If you stepped out into the rain and your newly purchased dress changed colour, it’s true to say, you would not exactly be happy. You then pull your printed coat over and stride onwards, when the sun peaks out from behind the indecisive cloud and changes panels of your overcoat to a different tone from the same hue. Is someone actually having a laugh at your expense? A cheeky wizardry trick from the Weasley twins at Hogwarts? No, chances are, you have just bought a garment from the critically acclaimed, fashion and interaction designer, Amy ‘Rainbow Winters’.
Graduating from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Theatre Design, Amy’s label is now the forerunner in interactive clothing, debuting at London Fashion Week in 2010. Creating a touch-sense-sound multisensory experience, which reacts with water, light and music, the use of science and technology is vivid in her work but the beautiful cut of the fabrics create a collection that any gifted fashion designer would be happy with. From being recognised by Channel 4, CSM Innovation Centre and Lady Gaga, it appears the love for Rainbow Winters is as wonderfully varied as the colour change on the flowers from her infamous, SS11 ‘Rainforest’ dress.
The exciting mix of drama, technique and a fierce passion for breaking the mould and exploring the unforeseen, reinforces the conclusion that the future is most definitely bright for Rainbow Winters. But whatever you do, do not label her, ‘Sci-fi’; you have been warned!
So let’s start from the beginning, how did you and ‘fashion’ first meet?
I studied to be a costume designer at Central Saint Martins firstly. My drawings were always on beautiful, thin women; costume designs are normally different, you have to draw a lot of old men! I always designed for opera shows in my degree as I wanted to make amazing costumes. When I graduated I continued with the opera style designs and nightclub fashion; it was always a random mixture of things. Then I came across basic light up devices, like LEDs to use in costume and I thought that would be great for the entertainment industry, so I began talking to scientists. This is where my network started and I discovered how technology is not just really clinical, but can be magical too.
Are you surprised that no-one picked up on this idea sooner?
Well I think fashion is quite conservative, compared to Japan say, where you have the street kids really experimenting, and suppose London to a certain degree. But when I have previously experienced the Paris Tradeshow, the Italians, German and French were all like, “Oh yes, very nice, but, non.” I think it is definitely a culture thing but hopefully it will start to be picked up on.
So has science always interested you?
Well I have definitely come from an art background as opposed to science. When I discovered science, it was quite interesting; I like the idea of mixing different disciplines. Science was taught in a really boring way at school, so dry! If the teachers performed more experiments in class; more practical and active play, then greater people I am sure, would be interested in the subject.
So how did your label begin?
Well I started it in 2010 but was working on another label before that, with a girl I met at college, which had a really tacky name called, ‘Couture Clubbing’! But I learnt a lot from it and we did great things together, like show at The Science Museum in London. We used holographic leather which was geared towards clubbing. It was a great experience but working with another designer was hard as we clashed on the use of colour.
You first showed at London Fashion Week in 2010, will you be showing again this year?
No, this year I will be at Paris Fashion Week for the Tradeshow; I’ve showed there before and it has gone really well. I am also going on a mission to Japan as I have a big following over there, so it would be cool to visit and see who my main customers are!
So where does the inspiration come from with your designs?
Mainly nature and modern art. My SS11 collection was inspired by the rainforest with the idea that technology can mimic nature; that the world is black and white and through rain and sunshine, becomes living colour. My second collection (AW11) was inspired by 20th century modern art. I like the idea of paintings which are interactive, like with my Piet Mondrian inspired coat; instead of being a static painting on a wall, becoming more experimental. My next collection (which I am picking up tomorrow) is inspired by the idea of an island, with stripes that change colour; a very sunshine orientated collection.
Who do you have in mind when designing?
Weird, but I always have a 1960s image in my head which is really bizarre! There is definitely something retro about my clothes; quite a 60s/70s cut and vibe. So yeah that mixed with a modern day, Japanese schoolgirl!
So do you wear your own designs a lot?
