Advances in Fashion Technology

My friend Sarah Angliss sent me this very cool video from 2007, showing technology on the (fashion) runway from Hussein Chalayan and Moritz Waldemeyer (NSFW):

This video reminded me of Sunday in the Park with George.  Why? That show, in 1985, featured a dress automated by Bran Ferren (as I write this, Vimeo is having problems playing embedded videos--click the box below to play on Vimeo's site):

In the last 25 years, obviously, our ability to mechanize things has improved quite a bit!  That original dress for Sunday in the Park, if I remember right, had a chro-moly frame, and the movements were powered by radio-controlled pneumatic cylinders.  It was pretty heavy and you can see the somewhat awkward blocking at the top of the scene, but it worked since she was being "posed".

I saw Sunday in the Park on Broadway as part of my senior class Field Studies trip in 1985. Although Peters and Patinkin had left the show by that point, they were back for the night we saw it, since the Pulitzer Prize judges were apparently in the audience (the show won).  I had recently done some special effects work for several college shows, and seeing this dress, and then the "Chromolume" in Act II (which had lasers and film projection and a 20K Xenon lamp), I knew I wanted to work for whoever built this stuff.

We talked our way backstage after the show, and I saw a sticker on the Chromolume that said "Associates and Ferren".  I then called them every single week asking for a job. About a week before graduation, I was going to give up, but I figured I'd call one last time.  This time, they put me on with someone else, who asked if I could weld.  I could, and was hired immediately.  I graduated Saturday, moved from Ithaca to East Hampton on Sunday, and started work on The Manhattan Project film Monday (and then the whole shop walked out at lunch time on my first day, but that's another story). At every break, I would talk to all the people doing the stuff interesting to me, and slowly I got to move from welding to control systems (which, obviously, I'm still doing).  And eventually, the guy who was telling me I had one more week was gone. I stayed at Associates and Ferren for about 2-1/2 years, at a time in the industry where I was very fortunate to work on a wide variety of really interesting stuff in concerts, film, and theatre.

And in my time at A&F I even got to work on a repair call for Sunday in the Park, my first time working on Broadway. So, besides being a great Sondheim musical that was prescient and still seems fresh today (there was a very successful revival last year), that show has a special place in my heart, and seeing it changed the course of my career.