A selfie session marred by bad lighting inspired celebrity stylist Ty Hunter to develop one of the newest forms of wearable technology: "Ty-Lite," a protective cellphone case equipped with three light settings that allow users to snap photos with paparazzi-like precision.
Hunter, a Austin native who has styled Beyonce since 2000, will share the secrets of his success and his most wearable venture Saturday at Glam Tech & The Glam Retreat Expo, a daylong conference that brings together the fashion and tech communities for a day of talks by app developers, representatives from Under Armour Performance Center, and fashion and beauty professionals. Organizers expect 200 participants for the event, which will be held at the Knights of Columbus Auditorium in Locust Point.
"I kind of ended up here," Hunter said of his recent tech venture. "Everything kind of fell in place."
Ty-Lite users can choose from three light settings — cool, warm and brilliant — based on the situation and their preferences. Hunter said it can help acheive "a tan glow" in photos or even serve as a light to apply makeup on the go.
Hunter isn't done launching new concepts.
"We are coming up a with a new item," he said, though he wouldn't divulge any additional details of his new project. "And we're constantly changing Ty-Light. New colors and new sizes are coming in the spring."
It's not the first time a fashion figure has dabbled in wearable technology, which ranges from smart watches to flashy fitness trackers.
Diane Von Furstenberg promoted Google Glass during her fall 2012 collection at New York Fashion Week. Last February, also at fashion week, Maryland native and New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony hosted an at-capacity wearable technology panel at Milk Studios. Women's clothing designer Rebecca Minkoff teamed up last summer with Case-Mate to create a set of studded bracelets that also doubled as USB connectors and chargers or alerted wearers to incoming calls and texts from mobile devices.
And as recently as this week, at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, there were a dozen workshops and panel discussions devoted to wearable technology.
"Baltimore is in a very unique transitional state, and it's important that we create awareness, support, encourage and develop opportunities for our local talent, even if that means creating bridges with established talent with notoriety," said Glam Tech organizer LaKisha Greenwade. "When I met Ty, I told him that I had to bring him to Baltimore to show him our talent, and I'm so pleased he accepted my invitation."
Baltimore is ripe for success in the wearable technology industry, according to Greenwade.
"I love the city's historical contribution to fashion and the buzz it's generating in the fashion and tech industries," Greenwade said. "My goal is to be the change agent that helps the world see Baltimore and its true charm. Baltimore is able to contribute a lot to the wearable tech industry with the resources and talent we have here."
Caprece Jackson-Garrett, a fashion historian, said that wearable technology will be the "third wave" of success in Baltimore's fashion industry.
"It marks the evolution of Baltimore fashion in that it serves as a portal to the next level of the creative class of Baltimore — in particular, the fashion community," she said. "People are connecting with what they can do on the side. It's steered them to a maker mode."
Jackson-Garrett will speak at Saturday's event about Baltimore's prominence in the fashion industry — from the city's first wave of influence between the 1860s and 1920s when the "major port of call" attracted fine fabrics from Europe and Asia, to the second wave in the 1940s when Italian immigrants arrived with couture skills and fashion manufacturers such as London Fog and Jos A. Bank thrived.
"Baltimore was really a fashion capital," Jackson-Garrett said. "Manufacturing community was at its pinnacle. Yves St. Laurent, Valentino all outsourced work here."
Greenwade is looking to match Baltimore's past success with the wearable technology industry.
"I'm hoping to take a step at rebranding Baltimore; showcase local talent in the fashion, beauty, health, and tech industries; and create hope and a future for Baltimore City youth," she said. "I want them to be proud of where they come from and provide an opportunity to be a part of the wearable tech development pipeline. Our youth need to know that they can contribute not only to Baltimore but to the world via the industries we're highlighting."
Hunter thinks that it's important to share his knowledge with Baltimore's fashion and technology communities.
"It is still important to have goals and to check them off when you can," Hunter said. "You have to sacrifice. But devote time to your dreams as well."
In the meantime, Hunter is busy styling the popular Beyonce.
"I occasionally style a few socialites. But I don't have time for anyone else," he said.
What is it like to dress Beyonce?
"She's like family," he said. "I've been with her for 16 years. We're like brother and sister. It's like playing dress up."