Fashioning the Future With: Emily Daub
Emily Daub literally lights up the dance floor. A multidisciplinary designer, Emily creates gorgeous e-textiles that beg to be taken for a spin. Or a run. Or for a night out on the town. Emily's portfolio of designs is impressive, elegant, illuminating, and diverse; she's created wearables from princess crowns to Iron Man Arc Reactors.
Emily recently graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a B.S. in Technology, Arts, and Media (TAM) from UC's ATLAS Institute, minoring in Dance. Just before graduation, Emily performed in The Show, a dance exhibit inspired by interpersonal relationships. Emily not only choreographed The Show, but she also made all the reactive costumes featured in it.
Check out our interview with Emily Daub to learn more about what went into The Show, her thoughts on the fashion industry, and to find out which comediennes she finds particularly insightful.
What initially drew you to wearable technology, and what was the first wearable you made?
When I came to CU I was a Chem major. I’d always liked fashion, so I joined the Fashion Design Student Association (FDSA), and the then-president of the Makers Collective (another student group at CU), reached out, and asked if anyone was interested in adding wearables features to the dresses we were making. I thought that sounded really cool, so I went to go find out more about it.
With the leader of the Makers Collective, I built a swing dancing skirt with an accelerometer in the hem that lit up LEDs on the underside of the hem, so when the dancer spun, and the skirt came to horizontal, the LEDs on the underside would light up. That was the first wearable that I made ever. The first wearable I made on my own was a long black evening gown that glowed from underneath.
How long have you been a dancer?
I’ve been a dancer almost all of my life. I did a combination of dance and gymnastics until I was about nine when I switched to swimming. I did cheerleading here and there, but I didn’t really dance again until college. Once I got to college, I took a modern dance class. I then just started taking a dance class or two a semester, and before I knew it, I’d finished my minor!
What is your favorite thing about designing costumes for dance?
I like that I can have an idea and then create it, really no different from any other project's creation. I just kind of think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…,” and then, if the amount that the idea is interesting to me is more than the work that it would take to make it, it becomes a thing in the real world.
What inspired your particular costumes for The Show?
For The Show, I drew from what you’d wear to the training/rehearsal for each specific style for the silhouette of the style. The LEDs also reflected the decorative elements on more practice wear. The pattern of the LEDs changed as a result of accelerometer data…which is usually footwork.
Do you have any favorite fashion designers?
I don’t really follow all that much with fashion… I am an apparel designer by trade, so I know all the trends and I know who is doing what and where style, silhouette, and color are going, but I don’t really follow fashion designers…The fashion industry for its entire existence has worked to bring more clothes to more people for less—which is great for homogenization, but not great because these practices (similar with attempting to produce large volumes of anything) have created a lot of grey and black areas in the industry for the environment and the people that make the clothing. So, being a human that likes this planet, most brands and designers aren’t really doing it for me environmentally and ethically, and rarely aesthetically. For a longer version of this rant, check out my website about it: thewearwellproject.org
What about favorite scientists or other role models?
I love hearing the stories about strong women doing what they want regardless of people telling them not to do something (with the reason being that they’re women), and rather being just as trailblazing and innovative as people consider men to be. Because, really any strong woman (and strong people) that have faced challenges and surmounted them with grace, humor, and their character intact are worthy of being role models. When I say I hear the stories, I mostly mean that I read a lot of autobiographies by comedians I like. They aren’t scientific, nor are they usually intellectually profound, but I’ve learned so much from them. Check out Yes Please by Amy Poehler and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.
What advice do you have for younger girls (middle and high school) who want to pursue college majors in STEM?
It's hard. I don’t want that to be discouraging, but it's also one of the things you should know before you get into it. A lot of the classes aren't “fun” at first, because I don’t know about you, but Calc isn’t my idea of a good time. But just because it’s hard doesn't mean it isn’t worth doing or that you shouldn’t do it. Do it! It's fun! But it's a lot more fun once you're about halfway done. Also, you get to see the look of surprise on people’s faces when you say, “I have a B.S. in Engineering!” which is pretty nice.
Also, as a girl, you kind of have to not care what people think of you (thinking you spent more time on your makeup than studying)—or even when it's in the positive direction (people being nicer when you don't know stuff, because they don’t expect women to know stuff). But if you find yourself within yourself, rather than letting these kinds of interactions or judgments affect you, ignore it.
Allowing people’s judgments will just suck your energy and make you feel bad about yourself, and as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So, don’t give that consent by giving pause to it. Do your thing—and be excellent.
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
The wearable tech device I would make would be a Harry Potter-esque invisibility cloak—a bunch of LEDs and cameras all over a cloak (LEDs on one side that show what the camera sees on the other side or something along those lines…). Although if I were to have a superpower, it would be the ability to change how I look, like Tonks from Harry Potter. Invisibility exists in anonymity! Or persuasion, allowing you to persuade anyone of anything would be super cool. (Free plane tickets, anyone?)