AN_ERIN x Autodesk BUILD Space
Production of a full-scale fashion show for Project Runway winner Erin Robertson in the robot-filled Autodesk BUILD Space.
Project Runway winner Erin Robertson isn’t a big fan of the way the fashion industry works. Her work has always had an activist streak running through it, making collections out of recycled trash, to draw attention to the Pacific Trash Vortex, or using her background in research to explore new technologies and fabrication techniques that might make fashion more local and sustainable.
So when it came time to debut her first collection since winning Season 15 of Project Runway, Erin knew she didn’t want to have a standard fashion show.
Erin and I are good friends and frequent collaborators, and while I was at Autodesk working on the launch of the BUILD Space and the Design Night event series, she was making plans for a new collection. Erin was also incorporating new digital fabrication technologies into her work: laser cutting and etching, creating custom textiles with digital fabric printing, and 3D printing embellishment elements. Since the BUILD Space is all about digital fabrication and cross-industry collaboration, we began to pull the threads together (fashion pun!).
The concept we came up with was simple: Erin would become a research resident at the BUILD Space and use the equipment there to produce her garments, and then we would debut her collection at the next Design Night, a signature event series for the BUILD Space.
I facilitated Erin’s application and collaboration with the BUILD Space, and she got to work producing garments while I got to work producing the show. We collaborated with Isenberg Projects on the event concept, and with the BUILD Space team to build some special elements for the show: a backdrop made of computationally-designed steel stud “barnacles”, and a stage with color-changing LED elements.
The collection was called Sexual Helix, and it again had a social justice agenda. Each of the garments was designed around a different sea creature, all of which have non-binary, gender-non-conforming reproduction and sexual habits. The idea of the collection was to illustrate the incredible range and fluidity of sexuality in the biological world—basically, if you think sex means just male and female, you are wrong, and here are 8 examples of creatures that prove it. Except they were represented in couture garments, laser-etched leather and digitally printed silk, flowing digitally-embroidered embellishments on yellow wool, silicon-painted silk chiffon oysters and sparkling laser-cut acrylic.
The show was so beautiful—magical, glimmering gender non-conforming garments walking among robots, displayed by a beautiful group of models that exhibited a wide range of gender identities. And since we didn’t want it to be a traditional fashion show, we turned it into a fireside chat. Erin and I sat on stage and had a discussion about the collection, sharing its meaning, its fabrication techniques and the stories behind each piece with the a 100+ person audience.
This event was a big moment for fashion in Boston: a collaboration with a major company, and a clear showcase of forward-looking technology in the making of art and couture garments. It was also the beginning of many collaborations for myself and Erin (most notably, the Hourglass pop-ups, which we would open about a year later).