Lunar Gala: Resin Techniques & Garment Processes

A brilliant group of design students from Carnegie Mellon University created the Alluminare fashion line for the 2019 Lunar Gala show, incorporating our Epoxy Resin, Pearl Pigments, and Glow Powders into their designs. You can learn more about Art 'N Glow's sponsorship of the 2019 Lunar Gala show in our previous blog post: Lunar Gala and Event Sponsorship. Keep reading to learn more as one of the talented designers, Stephanie Smid, describes their team's process for creating these stunning garments.

When designing the Alluminare clothing line, we had two main goals that drove every step of the design process. The first goal was harder, and perhaps risky, but we were confident it could work; we didn't want anyone to know the outfits would glow in the dark. The second goal was that we wanted to experiment with as many types of resin applications as possible. Art 'N Glow's amazing variety of resin products combined with our team's fabrication knowledge allowed us to realize these goals and produce a line that stunned the audience the night of the Lunar Gala fashion show.

To more easily describe each garment, this post will refer to them by the name of the model wearing it. This also gives us the chance to give a huge shout-out to our models, each of whom did an amazing job displaying the garments! Below are the outfits and models in the order they walked the day of the show:

Goal #1: Surprise Glowing Reveal
Our entire line revolved around the single moment in the fashion show when Alluminare was on stage longer than expected before the lights went out and the garments glowed. To achieve this effect, we knew the glowing resin had to be as understated as possible when the outfits walked in the light. Luckily, Art 'N Glow had the perfect product: Neutral Glow Powder! These powders caused the resin to become truly white when cast, but glow in amazingly vibrant colors when exposed to UV light. After casting onto white fabric, the resin became almost invisible when cured. We also made use of Art 'N Glow's pearl pigments to make sure the garments still had some flair in the daylight. The use of pearl versus glow produced a great dichotomy between day and night. We highlighted parts of the garment with pearl pigments to capture the audience's attention in the light, and then completely flipped the focus to a new area illuminated with glow powder in the dark.

Goal #2: Resin Experimentation
Outfit designs for Alluminare started with traditional techniques any resin artist would be familiar with. Simple techniques then evolved into custom applications only made possible due to their combination with fabric. As a result, the full line of garments showed a wide gradient of resin techniques that still has room to grow. The techniques we used can be broken down into three main categories: casting into molds, fabric casting for pattern, and fabric casting for structure.

Mold casting the resin was the most traditional approach, though we still tried to vary our molds and the way we applied the cast resin pieces. One of the first outfits we designed and completed was Gloria's look. The process for her top was very simple, albeit time-consuming. The resin tiles were made using a basic one-part rubber mold. Each tile was then drilled through and hand-stitched onto the fabric.

We used Art 'N Glow's Rose Gold pearl pigment and Neutral Red glow powder to produce a gradient effect of the tiles as they flowed down the top. Similar cast and drilled pieces were used for Terrence and Connor, except that we chained the resin triangles to themselves rather than to fabric. This produced a flexible chainmail texture that could be draped across the models' bodies without being stiff.

While Terrence's triangle chainmail used neutral blue glow to contrast his rose gold pearl sleeves, Connor's triangles were gunmetal pearl to draw attention away from his white tunic with a hidden glowing pattern.

The spikes on Janice's cape were also made from a one-part mold but required a few extra steps to create. We originally tried to make molds from laser cut sheet material that would be folded into the different spike sizes. Unfortunately, we found that these molds were much harder to seal and couldn't be reused. We ended up 3D-printing as many spikes as we could to make a rubber mold from them. These spikes were an experiment to see how big we could make a stitched-on resin piece before it became too heavy. By clustering them together on the cape, the largest 6” tall spikes were supported by all of the surrounding pieces).

More complicated molds were created for Francesca's dress and Ugne's hat. The rings providing the structure and silhouette for Francesca were made by creating a double-layered one-part mold. Though large, the mold material was nothing fancy - just multiple layers of cardboard! The mold for Ugne's hat was also double-layered but with one extra step. We cast a flat circle of gunmetal pigment resin to serve as the main brim of the hat. Once the first piece was cured, we carefully removed the outer ring of the mold and replaced it with a larger ring. This new space was filled with neutral red glow resin, creating a hat that glowed like a hovering halo when the lights went out.

Casting directly onto the fabric was both as challenging and rewarding as we expected it to be! With fabric being a porous surface, the biggest hurdle we faced was making sure the resin didn't seep past the borders of our templates. All our patterns were geometric shapes that relied on sharp edges to produce the full effect we were hoping for. Early tests produced good results when using strips of heavy-duty tape, but we knew this wouldn't be viable at larger scales with the complexity of our patterns. What the tape did show, however, was that a certain degree of full adhesion across the entire pattern helped to prevent resin seepage. Our final templates for casting directly onto the fabric were made by laser cutting thin sheet material that was covered in foil tape and temporarily adhered to the garments. After that, the resin application was down and dirty - we just used our hands to thinly spread it across the surface! Some garments, like Catherine's top and Connor’s tunic, required multiple coats of resin to create a strong enough glow at night. Other outfits, like Ugne's pants, could only have one thin layer of resin since they had to remain flexible enough to curve around her legs and allow her to walk.

Shaping fabric with resin was an idea we had right from the beginning. We imagined outfits where the fabric was sculpted into dramatic flowing forms and held in place by a simple coat of resin. Of course, when imagining this scenario, it was much easier to picture the result and gloss over the construction! Due to the combination of complex formwork, fitting the form to a body, and the fact we were all full-time students, we had to hold off on some of our loftier aspirations. Regardless, we were still very excited about how garments like Jessica's look and Terrence's sleeves turned out. For Jessica, each of the six layers on her outfit had to be cast while on a mannequin to make sure they cured in the proper shape. This meant not only creating a sealed edge to stop the resin seeping past each stripe, but also covering every other part of the outfit to prevent dripping!

Terrence's sleeves were a bit easier in comparison. Inspired by origami, the sleeves were first modeled out of paper to figure out the folding pattern. The final sleeves were then cast flat using the same laser-cut template technique described earlier. Once they were cured the whole surface could be folded due to the difference in stiffness between the hard resin and the flexible strips of fabric protected by the template. Due to the nature of the folding pattern the surface naturally curled into a tube, so by hand-stitching the edges together along the underside of the sleeve, the form was locked into place).

The garments we produced for Alluminare went above and beyond our expectations. We took a huge gamble hoping that the large gymnasium would get dark enough the night of the show to even reveal the glowing outfits. In the end, we didn’t need to worry - Art 'N Glow's powders were amazing! Each outfit only received a few minutes charging time with large UV lights right before they walked on stage - imagine how bright a resin outfit could be if it were charged all day long! We were truly fortunate to have Art 'N Glow believe in us enough to sponsor our fashion line. Without them, it would not have been possible.

Though Mariana, Zain, and I have all begun pursuing architectural jobs after graduation, we know none of us are finished working with resin. We believe Alluminare only just scratched the surface of what resin textiles can look like, and hope that maybe we've inspired others to begin exploring this exciting world as well!