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Fashion With A Brain? Behold Ying Gao's Interactive Creations

The Chinese-born fashion designer creates clothes that react to light, sound, even a passing glance. What would Lady Gaga think?

Ying Gao's photo-luminescent dresses
Ying Gao's photo-luminescent dresses
Julie Conti

GENEVA — In the rarefied world of high fashion, she has made her mark designing "interactive" clothes. Yes...a blast, a sound, a flash or even just a look can make her creations suddenly light up or start to move.

When a spectator looks at Ying Gao's two photo-luminescent dresses called "(No) where (now) here," for example, the dresses suddenly contract and move thanks to inflatable sensors and motors.

"I don't know if people are singled out for good reasons. But surely the technological aspect is what intrigues," she sighs.

More than anything, the Chinese-born fashion designer, who divides her time between Geneva and Montreal, is afraid of being misunderstood. That's exactly what happened when she presented one of her creations called "Playtime," a dress that features scattered lights that are activated by camera flashes, which can foil attempts at photographing the woman who might be wearing it. It is a tribute to Jacques Tati's movie "Playtime" in which the filmmaker uses trompe-l'oeil effects and reflections. Thus Yiang Gao wasn't pleased when journalists dubbed her creation "anti-paparazzi" fashion.

"It sounded terrible," she says. "A misunderstood object represents the death of the concept and it kills the desire to experiment."

A Lady Gaga nightmare

Her nightmare would be to see Lady Gaga wearing one of her dresses on a red carpet. Therefore, she refuses, for the moment, to produce a limited edition of her creations. "I prefer to see it in museums for now, so they maintain an experimental character. It is just the beginning for interactive clothes, and I need to wait for the field to mature."

Ying Gao's dream is to create self-thinking interactive clothes, and she has been testing a device for more than a year that can transform dresses by water movements.

On the technical side, the designer has collaborated for more than a decade with Simon Laroche, an artist who works with robotics. They have begun using 3D-printers, which allow them to develop unique and miniaturized pieces and motors. She hopes her clothes can someday make everyone reflect on appearances. They already make us dream.

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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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