Futuristic fashion

From designing video jackets for U2 to creating a Twitter dress for Nicole Sherzinger, or clothes for Katy Perry, CuteCircuit are making fashion futuristic!

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Name: Francesca Rosella
Job title: Chief Creative Director
Company: CuteCircuit
Home town: Rome
Follow @CuteCircuit on Twitter

Francesca also took part in our #AskAnEngineer Twitter Q&A for Tomorrow's Engineers Week 2014. You can take a look at her answers below.

Can you explain how designing and engineering work together at Cute Circuit?
We are interested in innovation because it gives opportunities for new experiences. Fashion design can be thought of as a kind of experience design, where it encapsulates both the experience of the wearer and creates an experience for the viewer.

With the use of technology, the breadth of experiences that become possible are far more diverse and broad. This is addictively fascinating. We just launched tshirtOS which embodies the ideal t-shirt that everyone dreams of. TshirtOS can basically do everything you can think of and that’s why we love our job. We’re always researching new creative ideas.

How does your work affect people’s lives?
Technology has an important and huge effect on our lives, everything that surrounds us is digital, and technology mediates the way we interact with each other. Unlike other fashion trends, we think that wearable technology, integrated into our digital lifestyle, is here to stay and grow over the next few years creating unique experiences for the wearers.

The garments we design at CuteCircuit are the fashion of the future. Twitter and other social media channels are increasingly affecting our daily life and we try to stay one step ahead: we imagine that in the future we are not going to need all the little electronic boxes we carry with us today (mobiles, cameras, and other devices). Garments with embedded technology will become the interface between us and others. Garments already connect us to the people around us, so it is a natural progression. This idea is behind our latest couture creation: the Twitter Dress.

This gorgeous black evening dress is able to show tweets in real time and it is the perfect example of how technology today affects and, as in this case, improves the world of clothing and fashion.

What’s the best bit of your job?
We absolutely love everything we do and everyday is a moment of discovery and creation. Our work is naturally original and innovative, never boring or repetitive. Sometimes, we have to make a garment in 3 days instead of 3 weeks! This can happen when a singer suddenly realises they really need to light up for their show. We still work well though, even under pressure.

CuteCircuit designs bespoke garments for singer Katy Perry, these include the red carpet look she wore to the annual MET Gala in New York and an amazing Catsuit that she wore on American Idol.

We also designed the video jackets for the rock band U2 for their recent 360° Tour. Another creation was the amazing 5-metre long skirt for the beautiful Italian singer, Laura Pausini, to wear as she flies through the air in the Grand Finale of each performance of her current tour.

Most recently we have designed the World’s first Twitter dress worn by Nicole Scherzinger for a launch event in London. How would it be possible to not love this job?

What’s been the highlight of your career?
Our favourite garment is the iMiniSkirt from the CuteCircuit's Fall Winter 14/15 Collection, the first ever completely interactive fashion collection presented on schedule at New York Fashion Week. The show featured fashions that include advanced wearable technology, seamlessly integrated into beautiful ready-to-wear items. The Bluetooth dresses and accessories allowed the models to control what their dresses would look like on the runway, via the dedicated ‘Q by CuteCircuit’ App, in realtime!

This was a genuine first in fashion’s history! Via the smartphone App, the wearer can change the colour of their iMiniSkirt at any time. This is because the garments are made of Magic Fabric, a special fabric covered in thousands of micro LEDs, designed and developed by CuteCircuit. Magic Fabric is perfectly smooth and comfortable like other fashion fabrics, but it is also magical, as it can change colour, play video (at 25 frames per second), connect to the internet and to social media, to display Tweets in real time.

How do you incorporate engineering into the designs you make?
Integrating fashion and technology is not an easy thing to do and you’ll occasionally find that people imagine we send a garment out on the runway with a gigantic car battery and thick electric wires inside. Fortunately, this is not the case. There are no wires inside any of the CuteCircuit garments and the batteries are tiny (like a penny for example).

The only difference between a CuteCircuit garment and other garments is that CuteCircuit’s garments bring magic and fun into your wardrobe! Resolving all the attachments between the smart textiles and the microelectronics is always a fantastic challenge, it really pushes us to improve on what we do and create the next wave of innovation in clothing, rather than wait for it to come along. When we first started CuteCircuit, many of the materials that we use today didn’t exist; we had to invent them.

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Today, we have conductive ribbons and fibers, micro LEDs and processors, smartphones and tablets. All of these technological advances were not available 10 years ago, so out of great frustration with not being able to find anything remotely fashionable to make a garment like we wished it to be, we just had to convince manufacturers that creating a special component or ribbon just for us was going to be a good future investment.

We were very excited when all of our garments could be manufactured completely without wires, so that they felt like normal clothing, but they were also pieces that could do amazing things. We like the idea of bringing magic and delight to everyday life; after all fashion makes people happy and technology should make life easier, so the two combined together is fabulous!

What are the everyday things you do as part of your job?
Design fashion sketches, choose fabrics while keeping front of mind how to integrate the microtechnology into the interaction design. Designing not only how the garment will look but also how it works.

What inspired you to use technology as part of your designs?
My career started as fashion designer for Esprit and Valentino, so I have this strange mix of sporty and haute couture vibes. The idea of creating something totally new and original has always been in my mind and now at CuteCircuit we are really changing the rules of the fashion system, by introducing many ground breaking ideas and integrating new beauty and functionality through the use of smart textiles and micro electronics.

How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now?
When I was in middle school in Italy, we did not have electronic works, although I wish we had. I was always designing magnetic levitations on my own with no idea why I was so fascinated about it!

Did you enjoy it at school?
I loved maths and science!

What personal qualities do you think are important for the work you do?
Curiosity, perseverance and boundless imagination. Anything that the heart can conceive and the mind can believe, can exist!!

There are fewer women working in engineering than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
Engineering is interesting and fun. Students, both male and female, should challenge their teachers to show them why engineering is amazing.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Ryan (CuteCircuit co-founder) and I love to sing! And of course we design all the time, coming up with new ideas in unexpected places: airplanes, on the beach, swimming, going for a walk...etc. We love what we do so much that we are the kind of people that can’t tell the difference between home life and work!

We also like to share our passion for fashion and design by participating in conferences and events all over the world. We are always glad to present our projects and show the research behind them with a playful and original approach - that is why our presentations and talks are very interactive and include fashion catwalks where we show some amazing couture pieces worn by celebrities on the Red Carpet or on stage.

If you could go back in time and design any product, what would you choose?
When I was I kid I was always designing evening gowns, but then wanted to invent a magnetic levitation train, and now I still design evening gowns and I want to invent teleportation. I love airplanes!