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Lady Gaga’s dress designer to debut ‘wearable PR’ at MediaCity’s We Invented the Weekend Festival

Festivalgoers at this weekend’s We Invented the Weekend festival are set to be wowed by a new ‘tech book dress’ from Salford Business School (SBS) that seeks to showcase the school’s research to a wider audience.

The bold creation is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between Adnan Bayyat, the school’s Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Gordon Fletcher, Associate Dean: Research and Innovation and Saomai Vu Khan, a graduate researcher.

Bayyat, who has previously designed garments for the likes of Lady Gaga, created the dress using recyclable and compostable cling film provided by Wrapmaster, which will carry two iPads, front and back. The devices will act as promotional tools, providing on-screen animations to grab people’s attention with QR codes stitched onto the dress to direct users to a webpage filled with learning resources based on eight SBS academic papers.

The web content ranges from cryptic crosswords and wordles to short, animated videos and fictional case studies, developed with AI-assisted tools. The intention is to develop content that would inspire other colleagues in relation to their own teaching practices as well as encourage wider curiosity about the papers among the festival audience.

The project has been developed specifically for the festival with BA Fashion Business and Promotion student Hannah Day to wear the dress among the thousands expected at MediaCity for the two-day event.

Bayyat, who worked for 12 years as an independent fashion designer prior to joining the University, said: “This is a really exciting form of public engagement for the school that is part-knowledge exchange, part public relations.

“The concept of the dress comes from my theory of ‘wearable pr’, which is the idea that PR firms, businesses and brands have always used the body as a canvas to promote but we’ve never documented it as a form of public relations. There are countless examples in history of this, such as street vendors and banner ladies.

“We’ve always used the body as a space for promotion and as we move towards a world where the metaverse and immersive technology is growing in importance, I feel the dresses are a natural progression of PR that embraces this.”

Fletcher added: “Our aim with this project was to share insight from Salford authors to a wider audience but we also want it to be an incentive for other colleagues to get creative and to make use of AI tools to help them be more productive.

“Universities still have a knowledge exchange challenge. How do we share the insight embedded within traditional papers with the people who could benefit the most from the learning? The University has already a strong commitment to open access research, this project takes that commitment a step further.”

The web content makes use of papers solely authored by Salford academics across a range of topics as well as a chapter by colleagues from Kedge Business School, France and King’s College London that talks about the importance of sustainability – a major consideration for the project with only reusable materials used in the dresses’ creation, including the QR codes that were made in the University’s Makerspace facility.

Vu Khan said: “Working on this project really allowed us to test the limits of AI capabilities. Amidst both the excitement and uncertainty surrounding AI, this project is an excellent example of how we can positively leverage artificial intelligence, making learning and knowledge exchange accessible in ways that were previously out of reach.”

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