Fashion Designer Galina Mihaleva spoke to New Europe in Paris about her dress Tranquilitie, which was presented at the Fashion Tech Festival 2017. Galina, with her project combining fashion and technology, wanted to raise awareness about the issue of noise pollution. The dress will also be presented in October at Ghent’s ‘Smart Textile Salon’. 

Galina Mihaleva studied costume design at Arizona State University and the Arts School in Sofia, earning a Master’s degree specialising in fashion and textiles.

Her interest in fashion lies in exploring the extent to which we experience fashion and how we might be able to accomplish a higher state of connectivity between the body and our clothing. Her art has been shown at festivals, galleries and museums across the United States, Asia, Central and South America and Europe.

She was nominated for the best design award at Cooper- Hewitt Design Museum in 2007.

Mihaleva is currently assistant professor at the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) in the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

New Europe: Which “environmental” message does your dress send to the global public?

Galina Mihaleva: Humans nowadays are living in the age of information… as such 90% of data in the world has been generated in last two years (IBM). People are craving to connect with social media/internet which has tremendous information transference and generation at all times. Perception towards media has been disrupted by the overwhelming creation of content from users, of which few are trusted. Media literacy which is the ability to access, analyse, create, and evaluate messages received from television, radio, Internet, and newspapers has become crucial for living in the present time where noise is prevalent in the information. Not only information noise, but noise pollution, which is the disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life caused by machines and transportation systems and other sources are also problematic to the human body. Noise pollution affects both health and behaviour. Unwanted sound (noise) can damage psychological health. Noise pollution can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.

How did you come up with the idea for this dress?

We developed this wearable ensemble inspired from the function of Kaii chiak which helps to transform humans into a more idealistic version by enclosing human senses when noise pollution is perceived.

To achieve this concept, we used electronics such as: microcontrollers, sensors, LED panels, VR technology and textile medium: 100% polyester hand manipulated into sphere texture: and mesh lycra and laser cut felt.

This interactive dress Tranquilitie, corresponds to real time data generated from sensors that allow the dress to adapt to the noise pollution state of a city, and translate the data by illuminating the LED’s shapes. Each led shape is programmed to light up based on different level of noise pollution and create various composition of blinking patterns to bring awareness.

How did you insert virtual reality into the project?

This part was developed by Diego Gonzales, a Senior VR expert at Samsung, with the Virtual Reality experience that feeds off the live data and reacts accordingly, brings the wearer to another exposure of an environment that’s unique yet corresponding to the dress itself. The Experience uses a mobile VR headset to channel the data and create a visualization that is based on the patterns and shapes of the dress, which is not a companion, rather a “part” of the whole experience.

Can you tell us more about the message you want to send?

The Tranquilitie demonstrates the concept of future human where progress does not always come with more quantity of data, but rather meaningful and peaceful information. This artistic wearable exploration also stimulates a question of censorship, whether it is our choice or not to cease receiving information.