Natalie Walsh – Is Open Source the Future of Fashion?

It was summer when I first fell in love with fashion tech. I’d been courting the industry for a few months, but it was at Silicon Valley Fashion Week in May that my feelings for wearables, 3D printing, and light-up dresses went from lusty admiration for full-on Love with a capital L.

I was covering the rather unconventional fashion week, which was actually hosted in the Mission district of San Francisco rather than Silicon Valley proper, for the CBC. Night two of the three-day fashion week focused on technologies worn on the body. That’s when I first laid eyes on a stunning and feminine fiber optic dress. I took this picture, which has since become one of my favourite photographs taken to date:

When I went to inquire about the dress’s maker, I got two answers: Natalie Walsh and Jen Mann. As I’d soon learn, Natalie Walsh was the original designer, but Jen Mann iterated on the concept for the show. What was interesting was that these two were perfect strangers, so my question was, how could they have collaborated on a dress?

The answer came in the form of a website called Instructables. Instructables is a prototyping and project-sharing website that’s a mainstay of the maker community. Natalie uploaded detailed instructions along with step-by-step photos and the project went viral, being viewed more than 280,000 times.

Since Silicon Valley Fashion Week, I’ve seen the dress at various festivals and events, including Burning Man. It has become a kind of meme, popping up in different places and appropriated on in different ways (my friends and I even took inspiration for the design for our Burning Man costumes).

For episode 2 of the Electric Runway podcast, I travel to sunny San Francisco to chat with Natalie Walsh about open source fashion, light-up apparel, and the overlap between fashion tech and the maker community.

Listen to our conversation above, and don’t forget to subscribe!

To make your own fiber optic dress, check out the Instructables instructions here. 

Fiber Optic Dress Spotted at Burning Man:

Amanda Cosco
Amanda Cosco is a Fashion Futurist and the founder of Electric Runway

1 Comment

  • Wilhelmine Peers

    Thanks for covering this podcast and putting music to it. The dresses are my hope to create more of these fiberoptic textiles and knitwear. Again. Thanks!

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