Fashioning the Future With: Amy Winters

 Image/Electric Garden: Colour-sensitive dress wrapped in organza embroidery which transform in colour on whim. Embedded colour sensor and LEDs.

Image/Electric Garden: Colour-sensitive dress wrapped in organza embroidery which transform in colour on whim. Embedded colour sensor and LEDs.

Dr. Amy Winters is a fashion designer, PhD, and material futurist. We think the term 'sartorial sorcerer', also suits her quite well, and you just need to take a look at her fashion line, Rainbow Winters, to find out why.

Rainbow Winters bring the magic of science and nature to life—and to the runway. Rainbow Winters' dresses actually react to their environments, meaning the garments transform themselves depending on external stimuli like light or sound. You really have to see her designs to believe them, and we've featured some below!

On top of her amazing studio full of spellbinding dresses, Amy, of course, has an impressive academic record. She holds a doctorate from the Royal College of Art in Interactive Textiles, and her undergraduate degree from Central Saint Martins in Performance Design. Dr. Winters is also a researcher and speaker. She's been featured by outlets like Wired, Marie Clare, The Guardian, Vice Style, Stylist, and many more.  

Rainbow Winters is a paragon of high tech high fashion, and Amy Winters is a creative force to be reckoned with. We will be keeping our eyes on her to see what she dreams up and brings to life next.

Check out our Q&A with Amy Winters to find out more about this real-life Doctor Tailor!

What do you appreciate most about soft robotics?

 Image of various soft robotics.

Image of various soft robotics.

Soft robotics is fast becoming an emerging phenomenon in design. These novel materials are distinctive as machines which look and feel exactly like conventional textiles. In particular, the most persuasive features would be their organic and sensual properties – how they can change texture and thus mediate new types of interaction.

When did you first get the idea to create reactive dresses?

Multi-sensory design is fundamental to performance, and my background in theatre performed as the initial catalyst for my work. Theatre as a time-art evokes a reaction and interaction between the spectator and performer. Here I found a unique opportunity to translate concepts from the disciplines of animation, music, dance, theatre and film, into a new field - interactive wearables!

Video/TWI Ltd: Amy Winters chats smart, textile-based garments.

How does your previous work in the theater inform your designs?

My interests lie in understanding the lived experience of people interacting with emerging technologies and exploring how to design future products and systems from such understandings.

What is your own personal style like?

As I am continually making things (and making a mess), my own personal style is fairly minimal focusing on colours and textures such as black, creams and gold with turquoise and coral for the summer. Soft and tactile fabrics are a must which feel and smell great such as cotton and cashmere.

Who are some of your artistic influencers?

 Image/Rainforest: Dress changes colour on reaction to sunlight and water, morphing from a black and white world into living colour.

Image/Rainforest: Dress changes colour on reaction to sunlight and water, morphing from a black and white world into living colour.

Inspiration is derived from a variety of influences such as the work of hybrid inventor-filmmaker Jean Painlevé and stop-motion animators the Brothers Quay and Jan Švankmajer. Painlevé’s surrealistic, dream-infused works, such as The Love Life of the Octopus (1967), The Sea Horse (1935) and Acera, or The Witches’ Dance (1978) are set to emotive classical soundtracks; the molluscs in The Witches’ Dance are given character, spinning and dancing, to conceive a form of creative expression rather than offering a factual account of underwater biology. In particular, the poetic sensibilities and sensuality of Phase-transition in Liquid Crystals (1978) give the material a dramatic sense of urgency. Documenting the pattern-changing pressure and temperature changes, we can observe the resemblances between film and interactive textiles print. The Brothers Quay use ‘alchemic materiality' in their work by manipulating real-life objects within stop-motion animation in Street of Crocodiles (1986).

Who are your favorite scientists?

Firstly, Roger Hanlon is the godfather of cephalopod research, primarily most of the current materials for soft robotics curtail from Hanlon’s initial findings. Soft robotics is for the most part inspired by biological systems which have no rigid structures and are thus able to shape their bodies to suit their environment.

Secondly, the painter Yves Klein is notable due to his invention process behind his patented colour ‘Yves Klein’ – a powerful blue hue.

A lot of your creations are very much in tune with mother nature. What’s your favorite type of weather and which season do you enjoy the most?

 Image/Thunderstorm Sound-Reactive Dress: Created from holographic leather and sound-reactive, animated electroluminescent panels. As the volume rises, the dress illuminates to create ‘visual music.

Image/Thunderstorm Sound-Reactive Dress: Created from holographic leather and sound-reactive, animated electroluminescent panels. As the volume rises, the dress illuminates to create ‘visual music.

Countless ideas are stirred by the mechanisms of nature and their underlying rhythms. The transformations of the seasons, for example, are inherently rhythmic – spring transmuting into summer, autumn into winter. Warm rain on a hot day is my favourite type of weather, and water with its unique transitional qualities underpins much of my work–ice structures, for example, or steam can appear, disappear and interact with the light frequencies of the day.

Can you tell us what your next work might be? Or: Is there a certain dress design that you’ve always wanted to make?

‘Liquefied’ materials are being developed as an output of my research by exploiting properties in microfluidic systems. Through these technological tools I am starting to experiment with unusual capabilities - can we imagine a Crying or a Tantrum dress?

Video/Channel Ten: Amy talks her color changing clothes.

What advice do you have for younger girls (middle and high school) who want to pursue STEM?

STEM surrounds us everywhere - not just in our regular science and math classes. This would be probably a major takeaway from my school days. Although I found biology, physics and chemistry classes lacklustre, I was actively working with STEM all the time, devising original pigments in the textile department, trying to invent a new type of chocolate in my parent’s kitchen and writing code for website chat engines during school breaks. I would, therefore, encourage even those who do not think they fit the traditional ‘STEM’ mould to look beyond and outside the classroom if they would like to pursue or even dabble in STEM for their future careers.

Do you have any favourite engineer characters in books/movies/other art forms?

The ‘thrill’ engineer, Brendan Walker, who directs on roller coaster designs around the world and his ‘VR’ playground. On a more fictional level, Willy Wonka, more of an ‘imagineer’ – chocolate rivers, lollipop trees and all sorts of elaborate contraptions!  

If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?

A superhero costume made from computational fabrics which can read the micro expressions and body language of my opponents!

Want more sartorial sorcery? Follow Amy on Twitter and check out www.rainbowwinters.com!

Kristen O. BobstComment