While everyone dons costumes and scavenged for sweets, Capitol Couture brings you the most macabre chic in fashion today. This spectral creation comes to you from Anouk Wipprecht, a Vienna-based Dutch fashion designer with an impressive resume of interactively robotic couture pieces. Her most high profile creation—an outfit for the Black Eyed Peas lead singer Fergie at the 2011 Superbowl—amazed viewers across the globe with his tech edge. She collaborated with designer Bea Akerlund. “Fashion tech is hot on stage, but celebrities don’t wear tech-enhanced accessories or wearables off stage,” Wipprect has been quoted as saying to Vice. “When someone like Will.i.am or Gaga shows up with blinking jewelry or color-changing bags, the crowd will definitely follow.”
Other highlights in Wipprecht’s portfolio include a dress that emits smoke with movement, a frock that becomes transparent with proximity to others, and a dripping-pigment piece that generates a unique garment every time it’s worn. As for the future of tech couture, she sees a bright horizon: “I think in the near future people will start to experiment more with the combination of clothing and technology due to price and availability,” Wipprecht has said. “But still, it has a bit of a geeky feel to it.”
A collaboration with Austrian software developer Daniel Schatzmayr, this particular arachnid-inspired dress has its roots in the French video game LIMBO. It perches protectively on the shoulders, reacting via precise sensors when someone approaches. The effect is eerily repellent and magnetic in its grace and span. If only someone would wear such a magnificent design on the red carpet. That would put off the pesky paparazzi, no doubt. . As a proponent of “fashion tech” creations, Wipprecht sees the inherent design in each piece’s inner workings: “The technology creates the aesthetics,” she has said. Come Halloween night, arachnophobes beware: this black widow is ready to strike.
A tornado of color and ethnic influences ground these designs.
When Giorgio Armani signs on as an ardent benefactor, you know you’ve got some muscle behind your label. Former model and relative newcomer Stella Jean capitalizes on her blended heritage—half Haitian, half Italian—to create ethnic looks with unique silhouettes. The result is a riot of color in ebullient forms. For her fall/winter collection, Jean paired wax fabrics from Africa with Navajo-like faux fur and Mongolian-inspired assymetrical cuts.
“I drew inspiration from the capacity to blend and juxtapose traditions that are distant, like pre-Columbian and Mongolian civilizations,” Jean has noted of her recent line. Jewel-embellished striped sweaters feel like rugby wear for royalty; patterned bustiers are perfect for layering with faux fur shrugs. Jean’s genius lies in her bravado—like a Michelin-rated chef, she takes bold, seemingly incongruent ingredients and makes them sing in harmony. Her signature kaleidoscope of color is a smart calling card for this up and comer.
Jean has summed up her design motto and personal mantra this way: “The only insurmountable frontiers are those of the mind.” Well spoken and elegantly executed. You can check out her fall line—from funky, studded African print cuffs ($128) to a ladylike dress with flared skirt, white collar and button cuffs ($1105)—at farfetch.
Spanish designer Alba Prat wasn’t always the technology-minded, geometric genius whose designs now frequent the City Circle streets. Since beginning her voyage into the fashion world holding an Environmental Science degree, Prat has produced several concept collections that have wowed internationally, beginning with “Synthetic Oceans”—- created around the idea of marine life adapting to plastic in its environment.
Her penchant for neon and vibrant hues shows up prominently in her most recent collections. In “Syn Chron,” a bright cerise red oversized blazer brings to mind David Byrne’s ridiculously huge suiting onstage that typified the excess of the ‘80 for the Talking Heads tour. For the collection, Alba also recorded her own heartbeat and used special software to translate it into the patterns of her prints. Very cool.
But one of Capitol Couture’s favorite lines is Fall 2011’s “Digitalized,” which endeavors to bring cinematic elements of the sci-fi classic Tron to everyday fashion materials such as wool, cotton, and leather. With her androgynous silhouettes and 3D diamond/hexagonal patterning, Prat channels the film’s concept of turning “real people into pixels” by taking the film’s “strong retro character” and delivering it to us in modern, minimalist form. (“Digitized” pictured left.)
Seeking inspiration? Vibrant plaid and accents of patent leather give these looks from Roksanda Ilincic a vintage feel with academic flair. This Serbian-born designer relies on classic cuts—combined with dramatic draping—to juxtapose simplicity and elegance. Known for her affinity for amped up color, she has summed her aesthetic up this way: ”I like the contrast of something unexpected happening, which is an element I try to incorporate into my own designs.”
Her fan base is as diverse as her collections and includes Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton and Michelle Obama. Ever since she came on the scene a decade ago, Ilincic has been enlivening the runways with fluid, architectural style that harkens back to a more civilized time when women and men dressed up—and hats were key. “Fashion is very important politically. It reflects the time, the economic and cultural changes happening in society,” Ilincic has stated. “It’s a mirror to see what is happening in other areas of life. At the end of the day they are all expressed through clothes as well.”
Self-professed “body architect” Lucy McRae marries technology and fashion, with a keen emphasis on our anatomy. Experimenting with body form manipulation, this Australian artist utilizes both low and high-tech material “from transparent plumbing tubing to colored gelatin” to create stunning structures that extend the silhouette of the body into uncharted territory. “I became obsessed with this idea of blurring the perimeter of the body,” she tells Capitol Couture. “So you couldn’t see where the skin ended and the near environment started.”
With clients ranging from Vogue to pop star Robyn and artist Nick Knight, McRae—a trained architect and ballerina—is at the helm of an extensive list of projects that dabble in various mediums. She has created short films that explore human cloning and “Swallowable Parfum” is a pill she is developing that works with enzymes to release fragrance through perspiration. Will Cinna soon have some significant competition? The Capitol looks forward to myriad innovations from McRae’s brilliant mind, as she continues her exquisitely unconventional approach to the culture of keeping up appearances.
Ethereal meets lethal sums up the effect of London designer Maiko Takeda’s recent Capitol-worthy collection, entitled “Atmospheric Reentry.” She tints slivers of plastic and joins the elements with silver rings to create these auras of quills, which quiver with movement. To see her striking work, go to MaikoTakeda.com.
Former urban planner and Brooklyn-based designer Becca McCharen calls her creations “structural experiments for the human body.” Her sexy cage-like pieces for her label Chromat might be interpreted as a woman’s stylish wink at oppression. Then again, they could be a nod to the pleasures of bondage. Outside of the Capitol, discerning souls like Madonna and Beyonce are fans. Leather harnesses start at $275 at chromatgarments.com.
Color at its finest! Choosing a kaleidoscopic ensemble radiates your natural confidence. A little birdie told us feathers are the upcoming “it” factor this summer- rock that plumage with Capitol pride.