Forever 21’s 1-ton screen turns Instagrams into real-life mosaics

Most brands that reach out to collaborate with the hardware-production company Breakfast aren’t really sure what they want out of the experience. Breakfast has made a name for itself over the past five years with innovative “toys” that blend the worlds of the digital and physical worlds. It once launched a moving blimp, outfitted with Foursquare’s check-in ability, to promote Conan on TBS; after Google launched Voice Search for desktop, Breakfast created a bluetooth-operated open source dev board to accompany the technology.

Retailer Forever 21 was no different. It approached the Brooklyn-based hardware production team nearly two years ago more out of curiosity than armed with a brief.

“They wanted to see what we were doing but didn’t have any real plans,” said Breakfast co-founder Andrew Zolty.

A year and a half later, the brand has a 2,000 pound, 11-foot-tall “thread screen” that turns Instagram photos tagged with #Forever21ThreadScreen into a mosaic made out of different colored spools. According to Zolty, they wanted to tie in Forever 21’s Instagram to the project, since with 7 million followers, the retailer has one of the most popular accounts on the platform.

“Tools like Instagram really help bring our customers into the lifestyle of the brand. It’s nice that we are able to have fun with our customers in a visual and artistic way,” said Linda Chang, Forever 21’s vp of merchandising.

threadscreen5 (1) threadscreen2

When someone tags an Instagram post with #Forever21ThreadScreen, their photo will be added to a live stream queue. As each Instagram turns into a mosaic on the thread screen, videos of the transition are auto-cut and downloaded by Breakfast’s technology. The Instagram user will be notified in the comments when their photo has been turned into a mosaic by the thread screen.

Originally, Forever 21 wanted the installation to sit inside one of its highly trafficked stores, but the size and weight of the thread screen — as well as the need for it to have Breakfast team members’ eyes on it at all times — made that difficult. And by keeping it in the Breakfast office, everyone interacting with the screen has the same experience, drawing a broader impact.

“These projects show Forever 21 as a leader in how social networks and technology can be used in completely new ways,” said Chang. “After seeing the thread screen, it will change the way that people think about the brand.”

Breakfast, whose in-house projects include Instagram printer Instaprint, has worked with brands like Google, Major League Baseball and Conan on TBS. Learn more about the Forever 21 thread screen in the video below.

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