I do, I am wearing the fuchsia raw silk skirt today (with printed UV-glowing waistband) I wear a lot of the dresses I have designed as well.
Do people notice your clothes when you are out?
Well I used to be a bit bigger! But now I am wearing the clothes properly, people are always drawn to the colour and ask where it is from- perfect walking advert for my label!
Which celebrities have worn your clothes?
A lot of them have been borrowed but I am not sure if they have actually worn them. Artists like Lady Gaga, Kate Nash and The Saturdays.
What about Katy Perry, as she wore a LED gown to the Met Costume Institute Gala last year?
Definitely, the collection would be perfect for her as she is quite kitsch, as is my label. That dress was designed by a London company, CuteCircuits, who I have known for a while. But Nicki Minaj would be cool to dress too as she seems to be open to anything fun.
Has there been a standout piece throughout any of your collections?
I think the most iconic piece so far has been the sound-reactive dress; very much a concept piece. The dress reacts to sound, which then illuminates with lightning bolts and this always gets a lot of attention. It is made with electroluminescent panels that have a sound centre inside of it; the same concept as those T-shirts which had an equalizer inside of them, that moved to the sound of the beat and which a lot of DJs wore, but re-designed and cooler! It is really sculptural and was not made to buy as it uses up so much battery life; it would only last for ten minutes, but would be perfect for photoshoots.
What are your aesthetic likes and dislikes in fashion?
Well I am a massive print and sculptural fan but what kind of bugs me is, because my work is quite technical, instead of the fashion industry calling it a lifestyle trend and embracing it; they seem to fob me off with the ‘sci-fi’ label, which is really annoying! Like work by Hussein Chalayan or Dolce & Gabbana and say the metal corset designs, they will call it ‘retro futurism’; what the 1960s thought was futuristic but with no real relevance today. My designs are technological but used in a classical way, yet I’m always branded as the sci-fi girl when it is nothing to do with that!
My new collection taking on more of a bohemian edge, as I have been working hard on it all summer! The idea of the sun, sea, sand and spirits; no more stodgy ideas!
What is your proudest moment so far?
Aside from the exhibitions, probably when I made my first sale because then I was like, “Ok, people actually want to buy my clothes.” As with a lot of my pieces, I have people coming up saying they are interesting but would not personally buy it because it was not for them. I suppose they are more of an occasion piece. I do private orders for the European market but I am stocked mainly in Japan and Hong Kong who are massive fans of my work. Also a science/fashion shop in Oxford recently saw my article in Wired (online) and asked to buy my collection for their store, which was cool!
A film that really inspired me with my latest collection (and is probably going to sound really cheesy) was Romeo and Juliet, but a really old one directed by Renato Castellani, which was beautifully shot. I do find films to be really inspiring; fashion feeds film and vice versa, as well as music, with the idea that music sets off an emotion and are equally entwined.
Favourite hang-out in London?
Well I live in South Kensington with my boyfriend but I go to The hospital Club in Covent Garden a lot and The Book Club in Shoreditch, as I used to work around there. But I prefer West London for the breathability factor!
Social media sites, what are your views on them?
I think they are great. I do use Twitter and Facebook, which are useful for getting work with clients, coverage and seeing what other people are up to. But they are difficult to maintain and when I tweet, say when I am on a beach somewhere abroad, I always think people are like, “God, you’re such a knob!”
So what’s next?
Well I’ve got a lot of projects coming up, one with an advertising company who want me to design socks! As well as a project with Selfridges that I can’t really say too much about, but is going to be great. And just for the brand to grow, to be stocked in more places and research more into technology; the techno-fashion world is pretty competitive! There is always someone with a new idea. The problem is the science world develops the idea in two years while fashion and advertising want it in two weeks! I actually have a meeting with a scientist this Friday about reformulating new inks. After that, I would like to do something along the line of colours that change with your environment; like walking past a red wall, your dress would turn green etc. It’s not easy to factor but can definitely be done, which is rather exciting!
Rainbow Winters is stocked online and in store at 123 Bethnal Green,London.