There are a million articles out there and just as many examples of how technology has changed our lives. How technology has revolutionised lives and entire industries. There’s no doubting its power, and it’s ability to constantly expand, and encroach on new territory. In terms of fashion, technology has connected what was once a fairly exclusive industry to the general public. Runway shows — tickets to which only the crème de la crème received — can now be watched via live stream. Companies are developing apps in which you can see how a product appears without physically having to go to the store and try it on. Two years ago, the theme of the annual Met Gala was Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology.
As machines are seemingly taking over the world can we reconcile the handmade, the haute couture, with the machine-made? How are designers adapting to the constant change in technology?
Manus x Machina: The Met Gala Celebrates Fashion in the Age of Technology
The Manus x Machina theme really brought the intersection of fashion and technology to the forefront for the general public. Instead of just wearable tech — FitBits and the like — gowns literally lit up. Claire Danes wore a gown that could only be described as modern-day Cinderella; a beautiful, voluminous sky blue strapless gown, crafted from organza and fibre optics. Not only was it possibly the most striking look at the time, it also lit up in the dark.
Karolina Kurkova wore a dress covered in flashing LED lights. Designed by Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, the dress analysed tweets and emotions from fans interacting on social media. Each individual LED light embedded in her dress would light up in different colours depending on the fans mood. It was like a grown-up, infinitely more advanced mood ring.
On the other end of the technology spectrum at the Met Gala was Emma Watson in a fully recycled outfit. Not as in one she’d worn before, but an outfit made entirely from sustainable materials. Recycled plastic bottles made up the entire outer layer of the outfit; the zippers were made from recycled materials and the inner bustier from organic cotton.
2018: The Year Technology Took Over the Runway
And how has the industry advanced in the past two years? One only has to take a look at Dolce & Gabanna sending drones down the catwalk at their most recent Milan show. Although the usual parade of millennial models paraded down the runway, they were preceded by several drones carrying handbags. Who needs to see a bag in the crook of someone’s elbow when you can see it flying overhead?
Not to be outdone, Gucci themed their show around cyborgs and hybridisations. Models carried around figurines of their own decapitated heads—Gwyneth Paltrow in se7en would approve. The severed heads were made thanks to a Rome-based production centre, Makinarium, which specialise in visual and physical special effects. Not only were moulds of the models heads taken, their skulls were 3D scanned using green screen technology. Here’s hoping the models got to keep their heads afterwards.
Haute Couture and High-Technology
Although larger fashion houses seem to be adapting tech and making their shows more innovative and futuristic, some designers have focused on this innovation from their labels conception. Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch fashion designer, has never shied away from combing haute couture with high-tech. Much of her work is laser cut, moulded or 3D printed. For her SS18 show in Paris, Van Herpen created a dress that was made from directly 3D printing a leaf pattern onto a semi-transparent, fine fabric. Some of the leaves as slim as 0.8mm. Van Herpen herself says that she cannot say if a dress of hers is handmade or made through technology. She denies that her work should be categorised as “futuristic” because the work she does is possible. In her words, “…it is possible, otherwise I would not be able to work like this in the here and now.”
How Technology and Social Media have Changed the Face of Marketing
Technology has obviously given us social media, both a blessing and a curse. “Regular” people have been able to turn themselves into brands, and thus social media has provided them with business opportunities that weren’t previously afforded to people outside the realm of celebrity.
However, social media influencers are now used as a tool for marketing; they’re now essentially another advertising platform. 86% of marketers said they’ve utilised influencer marketing, while 39% have said they’ll increase their investment into the practice this year. The influencer economy on Instagram is based at $1 billion; they’d be at a disadvantage not to invest into the practice. Dolce & Gabanna is one brand constantly making use of influencers—their catwalks and campaigns are crammed full of millennial stars. It’s a well-voiced concern in the fashion industry that models are being booked for their social media following as opposed to their credentials — but often this brings eyes outside of the fashion industry onto the show.
Technology and the Model: Are Even the It-Girls Safe?
Normal jobbing models are now not only having to compete with drones and social media stars, but some of the social media stars they’re competing against aren’t even human. They’re CGI.
Lil Miquela is a Brazilian American computer-generated Instagram model…or so people debate. Argument surrounds whether she’s a real person or a computer generated model, or a combination of the two. She has almost 800,000 followers on Instagram. Not only has she amassed a following that lots of working models could only dream of, but she’s also collaborating with brands. Prada asked her to announce the arrival of their GIF-set, which featured logos and prints from their Fall 2018 collection, and their archives. She also claimed via Instagram that Pat McGrath had honoured her as the latest McGrath muse.
Fenty has also promoted a CGI model, reposting an image of the CGI model Shudu, an invention by photographer Cameron-James Wilson. He says he used a 3D modelling program to create her and can pose her in certain ways. A single image, however, can take several days to create. Wilson claims he’s not trying to take an opportunity away from anyone, but as Shudu’s social media status rises, who’s to say she won’t in the future?
Fashion and technology continue to intertwine, and it won’t be long until we see the effects of it hit the mainstream, fast fashion stores — Zara is already planning to deliver augmented reality to its larger stores. With wearable tech, shop-able tech, and tech-couture, it seems that it’s inevitable that we’ll have to bow down to fashion robot overlords. I’ll get on my knees the second they can mass-produce Cher’s wardrobe computer app from Clueless…