Interview with Amped Atelier

Amped Atelier has previously worked with MakeFashion, and was part of this year’s 2019  MakeFashion Line-up. Amped Atelier created an interactive performance piece Conductive Melody that works also as a wearable musical instrument. Interactions such as capacitive touch, proximity, and gesture allow the user to produce beautiful electronically produced melodies. We had the honor to interview Amped Atelier this year about their process while creating Conductive Melody and their thoughts on working with fashion and technology.

Photographed by Brandie Sunley (left) and Jeff Mcdonald (right)
Modeled by Sydney

Q: How did the concept of interactive music performance develop? 

We love fashion tech because of the possibilities for expanding the meaning of clothes beyond visual messages.  This project adds machine learning into the human experience of wearing clothes and artistic performance. Machine learning is a form of AI where a computer algorithm analyses and stores data over time and then uses this data to make decisions and predict future outcomes. The simple inputs from the garment are expanded into a full musical piece.


Q: What was the inspiration behind the garment? 

This piece was inspired by capacitive touch projects like the Makey Makey that uses everyday objects, like bananas, as a piano.  The conductive fabric and thread that are used in fashion tech make fantastic capacitive touch elements.


Q: What came first? Garment, music, gesture? 

This project began with experimenting with the machine learning program, Piano Genie.  Piano Genie maps 8 inputs to a full 88 key piano. We knew we wanted to use capacitive touch to control the inputs.  We designed the garment around that idea to give the wearer full control over the inputs. The sleeve shape is reminiscent of a harp and the conductive fabric that makes up the harp strings was designed to be functional and decorative.


Q: What was the process? What was the initial concept like and how did it develop? 

In developing this piece we experimented with several different ways to use conductive materials.  We tried using conductive thread with weaving and embroidery. Both were effective in small pieces but very time consuming to make on the scale we wanted for this project.  We combined new fabrication techniques with traditional fabric craft by using a CNC laser cutter to cut appliques out of conductive fabric to use as our 8 key inputs.<

Q: What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome it? 

Ensuring the sound quality was good was a challenge in creating this piece.  In order to get good sound we used a Raspberry Pi, which is a mini computer, instead of a simpler system, like a microcontroller that we use for most of our designs.  We needed to do a lot of research to find other projects using Raspberry Pi to make music and how those projects worked.


Q: What was the process in creating and selecting the sounds? 

Piano Genie produces synthesized sounds and uses machine learning to take the 8 piano “keys” on the sleeve and use that input to make music as if it were a full piano keyboard.  Simply running a hand across all of the conductive keys produces interesting music. With some practice a person could learn to “play” their clothes.


Q: What are some challenges the team faces while creating a wearable technology? 

Designing robust electronics that can stand up to normal wear and tear is a major challenge in creating wearable technology.  Since we started making fashion tech about 5 years ago we’ve seen major improvements in the size of wearable components and in the flexibility of materials.  But it is still difficult to design a complex piece that does not need constant repair and maintenance.


Q: What aspect of the process is your favorite? Least favorite? 

Brainstorming designs and creating project ideas are Sahrye’s favorite part of the process.  Her least favorite part is ironing. Hal’s favorite part is when it all comes together and seeing the design on the MakeFashion runway.


Q: What did you prioritize while creating the garment? 

It is important to us that the electronics are fully integrated into the look of the garment and that each piece looks good both with and without lights and electronic elements.  For Conductive Melody we wanted the capacitive touch interface to be beautiful and spent a lot of time designing the art nouveau inspired copper fabric keys.

Photographed by Eluvier Acosta (right)

Q: What was your intent in creating an interactive garment?What kind of experience did you want to produce between the audience or wearer and the garment? 

