There was once a time when fashion and technology were worlds apart. Fashion represented creativity and style; technology represented productivity and structure. Now, however, it seems that the two worlds are colliding – and the results are remarkable.
In fact, technology was very much at the forefront of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) this year (10th-17th September 2015). Fashion designer Zac Posen, for example, teamed up with Google’s Made With Code team to create a classic little black dress with a twist. The dress, ‘coded’ by young girls, featured LED lights across it that displayed different moving patterns, depending on how it was coded.
Similarly, iconic handbag designer Rebecca Minkoff and fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld (of Chanel) both joined fashion with technology at this year’s NYFW. Minkoff launched a collection in collaboration with Casemate, which featured three products that serve as a handbag, a wallet, and a smartphone charger combined; and Lagerfeld’s autumn/winter 2015-16 collection for Chanel used ‘selective laser sintering’ technology to create a unique, mesh-like fabric crafted by a 3D laser printer.
Fashion technology isn’t just about flashing lights and 3D printing however. Collections designed with technology in mind can be both useful and spectacular – as demonstrated by Becca McCharen’s Chromat line.
Chromat’s Aeros Sports Bra, for example, contains vents that cool down the wearer when necessary. Using a chip known as Curie, created by Intel, the bra detects changes in body temperature, sweat, and breathing rates and reacts accordingly, increasing the air flow from the vents. Such a creation highlights the practicality that technology can bring to fashion.
On the other end of the spectrum, Chromat have created an ‘Adrenaline Dress’ that epitomises the dramatic side of fashion. The Adrenaline Dress also uses the Curie chip, which senses either a quickness or shortness of breath brought on by a stressful situation. The chip then relays that information to the shape memory wires on the dress, which trigger the expansion of the carbon fibre framework made up of 365 interlinked pieces that is attached to the back of the dress.
The dress is supposed to mimic the fight-or-flight response in an animal, whose silhouette expands when they feel stressed or threatened. “That concept of [an] adrenaline response is the inspiration behind the dress,” explains McCharen. “This dress would be [reacting]… when the wearer feels that they’re in danger or when they feel they need to be the most strong, powerful version of themselves.”
As well as using technology to enhance their designs, the fashion industry is also turning to technology to improve the behind-the-scenes process.
Choosing models to represent brands, for instance, has historically been a tricky process – with casting directors relying on their intuition to select the perfect face to become the next Kate Moss. Some, however, have noted that certain model features and characteristics are more suited to success than others. This suggests that if casting directors were equipped with the right data – body size and shape, agency, previous experience, and so on – then they would be able to make smarter decisions.
Working on this premise, Jaehyuk Park and his colleagues at Indiana University in Bloomington developed a machine learning algorithm to detect models that are likely to be successful, based on their number of runway appearances. Their approach apparently becomes even more accurate when social media popularity is taken into account as well. It seems that casting calls could be completely revolutionised in the coming years if casting directors take the approach that most businesses have been using for years – making the most of data.
It is clear then that the fusion of technology and fashion could revitalise both industries. From technology, fashion designers can learn how to create amazing collections that are as useful as they are beautiful. From fashion, technology can master the art of expression and style, allowing for the creation of even more personalised products.