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Solutions: Body of light at Fashion Research Italy

The centrepiece of a leading fashion education facility is a giant LED sculpture inspired by the female form, reports Mike Clark.

Following a €15 million investment by Alberto Masotti (son of the company’s founder) the Bologna HQ of fashion house La Perla now hosts Fashion Research Italy (FRI), a large avant-garde educational, expo and archive facility highlighting fashion products and hosting marketing and advertising courses.

The venue’s key features include Statua di Donna (‘Statue of Woman’), which reproduces the sinuous stylised curves of a female body. Ten metres high, it’s one of the world’s largest 3D LED sculptures. As well as animating the sculpture, its LEDs – contained in 5,280 white opaline spheres – enable it to reproduce the 30,000 textile designs in the collection purchased by the organisation.

Immersive storytelling

The unique statue – symbol and heart of the fashion hub – was conceived, designed and installed by Senso Immersive Experience, a creative studio led by Mick Odelli, specialising in immersive storytelling and high-tech avant-garde installations with high-impact content.

Senso Immersive Experience was founded by Odelli in 2015 in the north-eastern Italian province of Padua, to combine his team’s wide knowhow in the context of immersive media, new technology, design and architecture. The company was launched as a spin-off of DrawLight, another Odelli company (founded in 2008), specialising in the creation of high-tech artistic installations, which soon became a reference point on the Italian video mapping and immersive media market.

Odelli explains: “This complex work took four months’ design and planning, four more to find the ideal products and suppliers, a month for assembly and another for installation.”

Senso’s chief technology officer, Alberto Vazzola, responsible for the project at technical level, gives an insight on the 10m statue, with its impressive flowing lines: “The ‘woman’ contains 5,280 7cm diameter white opaline spheres, each being to all effects a ‘pixel’ of the statue and containing a total of 21,120 LEDs. Tagra Lighting (UK) supplied the customised LEDs, modified to operate at 24V, due to the size of the statue and the relative losses of load. Each can change colour independently or simultaneously, with a range of 16 million colours. Via Madrix devices (seven Nebula) and software, the DMX signals are converted to serial (WS2812b 800kHz) protocol, enabling the statue to be mapped. The statue is hung from the ceiling with a ‘skeleton’ consisting of a central three-core power cable, and 1mm steel wires.”

Senso’s project manager Nicoletta Caporaletti comments: “Statua di Donna was created as a tribute to femininity and the deep bonds that link women with the history of the fashion world. We expressed these concepts with this unique visual structure, bringing them to life in a precious dress, which we imagined to be entirely covered in glittering diamonds.”


The facility also features and original outdoor multimedia catwalk screening virtual fashion parades, formed by eight large video displays.

The catwalk’s AV system was designed and installed by Videoworks SpA, an Italian system integrator with more than 20 years’ experience in the design, realisation and installation of innovative audio/video, communication, entertainment and home automation systems, with clients in the yachting, architectural (luxury private residences) and business sectors. The company’s 50-strong staff operates from Aalsmeer (Netherlands), Ancona (the company’s HQ), Milan, London, Moscow and Viareggio Through the years, the firm’s work featured in the pages of Installation has included the Casa Enzo Ferrari Museum, the conference room and auditorium at lighting manufacturer iGuzzini’s HQ and state-of-the-art integrated entertainment systems for luxury yachts.

The FRI catwalk is formed of eight Samsung 85in monitors installed in portrait mode and positioned in such a way as to be seen by visitors as one long screen with over 16 million pixels. These ultra-slim (85mm) units form a powerful all-inclusive outdoor signage solution thanks to their embedded power boxes. Several fundamental features led to them being chosen for outdoor use – including their optimum level of endurance (equivalent to IK10) and IP56 protection rating. They offer excellent visibility under direct sunlight thanks to their 2,500-nit brightness and anti-reflection glass. Video playout is via four Dataton WATCHPAX 2 media players and Dataton Watchout Producer.

Audio on the catwalk is reproduced via loudspeakers for outdoor use: two Community weather-resistant (IP55) loudspeaker enclosures and two Community low-profile micro subwoofers, plus eight Apart recessed circular two-way marine speakers, able to ensure quality sound and efficiency even in the most difficult, humid and hot conditions (frequent in Bologna’s summer months). Audio control is via a Biamp Tesira audio networking system with presentation mixer and amplifiers.

Pictures: Massimo Paolone