We always want the person wearing the garment, or the audience that is viewing it, to feel as if they have some part in controlling the experience.  For Conductive Melody, and our previous MakeFashion piece, Acceleration, the electronic elements are all controlled by the model wearing the piece. The electronic outputs in light and sound are all part of what the model wants to perform and what experience they want to share with the audience.  Our first two MakeFashion pieces, Reflections and Mimic, had elements that could be controlled by another person through bluetooth or an external color sensor. Those projects brought the audience into the piece by allowing them input into what they are seeing and experiencing.


Q: What are your thoughts on the future of interactive wear in the fashion industry? 

The allure of fashion tech is in personalization.  When people see our designs on the runway they want to have pieces that represent their vision and design.  A challenge for the industry is in making mass-produced designs that also have the capacity for personalization.


Q: How did come across the collaboration of LED tech and fashion? / What made you drawn into the fusion of tech and art? 

We met Shannon Hoover and Maria Elena at the Bay Area Maker Faire.  We had already started adding LEDs and electroluminescent wire to clothes and costumes but had not made any truly interactive fashion pieces.  MakeFashion introduced us to a community of designers who were welcoming and innovative and that allowed us to develop new ideas in a supportive environment.


Q: What advice do you have for incoming designers? 

Spend a decent amount of time planning your designs and testing the various elements before beginning a new piece.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look for tutorials or other designs that use elements that you want in your fashion piece.  Our first piece, Reflections, has a bluetooth controlled matrix that scrolls custom text. We used an Adafruit tutorial for a hat to learn how to make a similar electronic project and then expanded it for use in our fashion piece.

2019 Wearable Tech and Maker Gift Guide

It’s the season of giving: which can also mean the season of stress over finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Our 2019 gift guide offers ideas for the tech-savvy makers and fashiontech fans on your wishlists. Wearable tech gifts for everyone! As a bonus, these gifts support independent creators within the MakeFashion community.

Behind the Scenes Spotlight: Zyris

This week we wanted to take a break from the sneak peeks of our 2017 gala and take a moment to showcase our friends and sponsors, Zyrisfor all the behind the scenes work that they do to ensure MakeFashion goes off without a hitch!

Read more

MakeFashion and Lumen Couture on the Creator’s Project

Lumen Couture, a self-contained projector hat by Chris Corner and Chelsea Klukas featured in our 2016 gala, was recently featured on The Creator’s Project by Vice Media.

The Creators Project is a global celebration of creativity, arts and technology. Launched in 2009 with Intel as founding partner, the platform features the works of visionary artists across multiple disciplines who are using technology to push the boundaries of creative expression.

Video: Absolut x MakeFashion

Take a look at highlights from our 2016 wearable tech runway show, behind-the-scenes, and interviews with designers and founders. Huge thanks to Absolut Canada for their continued sponsorship of MakeFashion and the maker community.

Video: MakeFashion Designer Kathryn Blair

Learn more about Kath Blair, a returning MakeFashion designer since 2013, and creator of “Positive Feedback” in this video by Paul Spenard.

MakeFashion Butterfly Dress

The Orange Tip Butterfly dress by Rainbow Winters changes colour in response to water and rain. This wearable technology blends into any garden party, featuring cutting-edge wearable technology innovation.


Rainbow Winters for MakeFashion

Photography by Kelly Hofer:

Rainbow Winters (Amy Winters) is based in London, UK. The Irish/Swiss artist graduated from Central Saint Martin’s in 2006 with a BA in Theatre Design. Rainbow Winters gives the ‘wow’ factor to the entertainment, fashion and advertising industries with interactive wearable design. Rainbow Winters has a radically different approach to wearables, fusing the cutting edge of science with the high-art of fashion to create visually stunning pieces especially made for music videos, rock-concerts, award-ceremonies, advertisements, magazine editorial and red-carpet events. This is Rainbow Winters first year with MakeFashion.

Wearable Technology for Make Fashion by Laura Dempsey

MakeFashion Spotlight: Proxima

MakeFashion Spotlight is an insider’s look on our 2014 gala pieces. Follow us as we showcase each of our designers and the inspiration and technology behind their work. Photos by Edward Ross photography.

