Fashioning the Future With: Chelsea Klukas
Chelsea Klukas is a co-founder of MakeFashion, "the world’s largest Fashion Technology community," an absolutely amazing resource for all things wearable tech. MakeFashion, based out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, connects people all around the world, and among participating in a variety of cool maker-centric events, they host an annual gala where the latest designs are showcased. It's like a night in fashion tech paradise!
We were so excited to get the chance to talk to Chelsea Klukas, who in addition to being a MakeFashion cofounder, is an impressive woman in STEM in her own right. Not only does Chelsea work as a product design manager for Facebook, but she also has her own stunning line of high fashion smart apparel called Lumière Atelier.
Chelsea shared the MakeFashion story with us along with insight into her process in creating her exquisite smart gowns. Read our Q&A with Chelsea to learn what makes this designer tick, what advice she has for young makers, and to find out her thoughts on the Final Fantasy video game franchise!
What was the inspiration behind founding MakeFashion?
MakeFashion was founded in 2012, at that time where were not nearly as many designers working on fashion technology as they are today. I had an arts background, and Shannon and Maria Hoover (the other two co-founders) owned an art gallery that showcased a lot of new media and technology. We had the crazy idea to do a fashion show that focused on technology, and things have continued to grow exponentially from there!
What is your personal fashion style like?
I love styles that are edgy and a bit dramatic. I love to wear black, and love metallic accents, clean lines, and capes. If I was in a character in SEW I think I would have to be cast as a supervillain! In Seattle, most people dress very casually, so when I go out I’m often asked what I’m dressing up for.
What do you think is next in fashion technology?
I’m excited about how technology is becoming more advanced, but more inexpensive and accessible at the same time. I think we’ll start to see a lot of our runway concepts become closer to reality. I’m also excited about how technology will help us shop. I was the design manager at Amazon for a product called the “Echo Look” that uses voice technology and artificial intelligence to help people decide what to wear. I’m hoping that in the future this technology becomes more and more mainstream: for so many people, shopping and getting dressed can be frustrating, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
What inspired you to create your projector hat dress, Lumen Couture?
I had the concept for a projection mapped dress for a few years, but the idea for bringing it to life took some time. Usually projectors are in a fixed position, so finding a way to make the projection move with the model down the runway was a tricky problem. Once my partner Chris Corner and I had the idea to install the projector in the hat, it opened up a realm of possibilities.
You have so many gorgeous dresses in your Lumière Atelier line. Where have people worn your creations?
I was inspired to make a ready-to-wear collection [link: http://www.lumiereatelier.com ] after getting so many compliments and questions about pieces I would make for myself. Currently my dresses are worn to special events, and I have had a lot of interest for festivals and Burning Man. I am currently working with a Maker Space to scale up the execution and therefore make the collection more affordable for everyone.
What is your process in coming up with a concept for a piece to executing it?
I have a natural curiosity for technology, so I am constantly reading up on the latest tech. Often inspiration comes from seeing a piece of technology being used for a non-creative purpose, and hacking it into a project. Creative technology projects are unique from other expressions from drawing and painting in that the materials are always changing and sometimes unpredictable. I tend to gather a lot of materials to have on-hand for when inspiration strikes, there’s nothing more frustrating than having an idea but needing to wait to order a particular piece of technology.
Do you think smart dresses like yours will become more prevalent at the prom/wedding/black tie/gala scenes?
I hope so! One of the dresses in my collection [link: http://www.lumiereatelier.com/lace-collection/] is designed with weddings in mind. I have also done work with brides to create a light-up underskirt for the afterparty. That way the bride can wear a designer dress of her choosing, and add in the lights after the ceremony for additional drama. I love events like proms and galas because they are our opportunity to stand out and be dramatic. In my opinion, this is the perfect time to wear a light up dress!
What exciting projects are you working on next/or is there a project you’ve had in mind that you’ve always wanted to build?
In addition to working on scaling up my ready-to-wear work, I’m designing new ways to utilize the Lumen Couture projection hat technology. I’m working on a new, futuristic-inspired dress and hat design, so stay tuned!
What advice do you have for younger girls (middle and high school) who want to pursue STEM?
One thing that took me until I was older to understand was that you don’t have to fit into the mold of any stereotype associated with your passions. When I was young, I was worried that liking video games and anime would make me look like a nerd, so I downplayed my interest in them. Now, we’re in an age where “geeky” interests and interest in STEM are celebrated, but I’ve seen some young people worry about being judged by also having frivolous interests like beauty and fashion. In reality it’s completely fine to have varied and conflicting interests and characteristics, and change them over time - they don’t define you!
Do you have any favorite engineer characters in books/movies/other art forms?
I’ve recently been watching the sci-fi show The Expanse, and Naomi Nagata is a really great character. From books, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam series (the trilogy starting with Oryx and Crake) feature a character named Toby who navigates a post-apocalyptic world and gathers resources for survival, and ultimately emerges as a heroic leader figure.
What’s your favorite video game? and/or Who is your favorite video game character?
One of my first favorite games was Final Fantasy VI (on Super Nintendo, for those who remember). The game had two strong female leads, and Celes is still one of my all-time favourite game characters. She’s a tough seasoned general, but also ends up being a very sensitive and romantic character. I’ve been a big fan of the Final Fantasy series and played nearly every game since, which made it disappointing that the recent game in the series had an all-male cast of main characters.
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
In real life, I would love a wearable tech device that can prevent people from interrupting and speaking over others or being inconsiderate. I’m a Canadian who values politeness, so calling people out is hard for me (but sometimes necessary!) so I could use a device that does that on command.
Where can people find you online? (Web, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.)
I publish YouTube videos on wearable technology weekly and recently started an IGTV channel - so the best way to stay in the loop is by checking out my channels!
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/chelscore