Hedi Slimane, What Are You thinking?

I don’t usually comment on the runway shows, since you know, there are people who do that for a living and all. But in this case, I just could not resist because this collection is too much like a huge traffic accident with bodies and body parts lying everywhere.

See, some runway collections awe by their beauty. Some collections shock, some entertain, some make sense. Some leave you saying ‘WTF?’

Hedi Slimane’s inaugural collection for Saint Laurent is in the WTF category. Flipping through the runway shots, you could definitely see what inspirations moved SLimane: Phantom of the Opera. Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Your grandmother’s best jacket for weddings, and other important events. And these looks, which seem to have snuck in from another collection, maybe one inspired by LOTR? and of course, for a final movie reference, So, Jedi Knight You Want to Be?

It is a pretty tight collection, in that everything was black. But any sense of focus or direction stops there. The materials and the silhouettes are busy and incomprehensible. Lace-leather-chiffon-feathers-sequins-more-stuff-my mom’s art studio-Michael’s entire retail bead SKUs. There’s nothing wrong with any one of those materials. The silhouettes were just goofy juxtaposed together: Flowing robes-men’s wear-dominatrix chic-capes-hats.

There were some nice individual looks and features: I particularly liked the sharp men’s wear details and yes, the fedoras, but in a more wearable style. Ditch the pussy bows (yeah, it’s been a YSL feature for a gazillion years, but this collection wasn’t aided by it.

I guess the one nice thing about this collection: no prints. This may sound funny coming from someone who spends a lot of her time developing textile prints, but seriously, have you walked into a retail store this fall? Overdone and ugly prints. We at least were spared that in Slimane’s debut collection.

Well, there’s always next season. Hopefully he won’t be trying so hard and can at least remove the kitchen sink from the next collection.


Singing Jello? Seriously? No, Seriously.

I’m always utterly fascinated by food science and the crazy stuff the foodies come up with (they’d likely say the same about fashion designers, too.)  One of the coolest things I’ve seen in days was this neat entry at the Amsterdam-based Materia database: ‘Musical Pudding‘ or as the designers themselves call it, ‘Noisy Jelly.’

Other than the fact this material was developed by some designers in France, it wouldn’t seem to have much to do with fashion or apparel. However, when I saw this I was immediately taken with what a clever application the whole concept of ‘Noisy Jelly’ was.

The designers came up with a wild way of creating a musical instrument that you play by ‘playing with your food’. Using some more-or-less commonly available kitchen items (agar-agar, colorant, water, dessert mold) packaged into a cute mini-chemistry lab along with an Arduinno sound board, you make little jellies from the agar-agar, let them gel, then turn them out onto the soundboard. The soundboard is a capacitative sensor that detects the distance and strength of a finger touch and transform the handling into audio signals. In other words, pet the jellies and they make sounds.

I am reminded of an organic theramin. Words can’t really do this concept justice, you really do need to see the video.

Although they don’t say whether or not you can eat the jellies, how cool would it be if you could? Parents everywhere would stop discouraging little Janey or Jimmy from playing with their food! Martha Stewart could really do something with a dessert tray of these things.

Why I loved this idea so much – it takes some well-understood bits and pieces (capacitors, gels) and mashes them up into something very fun and funky.  Gels are interesting things at the best of times (they’re just so useful in so many ways), and when you add them to something that turns them into an instrument, well, what’s not to like?

Wouldn’t this just make just a super cute Science Fair project? You could change the chemical basis of the dyes to add or subtract salt quantities, change the shapes and volumes of the molds, and so on, to create a lexicon of sounds from the jellies. Or of course, couple the Noisy Jelly with a theramin and a digeridoo, and you’ve got an epic garage band. Of sorts. I can already see the you-Tube channel…




Fashion Research Institute Launches Virtual Runway™

Virtual Runway™ Helps Fashion Designers Accelerate Their Sales and Marketing

Fashion Research Institute launches immersive, interactive runway show for apparel industry

NEW YORK — April 9, 2010 — This month, fashion leaps forward at warp speed as Fashion Research Institute launches Virtual Runway™, a 24/7 on-demand 3D runway show service for fashion designers. For the first time ever, fashion designers can quickly and easily present their design concepts in an interactive 3D environment that allows designers to cut time to market, save sample costs, and showcase their work to both wholesale and retail buyers.