The Proxima Team is Laura Dempsey,  Hannah Newton, Ben Reed, Dan Damron and Chris Zaal at the SAIT RADLab. Laura Dempsey grew up in Calgary and has lived in Europe and the U.S. She is currently completing a Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University in Toronto.

“I came across Calgary’s maker community while on the hunt for a laser cutter I could use for an art project. Through contacts at Protospace (a maker space in Calgary), I attended MakeFashion’s launch event, and decided to apply as a designer. I couldn’t be happier to have stumbled upon this community!

My design partner Hannah and I have collaborated on wearable art in the past, and this is our second year designing for MakeFashion. During the inaugural year, I created a motion-sensitive dress for dancer Sarah Curts that lit up based on her movements, and Hannah hand-crafted an amazing head-piece. A video of the dress can be viewed here.

Last year I chose a simple concept of movement-based light, but this year we wanted to create a more sophisticated and interactive narrative.

Proxima is about a love story. We wanted to create a physical manifestation of the ‘electricity’ produced between two lovers as they move closer to one another.


Technology used in Proxima includes:

Thingmagic M6e UHF RFID Reader

Beaglebone Black

2x 5V 3A regulators

2x 7.4V LiPo Battery Packs

TP-Link WiFi Dongle

WS2811 Addressable LEDs

Teensy 3.0


The seed of the idea for this year’s grew out of an idea about proximity, and how a garment might react to the presence of another person. We (Ben Reed and I) had several introductory discussions about the initial idea, what was possible and the type of technology that might be appropriate. As I’m currently living in Toronto and the RADLab is in Calgary, we had to make the most of our limited collaboration sessions.

The jacket went through several iterations before I finalized the style, but once that was done we moved forward quickly. I couriered the jacket to Calgary (where all of the LEDs, wiring and equipment were mounted on the coat and tested) and – due to my school schedule – flew into Calgary just two days before the show to construct the rest of the garment with Hanna’s help. It was a marathon!

Proxima: Wearable Technology that interacts based on proximity.


Photos by Andras Schram

The jacket has been programmed to light up based on the proximity of RFID tags hidden within the male dancer’s costume, meaning that during the show it lit up only in his presence. The closer he came to the female dancer, the more the lights sparkled. The jacket was programmed to respond not only to proximity, but also directionality. So, when our dancers Megan and Ben faced each other, the front of Megan’s jacket lit up, and as she moved around him, the light would follow whichever part of her body was closest to his.

After the show, Ben Reed and his team re-programmed the jacket to light up with different colours based on the type of tag being held up to it. It allowed audience members to directly interact with the piece, which was really exciting.

Collaborating from a distance (I’m based in Toronto, Hannah lives in Vancouver and the RADLab is in Calgary) was challenging, as was my lack of sophisticated technical knowledge. It was also hard to conceptualize where all of the technology could fit into the jacket without ruining the aesthetic. Everything came together in the end, though!

Working with Ben, Dan and Chris at the SAIT RADLab was incredible. They made this piece come to life in a way I could never have done on my own. They also had great insights into possibilities I had not previously considered. It was really inspiring working with people whose skill sets are so different from my own.

I see great potential for wearable technology to be incorporated into dance performances. I always knew the performance would be a duet between two dancers. I think part of the beauty of wearable technology is in the story it can tell onstage, so that was a huge focus for this piece.

I like the idea of people connecting through spontaneous interaction – that something you’re wearing might light up based on the proximity of another like-minded person (whom you not have even met yet).

My advice to new MakeFashion designers is to jump in head first. Start with a simple idea, do research and ask for help often. You’ll find it.

Hannah and I are already scheming for next year’s show. We’re thinking of moving away from LEDs and looking into servos. That’s all I’ll say!”

