I’d like to introduce you to Ab[Screenwear] – a New York-based luxury fashion label and material experimentation lab that aims to recontextualize our relationship to the digital screen. Founded by Ralph Lauren and Maiyet alum, Olya Petrova Jackson’s Ab[Screenwear] is both a high-end fashion atelier and conceptual project that positions the screen, in essence, technology’s “skin”, centrally in the contemporary experience of wearables. Iconic jackets feature light-responsive holographic panels made from pliable hand-treated architectural material, through which touchscreens are operable.
After Ab[Screenwear]’s NYFW debut, I was intrigued and had to know more about this unique fashion label so I turned to co-founder Olya Petrova Jackson. Here’s what the Maiyet alum had to say:
Choupette Social Girl: Define “RGB is the new black”.
Olya Petrova Jackson: Black, both mainstream and fashion color of the 20th century, is being gracefully replaced by RGB. I personally believe that our phones – screens in general – are directly responsible for this visual shift. We wake up and go to sleep – like, literally – with new technologies at hand. This makes our exposure to shiny, high-definition, stark graphics almost invisible.. not to our brains. Our retina must be continuously challenged by the explosion of opacities, transparencies, light and color combos. A vibrancy that seemed outrageous in 1960s (with their fascination with new plastics, pvc, laminated surfaces, psychedelic patterns) is rather normalized today. Our phones constantly emit and bounce light. Their native graphics and color palettes become an extension of our off-line realities – so that when you look up and see an RBG-like visual in IRL it feels like it “belongs” here. Human mind, however complex, is pretty straightforward after all. It applies the same logic to parallel dimensions quite often. #RGBisthenewBLACK
CSG: What is the fashion industry’s relationship with the digital screen?
OPJ: In fashion industry, we are all heavy users of screen as utility and as visual reference. Our everyday exposure to technology and screens informs designers’ choices of materials and silhouettes in big ways. From Raf Simons to Christopher Kane to Nicholas Ghesquiere and Karl Lagerfeld himself – collections are breathing with screen-like qualities – some are very straightforward, others are rather subtle, i.e. transparencies, overlays, lightness, angular shapes and more.
CSG: In layman’s terms, how are the clothes created?
OPJ: Ab[Screenwear] is a continuous work in progress.
The dichroic screen-like material that we use at Ab[Screenwear] is sourced from architectural glass finishes and treated in several stages before becoming pliable to garment construction. This material acts more like a placeholder for what Screenwear can be in the future.
Right now, Ab[Screenwear] panels are touch screen operable: you can navigate your phone through pockets, overlapping parts. By toying with the idea of one’s digital self – “selfone” – exposed and represented via screens, we lay the groundwork for Screenwear as a future medium. The dream is to see it full body one day.
From our Chinatown studio, we develop prototypes, perfect fit, source new materials, develop fabric combos, applications, attachments. One of the recent collaborations with Tereza Barabash from Lviv, a multimedia artist and weaver. In pursuit of a slower, more gentle approach to material waste, we recycled our earlier screenwear prototypes and production leftovers (TPU, leather, mesh) into new precious, demi-screen fabric using a floor loom. Speaking of, this collaboration happened almost entirely via computer screen.
Somehow software & multimedia – computer interfaces as a whole – seem to be a big part of my design process. Maybe it is because, ironically, I tend to spend more time in Adobe than I do in fabric stores:) Maybe it is because today’s designer doesn’t design for a physical body only, but also for a digital one.
CSG: How do you incorporate luxury materials?