvious inspiration. Shown: Claude Monet. Water Lilies. 1914–26. Oil on canvas, three panels. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund

One of the earliest experiments we accomplished together was making video-projected garments. The class began with a short demonstration of how videos could be projected to create moving, shifting, changing patterns on fabric. Students worked in small groups to design and then construct a garment from their own dynamically patterned pieces of fabric. The group then filmed and edited the videos—considering color, pattern, and how the images moved, all prior to sewing their own garments.

Since the patterns were projected onto the dresses and shirts themselves, the garments became illuminated masterpieces, showcasing works from MoMA’s collection. The class ventured into the galleries to view Leo Villareal’s Field, and experience how an illuminated artwork affects the environment around it. After that we moved up to the fifth floor to look at how Impressionist artists used both color and texture to convey different seasons and feelings through a comparison of two of Monet’s famous Water Lilies paintings.

The students then brought out their flip cams and captured high definition videos of artworks in the Museum that they thought would bring a new level of beauty and dynamism to the blank surfaces of their fabric. Students were especially inventive in this part of the workshop, making the patterns move by zooming in on different parts of the paintings and waving the camera to create visual effects. The teens were also very conscious of color, capturing video footage from specifically colored sections of artworks and discussing how these colors would eventually illuminate their own fashions.

From left: CLICK teens begin creating their designs; the studios are turned into sewing rooms for this section of the project

Back downstairs in the studio, the teen videos were edited and the garments were sewn together. Finally, students presented their video-projection garments to their peers by holding them in front of our projector, bringing their modern art-inspired videos to life on the surfaces of their garments. A number of the students decided to incorporate the video technology into their final projects, which will be presented in a fashion show at our In The Making teen art show on Friday, April 27. I know that I’m not alone in seriously looking forward to seeing how the CLICK@MoMA: Wearable Technology fashion collection turns out.

Illuminated dress form held up by a participant

The CLICK@MoMA runway show, along with all of the other In the Making teen artwork, was on view at the opening party on April 27. More information is available on the MoMA Teens Facebook page or by contacting [email protected]. Special thanks to Eyebeam Art + Technology Center for making this partnership a reality.