– Laura Dempsey, returning designer for MakeFashion two years in a row.

Media on Proxima:

RFID Journal: Designer Has RFID Up Her Sleeve


The 2014 MakeFashion gala brought to you by OnConference in March 2014 had over 400 attendees and showcased an inspiring collection of local and international wearable technology. E-mail for information on how to become involved as a volunteer, designer, tech enthusiast, or sponsor.

MakeFashion Spotlight: Illuminated Vintage

MakeFashion Spotlight is an insider’s look on our 2014 gala pieces. Follow us as we showcase each of our designers and the inspiration and technology behind their work.


Video by Paul Spenard


Illuminated Vintage was created by Amie Mae, Stacey Morgan, Kenzie Housego and Dan Demron.

“We are all originally from Alberta; Stacey Morgan and Amie Mae grew up in Calgary. Kenzie Housego is from Northern Alberta, and moved to Calgary in 2005 to attend art school. We believe Calgary is an exciting place to be right now for the arts. There is always new events and projects happening.Calgary seems to be a close net arts community, that is welcoming and collaborative.

MakeFashion 2014 was our first introduction to wearable technology. Amie, Stacey, and Kenzie all met completing their Bachelors for Fine Arts from the Alberta Collage of Art and Design. Amie majored in Jewellery and metal smithing, Stacey was in the Fibre program and Kenzie was in the Print Media department. Stacey participated in numerous wearable art shows at ACAD and Art Central, and continues to create event and wedding dress as well as other commission garments.

We created a collaborative four-look wearable art collection drawing inspiration from vintage styles, combined with 21st century wearable tech. This team looked to incorporate, accessories, feathers, light, sensors, and robots, all informed by a sophisticated, contemporary hybrid sensibility. Each piece used technology and design in a unique way while belonging together in one solid aesthetic collection.

We started with vintage inspiration images of styles, hats and accessories. Stacey drafted several dress designs and through multiple conversations we stream lined our concept and decided to focus on a featuring a specific colour per look. Which really help us as individual artists create a coherent collection .


MakeFashion Illuminated Vintage

The gold look is a romantic design inspired by the decadence of the 20’s. The dress created by Stacey is a bias cut satin design, based on the the popular lingerie style of the time. The gold created by Amie attempted to pick up in this romantic mood by incorporating transparency and light. This hat also includes a light feature is the brim of the hat that pulses to the wearers heat beat.

The red look represent a more 40s – 50s look with a classic shirt dress design with lily pad lights and an avant-garde hat featuring EL wire and multiple light accents. (Hat by Amie, Dress by Stacey)

The green look definitely inspired by a garden party 50s them. This dress has a sweetheart neckline decorated with the lily pad twinkles, and a sexy exposed mid-drift adding a contemporary sensibility. (Hat by Kenzie & dress by Stacey)

The pink look was inspired by the show Mr. Selfridges featured in the 1910s world war one. The multiple tears of the skirt were accented with under-lighting which created an individual spot light for the wearer. The hat for this look used audio circuit technology, which pulsed to in a pink/purple spectrum to music. This model carried a pink feather fan that used gyro scope and programable LED, that light up with the users movements. (hat by Kenzie & Dress by Stacey)

When we spoke to the team about using accessories and as a large component to our pieces, they mentioned that one of their engineers was building robots! The idea of accessory pets was interesting to us and we decided to partner up with Dan Demron.

As this was our first time working with wearable tech, there definitely was a learning curve, in that within our planning stage we did not initially think about concealing cords, housing batteries, while allowing for the movement of the wearer. We learned a lot through working with the technology, and there were several instances where we needed needed to come up with creative solutions, to keep the integrity of our concept.”


The 2014 MakeFashion gala brought to you by OnConference in March 2014 had over 400 attendees and showcased an inspiring collection of local and international wearable technology. E-mail for information on how to become involved as a volunteer, designer, tech enthusiast, or sponsor.