Fashiontech is on the tip of everyone’s tongues, particularly around London Fashion Week. As technology becomes more user-friendly, the two worlds are colliding more and more. Garments can now shape-shift at the click of a button, VR-catwalk shows make IRL experiences more accessible than ever and makeup brands are harnessing the power of AR to showcase looks without you having to even pick up the highlighter.
We’ve seen some groundbreaking Fashion Week tech moments that have left us lost for words and some faux pas that we wouldn’t rush to put in the archive. Post-LFW, here are my top memories and pioneering moments from the past, present and potentially future…
Florals for spring aren’t ground-breaking (that one’s for you, Miranda Priestly lovers) – but if anyone could change our minds, it’s Alexander McQueen. Innovative, awe-inspiring and much-copied, the designer set a high benchmark for the industry to follow.
Cast your mind back to 2006. Twitter was born, Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status and Internet Explorer was still the world’s go-to browser (please don’t remind us). McQueen wowed us all with a real-life hologram, bringing a whimsical vision of Kate Moss to life with the power of literal smoke and mirrors. Picture Kate inside a glass prism, unbound by the laws of physics, moving effortlessly through the air to the soundtrack from Schindler’s List. This was one of the first times the fashion world had seen such a seamless integration of creative tech in catwalk shows.
In 2011, Burberry took this one step further to mark their Beijing flagship store opening, making waves across Chinese social networks. On the Burberry Prorsum Autumn/Winter 2011 Hologram Runway, models were barely distinguishable from holograms. They walked in harmony alongside each other and look changes were done in a flash as the virtual models collided.
McQueen strikes again. Back at college, I spent about 80% of my time talking about his 1999 show featuring robots painting Shalom Harlow, and the other 20% of the time, I was praying for someone else to bring it up. (Thank you, Mean Girls). The grand finale saw Harlow wearing a pristine white dress on a revolving wooden platform, where she twirled in a beautifully haunting dance.
Two industrial sprayer robots, made by Fiat, went to work staining her dress with hues of green, yellow and black paint. An astounding moment to witness, it was a live experience that changed both the garment and fundamentally, the person that walked on to that platform. Firstly clean, virginal and soft, transformed into renegade, punk rock cool.
VR & LIVE STREAMS
Tech isn’t just a high fashion fascination. High street favourite Topshop adopted virtual reality to offer unprecedented accessibility its catwalk shows via a public live stream. Consider it the ultimate VIP pass. Fashion fans could see the latest looks without having to build up the elusive fashion cred to attend IRL. Viewers were also invited to go backstage in virtual person to take an exclusive peek at the inner workings of the show. They then had a virtual front row seat to take in the models flocking down the runway.
I’ve spotted a lot of debate around whether designers should make shows accessible to the mass market via live streaming. Certain industry insiders argue it loses the magic of being at an exclusive event that only a hallowed few are lucky enough to experience. Personally, I strongly advocate offering everybody the chance to enjoy those heart rate-raising moments in real time, even if we don’t have a glossy invite. Fashion is for everyone – not just the elite.
The storyline of all heist movies came to life in 2016. Somebody posing as a stylist for Dazed Media made off with one-off garments from young designers. This season, London-based Fashion Innovation Agency brought one of the stolen bomber jackets back to life through the powers of virtual simulation and fashion animation.
The extreme amount of detail put into resurrecting the jacket back to its full form is nothing short of witchcraft. Every thread was accounted for, the weight of each embroidered and layered section was true to life, and the animation showed the garment moving on the body as if it were really right in front of us. The real piece might be lost in the criminal underworld, but through fashiontech, its aesthetic impact lives on.
Now we’ve all heard about Daphne Guinness’ Milking Mayfair film shot by legendary photographer Nick Knight… but what about breast pumping on the runway? In a fashion first (™), model and mother Valeria Garcia put herself in the history books just last week, wearing a breast pump on the Marta Jakubowski SS18 catwalk. Now that’s a Power Parent!
Created by pioneering brand Elvie, it’s part of their collection of products designed to improve women’s lives through smarter tech. The streamlined device is the world’s first silent, wearable pump and is controlled by a smartphone app. A pioneering wearable innovating an outdated product, the Elvie is a strong indicator of where fashiontech is heading.
THE NEXT WAVE
Fashion and tech have come a long way since their first slightly clunky iterations, with their relationship becoming more streamlined and a fundamental part of our lives. Although it tends to pop up at Fashion Week in the form of experiential stunts, fashiontech has a key role in making the fashion industry more accessible beyond its inner circle. Its roots may be in spectacle (and what’s not to love about that?), but this season’s developments are a flashing neon arrow pointing in the direction it’s heading. I can’t wait to see what comes next…
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