Nathan Dennler: Final Documentation

My work for this term revolved on applying lights to fashion to explore the concept of identity. This idea was sparked by my experiences as an undergraduate student as I discovered what I valued in life, what I want to do with the rest of my life, and how I personally fit into different social groups. I have learned through my experiences that personal identity is a difficult thing to comprehend and encompasses many different levels of granularities. Some aspects of identity can group one with only a handful of other people across the world, whereas some aspects form massive associations with billions of other people.

The assignment of these identities are essentially based on random chance, as many things are predefined for you, based on where you were born, or who you were born to. Even learned behaviors can be based on this random chance as your actions shape what you enjoy, and what you enjoy shapes your actions. What becomes dangerous, is when identities are used as an exclusion criterion. There is no reason for any social circle to completely shut out any other social circle. Rather, it is from their collaboration that new ideas are formed and humanity as a whole advances.

To explore the idea of a dissolution of inter-group boundaries, I wanted to imagine the world as belonging to a single, unified group. I was reminded of astrological signs, which have a consistent method of being determined, and celebrate that the fact that they are random, rather than using random chance as a justification for exclusion. For this project, I wanted to depict the archetypes of astrological signs as people—diverse and varied, yet still part of the same cosmic unity.

Since the course is only seven weeks, I chose two signs to design outfits for that are temporally similar, yet radically different in their prescribed personalities: Cancer and Leo.

Leo (left) and Cancer (right)

Cancers are born from June 21st to July 22nd and they are a water sign, which means that they are mainly focused around their emotions. Cancers are typically seen as motherly, sentimental, and sympathetic. However, they tend to put up a “shell” to protect their feelings from being seen from the outside.

For the outfit, I wanted to portray a masculine entity that attempts to conceal their emotions. A masculine design was chosen to contrast with the feminine features that are usually assigned to cancers to play into the theme of a dissolution of common human social boundaries. The shirt is made of a blue mesh that shifts in the light like water, and underneath are many fiberoptic cables that are lighted by LEDs. The LEDs are programmed to pulse to imitate a heartbeat, which is a physiological measure common to all living humans, regardless of identity. The jacket is opaque as if Cancer is attempting to hide their true intentions, thoughts, and feelings from the rest of the world. The face is obscured by sunglasses to strip the wearer of many of their physical attributes, allowing the underlying personality to be plainly in view.

Leos are born from July 23rd to August 22nd but are instead considered Fire signs. Leos tend to be natural leaders, humorous, and cheerful. They are the natural leaders of the zodiac and love to be the life of the party. To some, however, this can come across as arrogance.

The design for Leo was taken to be more feminine since Leos are ruled by traditionally masculine traits. The head of the Leo takes the shape of a flower, which are plants that naturally draw the attention of animals and humans alike and is lighted by LEDs that can change color to reflect the mood they are feeling, which they then project to those around them. The dress is made from a yellow fabric, and fiber optic cables lay on top of it and pulse like a heart beats. The design of the cables is reminiscent of the symbol for a Leo (♌), and the Leo proudly displays their intentions for the world to see.

To continue with this idea, I would be interested in designing clothes for the rest of the astrological signs, each with their own unique personality. The unifying factors would be that each sign has their face partially or totally obscured to strip the wearer of their earthly identity, and there would be some aspect of pulsating fiberoptic cables for each sign to externalize the thing that all humans share.

Lastly, I would like to give a few thanks. I would like to thank Professor Rosenstock for directing this class, offering direction and assistance, and allowing us to use the physical spaces to work on our projects. I would also like to thank the class for inspiring me, and I would like to thank my friends who helped me fold tissue paper flowers late at night, helped me take pictures, and posed in my pictures.

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