One would think architecture and designing a one-of-a-kind garment for the runway could not be more different. However, for a small team in our St. Louis office, the process for creating this year’s IIDA UnRavel fashion show piece had many similarities.
The process began with a charrette to develop multiple design concepts using various tile options from Daltile. The group then broke into smaller teams to develop the best concepts they discussed, and a final concept — developed by Jake Haggmark and Andrew Petty — emerged.
Jake and Andrew saw this as an opportunity to create a unique design process that mirrors what they do every day. “The goal was not to create a garment, but to design a process,” said Andrew.
“Tile is such a rigid material and it’s hard to be innovative with it,” added Jake. “When teams use tile on their garment for this competition, it’s always some form of a mosaic. Usually, it turns out looking like your bathroom floor.”
“We wanted to look at the tile material in a new way,” continued Jake, “we took inspiration from the UK pavilion’s ‘Seed Cathedral’ designed by Thomas Heatherwick for the 2010 World Expo.” The pavilion design uses 60,000 acrylic rods that project from the walls of the building — all containing a plant seed at the end of each rod.
Using tools like Grasshopper and Rhino, the team developed a primary concept that uses 1,500 individual 2” and 4” clear glass tile rods that stick straight out from the dress. Meanwhile, a physical model and animation was developed to show how the dress could support this novel design concept.
The under-layer of the dress is constructed with two layers of tile-backing mesh. To connect the tiles to the under-layer, the team prototyped and fabricated special 3D-printed clips that clip through the mesh and hold the tiles in place.
“After we were happy with the clips, we needed to start the 3D printing process, which took a total of about 200 hours,” said Jake.
When all of the production was complete, the entire team came together once again to assemble the garment.
“At one point, there were about five or six guys in their 20s and 30s huddled around this dress putting it together…it was pretty great,” recalled Andrew.
When the day came to show the piece off, it couldn’t have gone any better. Jake described how everything came together — from the choreography, to the music, to how the dress moved on the runway. “We made a very rigid material look soft and elegant,” he said.
When asked what the best thing about the whole experience was, both Andrew and Jake jokingly said, “That it didn’t fall apart,” crediting the sewing team for their efforts. In all seriousness, they were proud of the fact they stuck with their original concept from the beginning and executed it true to what they had planned. It was a dress, sure, but the team came together and used their collective talents to produce something beautiful.