With fashion collaborations now a dime a dozen, it’s rare to find one that feels genuinely surprising. In a sea of influencer capsules and glorified marketing stunts, & Other Stories’s new link-up with Giorgia Lupi certainly qualifies—and if her name doesn’t ring a bell, your friends in tech definitely know her.
As an information designer, Lupi is known around the world for her singular, artful approach to data: Instead of relying on hollow charts and graphs, she creates beautiful hand-drawn prints that lend a “human” touch to sterile numbers and statistics. (Her TED Talk about the concept has over 1.2 million views.)
Lupi’s work is so striking, in fact, that dozens of her sketches are displayed at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York. “As human beings, we have no use for seeing raw data in an Excel sheet, because we can’t detect the patterns,” Lupi tells Vogue. “It’s only through design and visualization that we can access that knowledge, which is why I’m really passionate about this.”
With her & Other Stories collection, Lupi is joining an interesting roster of past collaborators, including Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Kim Gordon, and Lykke Li. Anna Nyrén, the brand’s head of “co-labs,” says her team was inspired by Lupi’s ability to tell stories with data: “With Giorgia, we talked about this concept of making data wearable, which is very new for us,” Nyrén says. “What we do is so tangible, so we had to figure out how to integrate this topic [of data] in a way that’s relevant and inspiring for our customers, and merge these two worlds that at first seem very different.”
The result is a collection of knits, sheer dresses, blouses, puffer coats, and more bearing prints and embroideries Lupi designed using data collected from the lives of three women in science: Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program in the mid-1800s; Rachel Carson, who started the environmentalist movement with her 1962 book Silent Spring; and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel to space in 1992.
“They were pioneers in fields that were historically male-dominated,” Lupi says. “But I wanted to focus on their significant accomplishments, not necessarily just on their lives as women. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the obstacles they overcame, but to be really aspirational, I think it’s important to look at the contributions they brought to the world.”
For Lovelace’s print, Lupi collected data from her life and groundbreaking algorithm, which went on to become the basis of every computer. Each passage of Lovelace’s algorithm is represented as a series of dashes, while her biographical data is symbolized by different colors. The print you see on the puffed-sleeve shirtdress looks appropriately tech-y, almost like a motherboard, but when you look closer, the human hand is abundantly clear.
The print Lupi designed for Carson feels more organic, with nods to nature and flowers. Inspired by Silent Spring, Lupi pulled data from the contents of the book—the 17 chapters, the number of words and characters, the types of punctuation marks—as well as the different species Carson wrote about and her research on man-made climate change. Petal-like shapes indicated a single chapter of the book; touches of color represented Carson’s most-used words and terms; and live events, like Carson’s travels and published works, became little colorful dots and dashes.
The final print resembles little sunbursts, appearing on ethereal dresses as well as simple base layers. The final print for Jemison appears the most straightforward at first glance: Its large circles evoke planets, and Lupi devised them to represent Jemison’s orbits around the earth, with smaller circles and lines symbolizing the number of days she spent in space.
All of that said, attempting to explain Lupi’s process in words isn’t really the point. The significance of her work is that it tells a story with arresting visuals, not with words or numbers. Every item in her & Other Stories collection will come with a legend on the clothing tag, where Lupi has denoted the meaning of each line, shape, or color.
“I make a great effort to craft legends that everyone can interpret,” she says. That reflects one of her most important philosophies: that most of the data we see is either too simplistic or too biased, which leads to misinterpretations.
“We should all embrace the fact that data is never objective. It’s never a perfect representation of reality,” she insists. “It’s one representation, and the context of the data is rarely taken into consideration. If you think about the election, we saw these internet polls telling us one candidate would have 85% [of votes], and because it was presented with numbers, we believed it. We thought that represented America, and it didn’t.” (In her TED Talk, Lupi compared Trump’s 2016 victory to Italy’s 1994 election of Silvio Berlusconi, who also hadn’t been expected to win. Despite the 22-year difference and major advancements in technology, she says “technology failed us, and pretty spectacularly” both times.)
“Even if you’d had access to all of the statistical models and numbers [behind the predictions], that data doesn’t speak the human language,” she continues. “So the more we can design visual languages, the more we can speak to the general public about it. I mean, I could go on for hours.”
It’s a philosophy that applies to virtually every field, whether you work in politics, technology, science, or the media. In our fast-paced and tech-reliant world, it’s tempting to look for answers in “objective” statistics and numbers, but it’s unwise to assume they’re impartial just because they came from a computer.
“I think what gets overlooked is that data doesn’t just exist—it’s primarily human-made,” Lupi says. “Human beings are recording reality, and we’re deciding what [information] to collect and what to leave out. I love working with data, but I don’t think it’s the answer to our questions or will solve all of our problems. I see it in a different way.”