I first tried knitting EL wire in January, 2013 while working on the sponsor installation at Sagmeister’s Happy Show in Toronto. The installation involved hundreds of meters of EL wire and there was just enough sitting around for me to check the feasibility of a small swatch. It worked and was amazing, so I shelved the idea for future exploration.
Knit EL wire swatch from January 18, 2013
Towards the end of 2014, my friend Beatriz Juarez asked if I wanted to contribute on article an fashion and technology to her amazing fashion magazine Herringbone. I decided it was time for another collaboration with my dear friend Breeyn McCarney and EL wire had to be involved.
I ordered more than 100 meters of EL wire and began knitting in November, 2014 – few things are as pleasing as a spool of EL wire. It took me about 4 days to knit the top in a scallop lace pattern – I love lace. While I was knitting, Breeyn embroidered a beautiful continuous-line rose on a transparent skirt to create an impressive floating effect.
It’s hard to say with any certainty, but I believe the density of the knitting makes the EL wire knit dress the most EL wire used in a single fashion item – a little more than 100 meters were used. This is possible because the “haute couture” outfit is not meant to facilitate walking – it is an art piece that was designed to be photographed and plugs into two high-powered inverters. Probably, it would be possible to make it wireless using A LOT of battery powered inverters, but that was never necessary and it would appear dimmer. UPDATE: after some research it looks like I was beat in both volume and history by Kurt Wold’s Lightrobe.
The dress has been subjected to 2 fashion shoots. First, with Andy Lee and model Taryn for Herringbone and again for the artist NvS shot by Dan Lim. Photographing EL wire is a challenge – professional photography involves a lot of sculpting with light and EL wire needs darkness.
Here’s a tip for shooting EL wire: during the shoot with Dan Lim, a short in the dress almost sunk us. It was Dan’s ingenuity that saved the shoot; he had some high-powered UV strobes on hand and we were able to light the dress better with the strobes – the EL wire is actually turned off in the photo at the top!