At the intersection of fashion and technology
A fascination with materiality was the launching pad for a bold new fashion and textiles collection by UTS designer Jessica Xie.
Adapt, Xie’s honours-year project, was comprised of seven fashion looks constructed from laser-cut wood. With its bold geometric shapes and use of wood as a soft and pliable fabric, the project aimed to embrace the infinite – and largely unexplored – ways fashion and technology can come together.
“Towards the end of my bachelor’s degree, my last project I was doing a womenswear collection with some pleating, and I was really interested in the way you could fold a fabric and completely change the way it moves and falls and how it expands and contracts,” she says.
“Following from that, I started researching and found different manipulation techniques with an emphasis on cutting instead of folding.”
For her honours work, Xie started using a range of cutting techniques, working with a wide range of materials such as paper, fabric, plastic and – eventually – wood. Almost immediately, she saw the potential of laser cutting as a way of transforming wood from a rigid, structural material into a next-generation fabric.
“Adapt reflects my interest in challenging the idea of what an actual material is,” she says.
“We don’t really think about wood as something that belongs in fashion – we think of it in architecture, maybe jewellery, and I wanted to see what I could do with it in a fashion context.”
Inspired by the soft curved lines and hard materials found in parametric architecture, Adapt was a major departure from Xie’s previous style and its focus on soft, feminine garments. In fact, it was such a departure from traditional notions of fashion and textile design that she had to look for expertise beyond the fashion world to help her achieve her vision.
Coming out of this degree really, the one thing that’s really stayed with me is keeping an open mind about things and always being curious and challenging traditional ideas.
“I laser cut most of the pieces myself in the DAB digital maker space at uni, and there were a lot of different product design, interior design and architectural design students working there too. It was great to be able to talk to them about my own work and hear their opinions and ideas,” she says.
Teaching staff were also enormously supportive, connecting Xie with a range of expertise within the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building. These connections gave Xie access to ideas and feedback from a range of design disciplines – critical for a project that didn’t sit neatly within traditional fashion and textiles boundaries.
Adapt may be a study of the future of fashion, but in many ways, Xie has only just scratched the surface. She believes that the fashion industry hasn’t fully embraced the potential of technology – “even though there definitely are a few designers who are pushing the boundaries of fashion using technology within their work and it has developed a little bit, I feel like there’s so much more that can be possible,” she says.
As a result, her plans from this point on are vast: she’s interested in exploring the potential of other materials that sit beyond the boundaries of the fashion industry and is also considering a master’s by research to examine the partnership between fashion and technology in greater depth.
Whichever direction she chooses, Xie will likely be treading new ground.
“Coming out of this degree really, the one thing that’s really stayed with me is keeping an open mind about things and always being curious and challenging traditional ideas,” she says.
“This collection really is a showcase of these ideas that have been instilled in me throughout the degree.”
See Jessica's work on the runway at Melbourne Fashion Festival. She is one of 8 UTS Fashion students to win a coveted spot in the National Graduate Showcase on March 7.