Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Using Nature In Design: Defensive Cocktail Dresses

Porcupine DressThousands of small fish find themselves in the middle of the open ocean with no place to hide. Hundreds of hungry predators are fast approaching. A devastating attack is imminent. Their only defense is to band together to form a massive, continuously moving "bait ball," which disorients and confuses their attackers. So where do the cocktail dresses fit in?

Creative inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes

For Amisha Gadani, an artist interested in curious creatures and their unique adaptations and animals of the deep sea, it started with one bait ball in the BBC documentary "Blue Planet."

"I found myself immediately fascinated by the movement and behavior of the fish. I wanted to understand their behavior—why and how they do the things they do." Gadani's intellectual curiously, coupled with her skills working with fabrics and simple electronics and mechanics, led to the creation of a growing series of interactive animal-inspired defensive dresses.

Innovation meets education meets interactivity

Amisha's creations lie smack dab at the intersection of nature and design: part performance costume, part wearable art, part fashion piece. "My three wearable art pieces are designed to react when the wearer is intimidated and can then either inflate like a blowfish, imitate the defensive quill-erecting behavior of porcupines, or mimic the ability to self-amputate a limb like a lizard." She also plans on adding others to her collection very soon. "I am currently working on a dress that mimics the ink-squirting defense of octopi and squid for a show at the Warhol Museum for the Pittsburgh Biennial.

If you're worried about injuries caused by flying quills or airborne ink, don't. Although her dresses are designed to emulate natural defense mechanisms, she assures me all are completely safe.

By combining her fascination with nature and her passion for art and design, Amisha's kinetic wearables are inspiring curiosity, educating others about evolutionary biology, and flipping how we usually think about fashion completely on its ear. Her creations also serve as a fun and tangible reminder that sources of creative inspiration are all around us (including the sea).

Amisha Gadani currently works at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University and will be joining the team at UCLA's evolutionary biology lab as an artist in residence this fall.

[image: Amisha Gadani]

Pay Shawn's digital tree house a visit at or continue the conversation on Twitter.