Digitally Enhanced | Scan This!

Using the marketing world’s technology du jour, a student creates the ultimate tool for self-promotion: a dress made of QR codes.

One of the standout pieces at this year’s Royal College of Art student graduation show was Thorunn Arnadottir’s QR U?. Her thesis project explored how modern communication technology is changing the way we present our identities. The centerpiece of the project, a silk dress embroidered with Swarovski crystal beads, was clearly inspired by African tribal beadwork, but on closer inspection, its pattern was composed of QR codes. The 28-year-old native of Iceland was interested in taking the QR code—the current darling of the marketing world—and finding a way to connect the online and offline identities of a person through his or her clothes. She specifically designed the outfit for a fame-seeker, someone who wanted to flaunt a persona, and eventually settled on the pop star Kali (Iceland’s Lady Gaga). The resulting dress comprises ten different QR codes, which, when scanned with a smartphone, link to Kali’s band’s various promotional channels: Web site, videos, Facebook page, etc.

Arnadottir remains cautious about the potential for using the technology on clothes. She would love to see beautiful new patterns developed with the codes, but says today’s fickle culture is quick to discard such technologies—and for good reason. “Instead of trying to integrate them into fashion, people just stick QR codes on something like a white T-shirt,” she says. “It becomes too gimmicky and in-your-face, which is why a lot of people end up absolutely hating them. It has endless possibilities, but for it to take off, it will have to break away from the geeky image—but isn’t that the challenge for designers, after all?”


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