• Ying Gao: Ethereal Meets Hi-Tech

Chinese designer Ying Gao creates beautiful, luminescent dresses that remind me of couture. They might not be fashioned in a Parisian atelier using techniques that are rarely seen anymore, but the attention to detail and the elaborate folds of fabric are worlds away from fast fashion.

But they’re even more impressive than they appear. Underneath the intricate and ethereal details, cutting-edge technology brings Gao’s designs to a new level of innovation. Her glass handbag questions the relationship between a carrier and its contents, while garments like this ‘Meteorological Cardigan’ are constructed from realms of statistical data. Every item has hidden depths, and I could happily catalogue them all, but I’ve decided to concentrate on two of my favourites for this post.
The first is a capsule collection of two dresses which glow in the dark whenever someone is looking at them. Gao worked with photo-luminescent thread and embedded eye-tracking technology into the dress’ structure, so that it lights up whenever it senses someone’s gaze.

She was inspired by a 1979 Paul Virilio essay entitled "Esthétique de la disparition" (The aesthetic of disappearance): “Absence often occurs at breakfast time – the tea cup dropped, then spilled on the table being one of its most common consequences. Absence lasts but a few seconds, its beginning and end are sudden…”

Another dress, this time accompanied by a sweater, makeup Gao’s ‘Incertitudes’ collection. This time the clothes are activated by a spectator’s voice rather than their eyes: the bristly-looking pins move at the sound of conversation. Gao developed the clothes around the concept of uncertainty, and the misunderstandings we risk in our communication.

On her website, she explains “Individuals are pressured by time and technical innovation; they live in a divided present with an uncertain future. They exist in a transitory state, always on-the-go out of fear of “missing the boat”, and believing that they are never in the right place at the right time. A hypermodern individual is a being of the here-and-now, pressured by a logic of urgency, and worried about the future.” 

The way the pins move certainly recalls anxiety, pressure and uncertainty, but they’re still beautiful at the same time – a rare combination that has quickly become Ying Gao’s signature.

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