Sensors and Fashion Come Together at NYFW

Stretch sensors on models' hands to trigger LED lights as they walked down the runway

Stretch sensors on models’ hands to trigger LED lights as they walked down the runway.

I just got home from New York Fashion Week (NYFW) where I met with a whole bunch of interesting people including coders, fashion designers, photographers and engineers. It was an amazing experience, but you might be asking what this has to do with StretchSense? Well, we were on the runway!

The NYFW project was our second collaboration with Intel and our first with Chromat, a fashion label focusing on structural experiments for the human body. Becca McCharen, the CEO of Chromat who has designed for high-profile celebrities including Beyonce, Madonna and Taylor Swift, has made our sensors a fashion accessory.

We first met up with Becca through the Intel team at CES. Becca and Intel had the idea of using stretch sensors at NYFW so that models could trigger lights on their dresses to express themselves through subtle movements of their hands. Becca loved the minimalist look of our sensors and decided she wanted them exposed on the models’ hands rather than hidden inside a glove.

Once the idea was conceived, we immediately got to work outlining the major project milestones and specs — we only had a month to do it! Becca did a quick sketch on a napkin before we all dispersed back to our home cities. Chromat was to make the dress, Intel to tie it all together with their Curie platform, and StretchSense to provide the sensors.

Napkin sketch where our collaboration was born.

Once we got home, we got to work right away. Making the sensors minimalist was a new challenge, and our engineers had to remove as much material as possible while having a sensor that was robust, stayed on the fingers and still got a signal.

The tricky part was that we didn’t know what size sensors we needed because the casting wasn’t going to take place until the weekend before the show. In the end, we shipped “open” gloves and lots of spare material so that the Intel team and Chromat could size them on the fly.

Prototype silicone sensor system we delivered for the fashion show.

On February 5th I packed my bags for New York to meet Becca at the casting. It was exciting to see how the fashion industry works; my first experience was running into a model who asked if I thought she should walk the casting with or without heels (my recommendation was with, although she looked to be 7 feet tall — I hope it worked out for her!).

Once inside there were queues of girls waiting on the steps for their turn to model Chromat’s garments. Things were coming together and I couldn’t wait for the Monday photoshoot, which took place between 6pm and 1am. Turns out a lot of work in fashion happens late at night, which suited me fine as a night owl 🙂

One of the first shots of the models wearing stretch sensors. Subtle movements of the hands would trigger the LED strips on her dress to light up.

The Monday shoot was limited to 10-12 people to keep the work efficient, and aside from the models, most of us wore black to reduce unwanted light bouncing into the shoot. At the photoshoot, the Intel team smoothed out the final technical hurdles and we saw the whole system working for the first time: dress, stretch sensors and Curie. The models loved it, the whole team was stoked and the photos looked amazing! Thanks to Tayler Smith for the wonderful images 🙂

Alisar, Erin E and Sabina Karlsson checking out the stretch sensors during the shoot.
Late night team photo at 1am!

Fast forward to Friday, and I found myself at the Chromat AWLumina16 fashion show at Milk Studios in the Meatpacking District. After getting through layers of security checkpoints, I made it backstage with the Intel team and photographers. This time the team was even bigger — if the Monday shoot had 10 people on site, the fashion show looked like over 200 people were involved. More models, stylists, reporters, photographers, engineers, event managers and guests, all in black of course.

At 4.45pm with 15min left until the show, everyone was hyped, busy and still working on the sensors and the models with only minutes left to go!

Model getting her eye make up pre-show.
Hair and makeup.
Some last minute inspiration for the models posted at the exit of the runway.


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