Meet Lea Albaugh, the 'Material Worlds' Fashion Show Designer
If you haven't yet seen the Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion exhibition on its first North American tour, I recommend you go. It's open until May 1, 2017 in Pittsburgh, and it's guaranteed to lift you out of the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
To top off that excitement, Material Worlds — a fashion show inspired by the exhibit and organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art — will take place at the Ace Hotel on May 24, 2017. A dozen Pittsburgh-based designers will be showcasing their forward-thinking pieces.
Before the show, I had a chance to meet with one of them, Lea Albaugh, a fashion designer by night and programmer by day, with a degree in architecture. Lea's stately pieces will represent the cutting edge of fashion technology at the show.
"It’s sometimes important to make subtle things and sometimes important to make not-subtle things. And this is obviously not a subtle project," Lea Albaugh said, speaking about the pieces she will show in the Carnegie Museum of Art's Material Worlds fashion show on March 24th, 2017.
Lea is preparing two garments for the show using industrial factory knitting equipment that's usually reserved for making gloves. It's the same machinery she writes code for during her day job. 😉
When it comes to this particular effort, her inspiration comes from "mostly formal exploration," she told me. "I have this material and these processes available to me. What interesting shapes can I get out of that?"
Lea continued: "I got the idea of doing the pleating from a blog that I really like. It's a machine-knitting blog. Pleats are actually the thing that I could do with knitting that I couldn't do with sewing. I was thinking I could do pleats on the machine, then I can add these curves to it. That wasn't on that blog."
Not seeing herself purely as a designer, Lea has approached the garments more as a creative outlet. "I am not a fashion designer," she said. "I like working for bodies, and I do enjoy working with fabric. in particular. Partially because the world I am in is all programming, engineering. I am always working on repeatable, logically sound, and frankly, very masculine stuff."
When asked about her approach to designing her pieces for this show, she added, "This was very much a 'play and add a different thing' project."
Among programmers, the ability to sew is unique, "like a wizard skill," said Lea, who enjoys working with fabrics because "if you can squish it into the right shape then it's good; the engineering tolerance is not there." Seeing Lea's architectural spin on pleats makes me happy.
Lea is also the creator of the "electromechanically actuated cocktail dress" with a moving collar, which can be worn either up or down. When it's up, the person wearing it literally cannot see anything, making it the perfect garment for the days when you're not in the mood to talk. 😉 Check out this video to see the dress in action.
Another recent project Lea is very proud of is a two-player computer game played on an embroidery machine called Threadsteading. This was a team project, which enabled Lea to work with Gillian Smith — a game designer she has a lot of respect for. It was put together in one week and went on to win The Technology Award.
Lea is interested in "what would it mean for something that we wear to itself be a game." She asked, "So, what would it mean to have a jacket that has some sort of rules or game to play with it?" Perhaps next, we'll see Lea create a game jacket in her spare time after work. It'll probably be something to wear on casual Fridays, allowing us all to find our inner child at work and make those days at the office something we look forward to that much more. 😊
Chatting with Lea offered enough material for a book-sized article! I hope I covered the most entertaining and thought-provoking topics we discussed. Join me and Lea at the Material Worlds fashion show (tickets here) to get to know her work and the work of a dozen other talented designers.
See you there, Gorgeous!
Photography by Sarah Collins from Rose Colored Creative