Virtual Runway™ recreates the look and feel of a live show with music, 360-degree views of fully-customizable virtual models and both immersive and video capabilities.  Designers can log into their private runway studio and iterate on their designs, then showcase their work in a fully choreographed runway show. They can invite buyers, media, colleagues, and production managers into their runway studio, where they can discuss the designs as the models move around the runway.   Or designers can simply make fast, easy videos, with file sizes small enough to be sent to any mobile device.

Unlike traditional runway shows and web-shows, the Virtual Runway™ models can also interact with the audience.

“Our model avatars have artificial intelligence,” said Shenlei Winkler, CEO, Fashion Research Institute.  “They will say exactly what you tell them to say, so you can have them talk about the designs they are wearing, the designer, the collection, and any other marketing information you want them to share. You don’t need to supervise them, and even though they are multi-tasking our Virtual Runway models never miss a step.”

Virtual Runway™ has more than 800 billion stock model options available to designers, who also have an additional 900 billion choices of accessories.  This wide range of options lets designers fully customize their models, selecting from choices that include everything from more than 2,500 hairstyles and hundreds of makeup options in up to 20 skin tones.  And once the models are dressed and ready to go, a designer simply chooses a choreographed runway set and adds her own label and branding to the set.

Both local and environmental lighting is built-in, and models can be highlighted, or the entire environment changed quickly and easily to reflect the mood the designer wants for her collection.  Once the models are moving on the catwalk, designers can invite others to join her in her Virtual Runway™ studio, or she can create video that is perfect for web or mobile.

“We’re very excited about this product.” Winkler said. “We are using it to present a mirror world event on behalf of two of our best student interns from Buffalo State University.  We have created their senior fashion show inside a Virtual Runway™ studio, and have filmed the collections in advance of their actual runway show.  Our video of their virtual collections and the actual physical collections will be concurrently presented on May 1, 2010.”

Virtual Runway™ runs on top of the OpenSim platform, and training for designers to learn to use the interface and the Runway software are available through short seminars and accredited college courses.

For more information about Virtual Runway™ , please contact Jeff Russell, Director of Sales, at (631) 880-8611 or via e-mail, jeff at fashionresearchinstitute.com.


FRI Student Interns Take Manhattan: Day Four

The Train Station at Poughkeepsie

Farewell From The Train Station

The Fashion Research Institute interns from Buffalo State University, Missy & Britt, rounded out their visit on day four.  After a long day in the City the previous day, everyone was a little hard to rouse.  We put some mileage in, criss-crossing the rag district  and searching out the last nuanced trim and detail for their collections.

Packing up, we managed to get everyone into the car and to the train station with 15 minutes to spare – only to discover that the train was running 20 minutes late.

Hosting our interns was a delight.  We were very pleased to meet these two charming young women in person.  We are looking forward to their Spring break, when they will return for help with their final run-up to turning in their collection.

Our interns had the opportunity to learn first hand about New York, the fashion capital of the world and about how the apparel industry works;.  We had a chance to make sure they located everything they needed for their collections; and they had in-depth tutoring on developing their portfolio for future endeavors.

It was a great trip, and we were very sorry to wave good-bye at the train station.

Of course, now the fun (or hard) part begins: constructing the garments for the two versions of Runway 3.0 and developing the visual story for their portfolios.  Britt and Missy will be back in six weeks for their Spring Break, where we’ll help with the technical design of their collections.

Missy Doesn't Want to Go

FRI Student Interns Take Manhattan: Day Three!

The Sourcing List

Since the FRI interns had a long and grueling day the previous day, we got a later start on Friday.  No one seemed to be in a big hurry to finish up breakfast, served in the sun-drenched family room (a definite advantage in wintery New York).  Nevertheless, we finally got ourselves loaded into the car for our hour-long drive into the City.

The trip flew past as we talked the whole way about fashion and careers, interrupted occasionally to point out areas of interest.  As we crossed into Manhattan over the Harlem River, Britt and Missy became quite excited.  Mecca for fashion designers was at our fingertips!  Dropping the car at a convenient lot, we started our long day of sourcing and more.

