Singer Katy Perry wears a dress with changing colours. — PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
When American pop singer Katy Perry descended the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art during the Costume Institute Gala Benefit in 2010, she was glowing. Literally.
Clad in a blush-pink off-shoulder gown embedded with hidden LED lighting by London-based company CuteCircuit, she lit up the red carpet in changing hues of pink, blue, green and yellow.
While everything went smoothly that night, it was madness beforehand, say CuteCircuit’s creative director Francesca Rosella and chief executive officer Ryan Getz.
The duo, both 37, had received the request for the dress only about a week before the event. They also spent hours at the hotel beforehand moving the light switch from the waist to the bust, and speeding up the tempo of colour change as per Perry’s requests.
“It was amazing though,” says Rosella, on seeing the dress on Perry.
Perry also performed in a catsuit with lights. — PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
She and Getz were in Singapore to launch a pink-and-black dress designed for ice-cream company Magnum to commemorate the launch of its latest ice creams, Magnum Pink & Magnum Black; as well as the opening of the temporary Magnum Singapore Pleasure Store at Clarke Quay Central Fountain Square.
That Met Gala appearance, which landed Perry on the cover of industry publication Women’s Wear Daily the next day, was a big coup for the small wearable technology company, which started out in 2004.
CuteCircuit creates bespoke haute couture and special-project fashionwear featuring small full-colour LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.
Rosella, an Italian; and Getz, an American, met at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in the town of Ivrea in Turin, Italy, in 2001 while both were getting their Masters in Interaction Design.
Rosella, who had been a designer with Valentino and Esprit, teamed up with Getz, an interface designer, because of their similar interest in crossing fashion with technology.
“Our vision is simple,” she says. “We want to create wearable technology that helps us connect with others and express ourselves through digital fashion.”
CuteCircuit created dresses for Magnum to celebrate the ice-cream company’s latest offerings — PHOTO: CUTECIRCUIT
Flat, like paper, and measuring only 2mm by 2mm, each LED circuit is embedded between layers of silk or micro-fibre in dresses. The low voltage LEDs are powered by slim batteries charged via USB ports and controlled via phone applications.
“It’s not like somebody who wears our pieces has to stand in a corner plugged into an outlet,” says Rosella of the misconceptions associated with wearing such technology.
The brand also offers a more accessible ready-to-wear collection of machine-washable LED-decorated T-shirts, dresses, skirts and leggings with sensor technology, which it launched in 2010.
Prices start at around £5,000 (S$9,722) for a haute couture dress and at around £130 for a ready-to-wear T-shirt. Items are manufactured in Italy and Britain and sold mainly through the company’s website at www.cutecircuit.com. Sales hit the mid-six figures last year.
As pioneers of interactive fashion, the two have also been behind other innovative pieces, such as the Hug shirt in 2006 and the Twitter dress in 2012; both combined telecommunications, sensor technology and LED lighting.
The Hug shirt uses technology to send a hug to the wearer — PHOTO: CUTECIRCUIT
The Hug shirt, which was first conceived as a research project at Ivrea, uses sensors and Bluetooth technology to capture the strength of touch, skin warmth and heartbeat rate of a person wearing it and sending a hug. The data is sent via mobile phone to another person’s mobile phone and transmitted via Bluetooth to his Hug shirt to recreate the components of the sender’s hug.
It was named as one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of the Year in 2006. CuteCircuit is working on commercialising it and making it available to the public by the end of the year.
Singer Nicole Scherzinger in the Twitter dress which displays tweets sent by users. — PHOTO: CUTECIRCUIT
The Twitter dress was commissioned by British mobile network operator EE to mark the launch of its 4G network last year.
The black evening gown, worn by American singer Nicole Scherzinger at the London event, lit up with tweets and animation sent by users using the hashtag #tweetthedress.
With all these eye-catching designs, it is easy to understand why the brand appeals to attention-seeking celebrities. Apart from Perry, who has also worn CuteCircuit designs on American Idol, the members of Irish rock band U2 have also worn its jackets on stage.
However, two-thirds of the company’s orders actually come from non-celebrities, according to CuteCircuit.
The K-dress, which is a shorter version of the dress Katy Perry wore to the Met Gala, is a popular prom dress — PHOTO: CUTECIRCUIT
After a CuteCircuit dress appeared on a technology segment during the Today Show in the United States this year, the company received calls from parents of teens who were interested in ordering the K-dress, a shorter version of the dress Perry wore to the Met Gala, for their proms.
Two weeks ago, CuteCircuit appeared for the second time on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily, as part of a story on the growing sector of wearable technology.
Says Rosella: “In 20 or 30 years from now, all technology will be wearable. Instead of things that can drop and break, everything will be attached to our bodies.”
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on August 2, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.