Fashion trends drive the automobile industry, influencing material choices, finishes, and production methods. But for once, in the case of Audi’s latest car, the relationship has flipped, with the vehicle’s technology and design shaping the look of fashion.
To promote its new A4 sedan, the German manufacturer commissioned Anouk Wipprecht to create clothing that highlighted the car’s innovations. The Dutch fashion-tech provocateur, whose works include an animatronic dress with limbs that lash out at intruders and another that senses and reacts to the wearer’s mood changes, responded with four 3-D printed pieces that transform car into couture.
"I wanted to create a series of statement dresses [that make] the wearers look badass and sophisticated, in co-control of the designs, " Wipprecht says of the quartet, which was designed using Maya and Rhino3D software. "So I included the alpha design elements of the car that triggered my direct attention."
The first piece plays off the A4's Virtual Cockpit, a digital instrument cluster and infotainment panel for the driver. Reframing the cockpit’s screen technology as a dialogue about connectivity and personalization, Wipprecht used it in her Map Projection dress to become a form of self-expression that extends beyond the garment, casting light patterns on the floor and the ceiling that "morph to adapt to the wearer’s likes, " she says.
More literal is the Matrix dress, which draws upon the components and shape of Audi’s Matrix headlights to create a vibrant garment that's seemingly sewn of spotlights. The frock emits 60 watts of high-powered LED light that can either attract people who pass by, or force them to cower.
The final effort—a pair of Shield dresses, offered in black and white—boast Audi ultrasonic Rangefinder sensors that Wipprecht modified to respond to human, rather than vehicular, proximity. Basing her work on anthropologist Edward T. Hall’s proximics theory of the body and space, she programmed the 20-watt LEDs in each dress to increase their brightness as someone moves from the wearer’s public and social distances to personal and intimate ones.
In the coming months, Audi plans to send the dresses, which debuted in early July at the company’s showroom in Berlin, to their showrooms in Beijing, London, and Milan. But in the meantime, the car company is touting how the dresses alter the way the A4 and its technology are viewed. "People often see the car as a whole, " says Christian Günthner, trend spokesman for Audi. "But Wipprecht’s fashion pieces, they highlight and emphasize its sometimes little, but very distinguishing, elements."