An innovative dress from local fashion designer Katherine Funk, which incorporates technology to communicate the wearer’s mood non-verbally, has garnered international interest. Eighteen-year-old Funk said the dress, titled Breathe, was inspired by a history of mental illness in her family – and her own recent anxiety diagnosis. “I was thinking about things that could make it easier for the people around you, so they knew how to help you when you’re in a bad mood or you’re not in a good place,” she said. The dress is equipped with different-coloured lights, which are manually controlled by the wearer using a switch at the waist. Each colour indicates a different mood – green for a positive mood, red for a negative mood, and yellow for “be careful.” According to Funk, using lights to communicate mood helps avoid misunderstandings. Funk designed Breathe as part of her second year working with Calgary’s MakeFashion group. Funk served as team lead on the project. “MakeFashion is wearable technology,” she said. “They have designers and people from all sorts of different job descriptions – engineers, makeup artists – and we collaborate in groups to create something that is beautiful and has a purpose with technology in it.” The dress debuted during a fashion show hosted by MakeFashion Sept. 22, at this year’s Beakerhead in Calgary. “It was really great,” Funk said. “We had three different shows throughout the night, each was about 15 minutes.” Following the debut, Funk was approached by MakeFashion co-founder Maria Hoover about an opportunity to exhibit Breathe at a fashion show in Shenzhen, China, as part of that city’s Maker Faire, Oct. 12 to 14. Overall, Funk said feedback on her design has been astounding. “I think mental illness is more prominent than we realize,” she said. “A lot of people have said [the dress] would be something that would actually help them.” Funk sees an opportunity for designers to create more communicative clothing, using technology to convey messages. “I think it’s something that will be able to help, in the future,” she said. “People have been really interested in it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it started being something people could actually wear in daily life.” Currently, Funk is studying Fashion Technology at Bow Valley College, and she said she plans to further pursue ideas to incorporate technology into fashion design. She also hopes to work with MakeFashion again in the near future. While she has some ideas for other innovative pieces fusing technology and fashion, she added she hasn’t decided on her next project yet.