Needles are enemy for 'balloon dress'

Despite inexpensive materials used, the bubbly creations came with a price tag of well over a thousand dollars.

Reuters August 10, 2011

TOKYO: The latest in dresses from one Japanese designer is feather-light, see-through and comes with an unusual warning: watch out for needles.

It's a dress made from balloons -- 200 of them, to be exact.

The crystal-clear creation is the latest in balloon couture from balloon artist Rie Hosokai, who has won international prizes at Belgium's annual "The Millennium Jam" balloon festival for her skill at twisting and weaving the light, latex toys into dresses.

"There are latitude and longitude balloons to be woven together, so it's quite similar to fabric," said the 35-year-old Hosokai recently, as she deftly manipulated balloons into a transparent mini-dress.

All the work is done by hand, and Hosokai said it can be hard to account for the amount of air when adjusting the size and volume of the dress.

The garment, worn with white underwear and co-designed by Hosokai's husband Takashi Kawada, was modeled for photographers with the warning, "Watch out for needles."

Despite the inexpensive materials, 7 yen ($0.09) for each of the 200 balloons she used, the bubbly creation came with a price tag of well over a thousand dollars, reflecting Hosokai's determination to puncture the stereotype of balloons being something cheap.

Most of Hosokai's dresses carry price tags ranging from 150,000 to 300,000 yen ($1,930 to $3,860), but she has sold a set of balloon dress, headpiece and bouquet for 1 million yen.

Each dress lasts only 24 hours at most before it starts to deflate, while some change color depending on the temperature and humidity.

Hosokai, who began her career as a florist before expanding into balloon art and opening her "Daisy Balloon" office ten years ago, hopes to lift the profile of balloon fashion and attract customers eager for unusual party wear.

She has sold more than 20 wedding dresses since entering the business two years ago and would be pleased if her ephemeral garments helped lift spirits in the wake of Japan's March 11 disaster by reminding people of their childhood dreams.

"You can wow people at parties or weddings with a balloon dress. They'll be surprised, " she said.


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