RuPaul’s Drag Race couturier/club legend/wowlebrity Zaldy Goco used an artificially intelligent brain to solve for the meticulous coding and arrangement of thousands of mirrors in 24 sizes and four colorways atop a flat grid of patterned pieces to create the perfect dress for last night’s Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Gala. Working with Robert de Saint Phalle of Conduit Projects (an interdisciplinary design and consulting studio), and computational designers Nicholas Jacobson and Jared Friedman, they boldly pushed the boundaries of fashion for the evening’s theme “Manus x Machina.”
The mirrors would be fastened on the bottom to rivets, hammered together by hand. Sandwiched between them would be patterned pieces of clear, laser-cut plastic vinyl and flesh-toned organza—nary a seam or closure in sight—to become a very technologically advanced example of a couture collaboration between man and machine
Working with AI enabled the team to take an otherwise tedious process and speed it up tenfold. “It’s dizzying to think about each time you change a mirror’s position,” Goco explains. “It affects the one to its left, right, top, and bottom, and between the circles, where they join, creates curved diamond shapes that graduate the [latticework-like] pattern as well. It’s immensely complex.” For a human maybe. But this is where teamwork began: While [the AI] worked off of a 3-D scan of Falcone’s body (accounting for certain curvature, color layouts, or arc lines of light source), Goco, as the dress’s chief architect, had to train the design novice on perceiving motion and depth. He even checked the AI’s work against his own flat pattern, and found a fatal flaw that code did not solve for: too much side boob.
“You can’t teach modesty!” Goco jests. “There’s also something that happens with the hand and the mind with the human body that’s in the moment. I don’t think we’ll ever get to it with artificial intelligence, at least not for a very long time . . .” This was the designer’s first time working with AI, but he doesn’t necessarily think it will be the last—or that it’s coming for his job. “It can’t feel whether a proportion is right or if a strap could be a few inches lower,” the designer says, “but I think it’s going to be very, very helpful.”
So what can we expect on the red carpet tonight? A riveted-together dress of shimmering mirrors that echoes the complexity and innovation of eons of human ingenuity. “Rivets are as old as the Bronze Age,” Goco remarks. “So it’s really old technology with really new technology—but it’s not going to look like a walking robot.”
“Zaldy is before his time,” Falcone adds. “I tell him, ‘You’re going to be like Charles James one day, and I’m going to have your entire collection.’ We’ve had fun with it . . . [the dress] is cutting-edge. I feel like we’ve taken it exactly where it deserves to be taken and have given it its integrity.”
Read the entire article at The New York Times.
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