With the advancements of technology in our every day lives, it’s no surprise that it’s also started becoming commonplace in what we wear. Apple watches, Google glasses, virtual reality headsets – these are just a few things that come to mind when thinking about the idea of wearable technology. Although it seems like these items are the pioneering ideas of wearable technology, there is in fact an entire genre of high fashion dedicated to these ideas and advancements: the world of “tech fashion.”

The history of tech fashion isn’t easily traceable. As early as 1998 while showing his spring/summer collection for the following year, Alexander McQueen used robots to spray paint a dress live on the runway, hinting to a more futuristic fashion world. At the time, it was a triumph, and remains one of the most talked about finales in fashion history. Later, in his fall 1999 collection for Givenchy, McQueen curated a Tron inspired show, pairing cyborgs and circuit boards with the runway. Lasers and a mirrored runway provided a futuristic and cutting edge setting for the collection, at the time labeling McQueen as the darling of technology inspired fashion. In fact, many would credit McQueen as the first to egregiously champion the style.

Despite these highly publicized shows, tech fashion is thought to be at the very least a decade older. Designers such as Erina Kashihara from Japan have been creating technology-based accessories since as early as 1985. Back then, she was putting lights into women’s accessories, and although not entirely documented, others in the world of tech fashion credit Erina as one of the very first innovators in what has become the global tech fashion movement.

MakeFashion is a Calgary based annual fashion show/gala, showcasing the leaders in the world of tech fashion (such as Kashihara herself). Although they’ve curated shows across the country and internationally, the Calgary gala remains the largest showcase of tech fashion in the MakeFashion repertoire. MakeFashion finds upcoming and well-versed designers to take part and showcase their wares, fostering an environment of collaboration, inspiration and evolution.

One such designer is Calgary based Erikka Moojelsky. This year was her first taking part in MakeFashion as a tech fashion pioneer, but her clothing brand, Neid, has been around for much longer. “I started Neid seven years ago,” she explains to me backstage amongst the hustle and bustle of the MakeFashion gala. “I just wanted to find somewhere to combine my love of music with fashion. It organically came up when I was living in Vancouver. I started with a girlfriend, and she was around for a couple months making earrings, and then she just followed her path social working and I just kept going.”

In the beginning, Moojelsky’s work was substantially far from her tech offering at MakeFashion. Preferring to focus on high-end custom snoods and festival pieces, Neid quickly made a name for itself on the West Coast festival circuit. “At the time, my vision, my goal, was just to make things, and go to festivals, and be able to sell things at festivals,” she says. And although year after year, that exact vision is what was happening, Moojelsky found herself and Neid in a bit of a slump.

Moojelsky’s answer to feeling somewhat uninspired was to join a new creative studio space, the ARCHEloft. The space doesn’t just play host to fashion workers and designers, but all types of creatives, such as engineers, laser cutters, printers and more. Immediately, Moojelsky could feel new life breathing into her Neid project.

“I liked the creativity, and that it wasn’t just a bunch of clothing designers,” Moojelsky says, as preparations continue backstage. “I could see myself doing something out of the box, because I was in such a rut doing festival clothing for seven years.”

The owner of ARCHEloft, Maria Hoover, is also the co-founder of Make Fashion. She asked Moojelsky to participate, and Moojelsky’s brainchild, Artemis Orchestrating the Milky Way, was born. “I had a vision of this moon goddess running late for a ball, and having nothing to wear, so she literally reached down and cut out pieces of the Milky Way to wear,” Moojelsky says. Originally hailing from British Columbia in the Nelson/Castlegar area, Moojelsky was inspired by long summer nights, with stars as far as the eye can see. “It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. I’ve shown pictures of it to people during the process of making this dress, and it’s like a painting. So I wanted to bring that to the runway. I did it by the fabric, but I also wanted to make sure that it wasn’t blatantly a tech fashion dress, being from a dressmaker background. I wanted to make a dress that was gorgeous, and then once you add the tech it’s the icing on the cake.”

Moojelsky knew at this point that she could design and craft the gown, but she would need the perfect model to accentuate the story of Artemis. This is how she brought Kytami, a renowned violinist and festival performer on board. “When I started researching Artemis, I read that Artemis used to hunt with a bow, and as soon as I read that, it was like bow – Kyla [Kytami]. It was just perfect.” At the time, Moojelsky didn’t know the gown would end up being activated by Kytami’s violin, but after chatting about the project with her engineer friend Teddy at the ARCHEeloft, he ensured her sound activated lights would be a reality.

The team secured the grand finale of MakeFashion’s Calgary gala for their project, and continued to work on wowing the crowd. The “Artemis” project became a monstrous task, taking Moojelsky over 200 hours of work (not even including the hours her engineer put in), but the entire time, her brain was churning with ideas. Both Moojelsky and Kytami have come to realize that the world of tech fashion is perfect for the festival community.

“I love the festival scene, but I’ve just worn it out,”  Moojelsky says. “So now it’s like this is the next thing. And it’s not making something that looks like Christmas lights under some tulle. It’s about making something gorgeous that then lights up. I can see DJ girls in this, just taking it to the next level,” she finishes her thought.

As we start to chat about how her and Kytami may continue to collaborate, an assistant rushes back to tell us the finale is imminent. It is time for Artemis to shine. I return to the audience, and wait for the spectacle. As Artemis orchestrates the Milky Way, hunting with her bow, all I can think is we are witnessing the next big thing in festival culture.

The marriage of fashion and music has been a long and successful partnership, but the times are calling for a little spice up. Technology just might be the thing – the perfect ingredient to craft a stable, yet thought provoking and fun threesome.

Be sure to check out more wearable technology and fashion from Neid.

Words by Kayla L. Graham                                                                                                                                                                                            Photo by @alicelee_w

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