First we visited the FIT campus, which is a block-long street of school buildings.  We dropped into the FIT Museum, which had three exhibits currently installed.   We did a whirlwind tour and made sure to pick up all the exhibit brochures.  Both interns found something to interest them in the American Beauty exhibit.  Missy was thrilled about the evening wear; Britt was fascinated by the use of furs and leathers.  Upstairs in the revolving exhibit space, both fell in love with the early fashions.  Britt was particularly enamored of the late Victorian style clothing on display, while Missy found a length of Luminex fabric on display which captivated her.

Departing FIT, we cut across on 29th Street and popped into a couple of the event planning/party stores to source some less common trims and textile substitutes.  Often just knowing things are available will change a designer’s vision, so we were trying to expose the interns to as wide an array of products as possible.

Heading up 6th Avenue, we took in the import district, with the wide array of costume jewelry, hair supply stores, and hosiery importers.  As we crossed into Herald Square, we stopped for the ‘perfect’ shot of the Empire State building framed by the buildings on either side of 34th Street.  then we tackled Macy’s.  We didn’t have a lot of time, so we quickly walked the windows and then cut in through the main cosmetics floor and did a whirlwind visit of the “Aisles of Beauty” followed by a quick visit to the accessories, handbags, and watches.  Both declined visiting the Louis-Vuitton boutique claiming it would be ‘dangerous to their wallets’.

Heading back to 6th Avenue, we headed north to M&J Trimmings and the other bead and trim stores on 6th Avenue.  Finished there, we walked up the Avenue to Bryant Park and the tents for Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.  It was oddly quiet, with only a few ready wagons pulled in on 6th Avenue, and a remarkably small cluster of paparazzi and visitors.  The usual gaggle of ‘models waiting to be discovered’ were very much not apparent and there was a decided lack of black cars dueling it out to deliver their passengers to the red carpet.

We’re not sure if the lack of energy was due to the poor economy or simply because when a party is over in New York, it’s over, and every trendster knows it and refuses to get caught dead at a venue that’s outdated.  Perhaps the fact that the party is moving uptown in the Fall contributed to the poor turnout; all we can say is that at 2 pm on a Friday afternoon on a relatively clement winter day, there weren’t even the usual park goers hanging out to ogle the passers-by.

Departing the tents, we dove into the rag district for the real reason for the visit: sourcing!  First stop was Leather Impact, where Brit found two skins with minor blemishes (both goatskins, one with a lovely soft golden metallic spray finish, the other a very soft 1 ounce sueded half skin) at the ‘perfect’ price, which of course made the skins ‘perfect’.

Heading around the corner to 39th Street, we went to the ‘Fabric Store of Enormous Rats’.  There are many job lotters in the rag district, all of which seem to be named things like A&J, A&S, A&A, and so on.  It’s a bit tough to differentiate them; however, the Store of Enormous Rats’ has earned this distinction by virtue of the fact that at one point a few years earlier, we were sourcing for a theatrical event and digging through the basement.  We moved a bolt of fabric and a rat ran across our feet.  Rats are semi-common in New York, but this one seemed a tad put out that his home had been moved.  At any rate, the prices at the Store of Enormous Rats are really excellent and with only minor haggling everyone can usually walk away satisfied.  Except, perhaps, the rats.

In any event, the proprietor and staff got into the spirit of the hunt and were very helpful at moving bolts around for the ladies.  We soon found Missy’s single knit jersey, which she negotiated a very good price for.  Britt had a wider array of fabrics she was sourcing, but we soon found her changeable iridescent taffeta (black to silvery grey); her lace (better than expected); and silk crepe chiffon (it’s like buttah!).  Successfully concluding Britt’s purchases, Missy was almost overwhelmed by the display of sequined fabrics by the counter, but we were able to carefully disengage the bolts from her fingers and head west to Daytona Trims.

Daytona yielded up dye, inexpensive (ok, cheap!) zippers and buttons, strapping, and best of all, stretch rhinestone trim (three guesses who bought that?)  Missy was dissuaded from purchasing all the other wide rhinestone trims by being reminded that developing her own beading patterns would let her put them in her portfolio.  Tucking everything carefully away, we headed over to 7th Avenue for a glory shot by the Fashion District Information Center, home of the giant button and needle.  Then we headed south on 7th Avenue (aka Fashion Avenue) for a quick bite at Seven on 7th to wait out rush hour.

