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Designer collaborates with AI to win a coveted World of WearableArt award

Natural Progression. Photo/Stephen A’Court.

Designers went all out at the World of WearableArt Awards 2019, including one who used artificial intelligence.

An industrial designer who used artificial intelligence (AI) to design his garment has won the Wearable Technology Award in the World of WearableArt Awards 2019. 

Wellington-based designer and 3D modeller Dylan Mulder also won the Aotearoa Section for his garment "Natural Progression" at the internationally-renowned competition which attracts entries from all around the world. The supreme winner was "The Lady Warrior" by Rinaldy Yunardi of Jakarta, Indonesia. 

The judging panel described his work as “a striking combination of different processes that seamlessly marries traditional design with new technology.”

He previously took home the award for a piece he designed using virtual reality (see Living in a digital world further below) - sensors in the handheld controllers turned the movements of his arms and hands into a design on a digital mannequin.

Mulder teaches creative companies how to apply innovative design strategies to their workflows and says it was a natural transition for him to use AI to design. 

"The fundamental difference this year for my garment is that I designed it with a computer, instead of simply on a computer. This is the distinct point of difference. I would give it [the AI] some goals and spiritual concepts to embed over a 3D scan of a model. It processed and returned design details I wasn't expecting or able to produce myself. I then took the elements I liked, discarded the rest, and reprocessed again.

The AI used the Fibonacci formula - a law of creation found in everything in nature - to give "organic and somewhat familiar" results.


“Much like a Māori carver or tā moko artist, AI intuitively reads the organic canvas, takes influence from spiritual concepts and grows itself in response to its form. From flint to steel tools to dremels - AI is just another tool in the shed. As a half Dutch, half Māori New Zealander, I am exposed to two distinctly different cultures. Having lived predominantly in European environments around the world, I find I wish to reconnect with my Māori side more to complete the picture.”

Kayla Christensen of Island Bay won the Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award and came third in the Aotearoa Section with her garment "Waka Huia". "Kaitiaki" by Lisa Vanin came second in the Aotearoa Section and won the New Zealand Design Award.

View more of Mulder's work here @mulder.nz 

The Lady Warrior. Photo/Hagen Hopkins.

Supreme Winner

"The Lady Warrior" by Rinaldy Yunardi of Jakarta, Indonesia.

Winner: Supreme WOW Award

Winner: Avant-garde Section Winner:

International Design Award: Asia

NZ Winners

Waka Huia by Kayla Christensen (Island Bay, Wellington)

Winner: Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award
Third: Aotearoa Section

Kaitiaki by Lisa Vanin (Cambridge, Hamilton)

Winner: New Zealand Design Award
Second: Aotearoa Section

Regnum Dei by Daniella Sasvári & Aaron La Roche (Upper Hutt, Wellington)
Second: Open Section

Collide-o-Scope by Vicky Robertson (Newtown, Wellington)
Third: Open Section

The Moirai - the Shape of Us by Tina Hutchison-Thomas (St Albans, Christchurch)
Third: Mythology Section

Engolfed by Leanne Day (Papakura, Auckland)
Winner: Sustainability Award


Living in a digital world

By Sarah Lang, originally published in North & South November 2016 issue.

Dylan Mulder was tired and wired. The Wellington-based 3D modeller and industrial designer had worked 14 hours a day, every day, for four months on two World of WearableArt projects. As dusk fell on the final-deadline day, he was furiously finishing a “destination-inspired” garment to unveil that evening at a VIP party thrown by WOW sponsor Air New Zealand, which had flown him to Dunedin and New Plymouth for inspiration. “It’s my take on architecture versus nature,” he says.

When the model entered the party, her black-and-white garment drew applause – and not just for its sculptural curves and LED lights. It was also WOW’s first-ever “virtual-reality” design.

Say what? To create it, Mulder used recently released virtual-reality headset HTC Vive, to transform his studio into a three-dimensional virtual world. “Effectively, you paint life-size artworks around yourself,” he explains, demonstrating how sensors in the handheld controllers turn the movements of his arms and hands into a design on a digital mannequin.

To make his design into physical components, he used a high-quality 3D-printing technique (fusing nylon powder with lasers to form objects layer upon layer). He then assembled it on a mannequin. The garment was on display in the foyer throughout the WOW awards show, which ran at Wellington’s TSB Bank Arena until early October.

Mulder, who’s been a finalist with all four of his entries over the past five years, sat nervously on opening night wondering how his piece, “Digital Stealth Gods”, would translate on stage in the fiercely contested open section. Imagine ancient Egyptians still exist, and that a company has created two Darth Vader-esque outfits to update their look; now imagine this is their product-release event.

Two models wearing his designs appeared onstage to the Bowie lyrics, “Ground Control to Major Tom...” The male model – riding a device similar to Mulder’s own Solowheel electric unicycle – wore a visor operated by remote control with attached ears that rose up to reveal his face, then dropped back down. “Like a digital sarcophagus,” he recalls. “It was all I’d envisioned and more.”

The 29-year-old earned $11,200 that night, placing third in the open section and also winning the Wearable Technology Award. He then had to leave his seat again to accept the Cirque du Soleil Performance Art Costume Award from judge Denise Tétreault, the company’s costumes, lifecycle and creative spaces director. “I was hyperventilating slightly and totally forgot to say ‘Merci’ and kiss her on both cheeks.”

Mulder won a one-month internship with Cirque’s costume and set department at their international headquarters in Montreal, return flights, accommodation and $5000. “I’m so grateful to WOW. It’s let me experiment, demonstrate my techniques and play on popular culture – and it’s a visual diary of my design growth.”

At his studio, Mulder usually juggles around 10 commissions, a process that begins with concept sketches, which are then turned into 3D models using computer software. One current job involves scanning the textures of different terrains to create what will eventually become blocks to line highway walls.

His five behemoth 3D printers also physically create props, models and prototypes to be mass-produced later. Non-disclosure agreements apply, but projects on the go include a new-product prototype for a confectionery company, prosthetic legs for a sportsperson, film props and a jewellery range. But all that can wait when he joins Cirque in February. “My brain’s always racing with ideas,” says Mulder, who’s as upbeat as he is ambitious. “So I’m reminding myself to just ride the wave.”  

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