Lior Cole ’23 makes her own clothing from upcycled materials, and contemplated switching her major to fashion design in 2019, before deciding to stick with information science.
For the April 30 Cornell Fashion Collective Spring Runway Show, the second-year designer will combine those two interests in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) to be auctioned off as a fundraiser. It will be the first digital “model” in the 38-year history of the CFC spring show.
Cole’s physical model will be a male dressed in only spandex shorts and painted blue from head to toe (her assigned theme is “Monochrome”); the model will be holding a placard with a QR code that links to the NFT and the bidding site. Bids will be accepted for 10 days, starting April 30.
Half of the money from the sale will go to Women in Computing at Cornell (WICC), of which she’s a member, and the other half will fund one of Cole’s current AI projects.
“I see technology’s role in everything I do, it’s always at the forefront of my mind,” said Cole, a student in the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and a native of Long Island. “So when I saw that there were two models (for second-year designers), immediately I thought, ‘One of them has to be digital.’”
“When Lior’s project was presented in a group presentation, we were all excited to see this come from pen and paper to reality,” said Kim Phoenix, CFC faculty adviser and lecturer in the Department of Human Centered Design (HCD) in the College of Human Ecology. “I think it will be an interesting moment in the show.”
NFTs are cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated. They can represent real-world items like artwork and real estate; “tokenizing” these real-world tangible assets makes buying, selling and trading them more efficient, while reducing the chance of fraud.
The NFT, called “Colors of the Metaverse,” is an 8-second video loop of a color-changing figure, holding a placard with an illustration of the Earth. The description reads in part: “This NFT … emulates the interplay between our physical world and the intangible realm that drives it. The physical model’s homogenous color represents the limited front of our physical world – the fruitful intangible realm is represented by the digital model’s plethora of colors. … Life is defined by extracting meaning from our physical existence to explore the more meaningful intangible realm.”
Cole’s digital creation will no doubt turn heads at the CFC’s annual runway show, but Cole herself has already done that in the international fashion world. In what she admits was a “really lucky process,” Cole was spotted last year on the street in New York by fashion designer Batsheva Hay; that chance meeting and an impromptu photo shoot turned into a contract with international modeling agency IMG.
As a result of her suddenly very busy schedule – hopping from New York to Paris and Milan – Cole decided to take the 2021-22 school year off. She plans to return in the fall, although between modeling, various AI projects and pursuit of completing her Cornell education, Cole is not certain what the future holds.
“When Lior told me she was going to have an NFT as one of her designs, my first thought was, “Of course she is,’” said Presley Church ’24, a fellow second-year designer and fashion design major (HCD).
“Lior has one of the most unique minds I’ve ever encountered,” Church said. “She is so eager to learn and always positions herself at the cutting edge of what’s next in fashion, tech, intelligence and the crossroads of the three.”
“I feel like my friends in the fashion collective are so supportive,” Cole said. “They’re talking with me about my different technology projects, and always excited to see what I’m going to do next.”
Donating half the proceeds from her NFT sale to WICC will allow her to help boost the young women who’ll follow her.
“As a woman in computer science, I’ve witnessed firsthand the under-representation of women in the field,” she said. “With the increasing power and role of technology in society, it is crucial to invite and include diverse voices.”