Heading out of the City and beating our way back through the traffic, we were well content with our day, even it was remarkably rat-free.  Missy and Britt had gotten their full suite of fabrics for their collections, as well as additional trims; we had taken in some exhibits, paid our respects to the Tents at Bryant Park, we’d had the ‘chi-chi NYC restaurant’ experience, and we had a chance to experience Rush Hour in New York.  Back home, we found a fire and martinis waiting for us, as well as some light snacks.   A perfect ending to a perfect sourcing day in New York.

The Museum at FIT

Macy's "Theater"Window

Britt Sources Trims

Missy Examines the Many Choices of Rhinestones

Photographers' Entrance to NY Fashion Week Tents

Britt Checking Out Lace Options


"You Aren't Supposed to Rip....It. Oh."

"It's like Buttah!"

"This is the PERFECT Taffeta"

Haggling About the Price

Perfect Fabric! Perfect Price! Yes, She Wants It!

Settling Up....O.M.G....Sequins!

The Giant Needle at the Fashion District Information Kiosk

Virtual Community Engineering in ScienceSim

We’ve been hard at work completing agreements and getting our first wave of land grant recipients settled in in our homesteading regions in ScienceSim.  This is the first opportunity we’ve had to post any images from some of the settled regions.

Shown here are some images from Brian Quinn’s simulation of Point Reyes; parcels for John Walber’s Learning Times; Peter Blair at Utah State University; and the fashion design interns at Fashion Research Institute.  Also shown are some of the common spaces, such as the common space parks, the shopping facility for ScienceSim licensed content; and the public sandbox in Einstein.

How Virtual Yellowstone National Park in ScienceSim Was Made

Dr. Brian Quinn provided us with the data set for the terrain which was used to create virtual Yellowstone National Park in ScienceSim.   At the moment, the regions ‘just’ contain the terrain data, but even so, they’re compelling beautiful.  Exploring the regions is an interesting experience.

Comfortably seated in central heating, we can effortlessly fly through the ravines and canyons and over the lakes, while two thousand (or so) miles away, the real Yellowstone lays under a snow blanket. There’s just something indefinably special about knowing the terrain passing under our flying avatar is simulated real world terrain – and so much of it – and free – anyone can come in and fly around and look at it, explore it, hike over it.  It’s just there to be explored and wondered at.

And this is how it was made, according to Brian:

“First off – the source is USGS NED from seamless.usgs.gov, nominal 1/3 arc second sampling.  This stuff comes in in geographic (Lat/Long) coordinates, so it’s wildly distorted in east-west vs. north-south scales.  To resolve this, I projected the terrain to WGS84 UTM meters, and found that the resolution at Yellowtone’s latitude is about 7 meters.

Once both axes had a common scale, I clipped out a precise 85km square area with interesting terrain around the national park.  Then I made two realizations of OpenSim terrain.  For reference, my original 85km square consists of 12144 by 12144 single-precision float terrain samples.

Terrain set one is designed for the current 4×4 array of regions and is a 1:83 scale terrain with 1.5X Z-exaggeration for spice, with pedestal removed to bring lowest elevation near to 20 meters in Z.  It contains 16 ready-to-load f32 files.  Loading 16 of these by hand is simple enough to script.  The precise scale is (85000 / 1024)

Terrain set two is for deeper consideration, I also have prepared a nominal 1:10 scale Yellowstone with 1.5X z-exaggeration, with pedestal removed to just over 20 meters Z.  This data file has not been diced, although it has been flipped to accomodate the OpenSim bottum-up reading scheme.

This is a generic binary that is not tiled, as I don’t presently have code to generate the necessary scripts.  Expect 8192 by 8192 float32 values, starting from upper-left and finishing at lower-right in TV-raster scan style—BUT these are intended for regions starting in the lower-left and finishing in the upper-right. This file is intended to test seamless terrain loading into 1024 regions.  I’ve never had good success with the OpenSim “load tile” terrain, but because this source is square and a nice multiple of regions, I thought it might give the best chance to that function (if it’s still around) to work. The precise scale is (85000 / 8192)”

End quote.

And from Brian’s work, Mic Bowman, lead Intel researcher, loaded the terrain files onto the ScienceSim servers, and virtual Yellowstone emerged.  These images are shot from the Lake Shoshone region of the park.