America Vogue apologises for misidentifying Muslim American journalist [BoF]
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Alberta Ferretti under investigation by Italy’s antitrust authority [Fashion United]
Self-Portrait is growing in the age of streetwear — without flashy logos or sneakers [Fashionista]
Prada pulls monkey designs following outcry over racist imagery [Complex]
Diversity on magazine covers increased by a record double-digit percentage in 2018 [Fashionista]
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
The latest fashion week season was marked by conversations on inclusivity, from celebrating diverse models at Ralph Lauren and Savage x Fenty, to industry experts openly criticizing the new era of Celine by Hedi Slimane for having 91% white models.
On top of that was a continued question mark around the validity of the see-now-buy-now business model, the ongoing impact of streetwear on the catwalk, and endless pop-up installations celebrating all things fashion.
And yet underlying this activity, though it may not have been obvious on the surface, was a tech-led narrative, with projections, hackers and immersive experiences all demonstrative of how fashion continues to push forward in the space.
Check out our round-up of the catwalk innovations to know…
Ralph Lauren celebrated the 50th-anniversary of his brand with a digitally-driven immersion. So-called LED sculptures, otherwise known as large scale digital displays, appeared under Central Park trees showcasing cuts from the designer’s most memorable collection reels. Campaign archive imagery as then projected across the walls of two T-shaped chambers that told the brand’s story through Lauren’s narration himself. The installation is now at the flagship store in NYC. An app launch was also part of the celebration: in addition to shopping, the platform gives consumers insider access and exclusive content.
At London Fashion Week, footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s show saw teenage hacker CyFi walk the runway alongside actress and #MeToo activist, Rose McGowan. Set in an underground bunker, with flashing monitors and LED lights, their appearance was tied to an underlying political message from Kirkwood against conformity. His latest shoe collection was inspired by tech and cyber-reality, with details including graphic TV static–style print and constructions that looked like tangled computer wiring. The show also featured a hologram technology that showed the collection’s main shoe, a boot with neon yellow detail, in 3D by UK company Hologrm.
A robot debuted on the catwalk of London Fashion Week adorned in head to toe crystals. Part of the show of LA-based designer Honee, the telepresence machine was created in partnership with Silicon Valley-based OhmniLabs. Honee said the show “celebrates the human spirit via the robots”. Her vision was to marry fashion, culture and technology through the experience.
At Paris Fashion Week, Maison Margiela surprised guests with 12 enormous projections alongside the catwalk at the launch of its new fragrance, My Mutiny, the first to be released under John Galliano. The film showed a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign. Miu Miu also decided to use projections, with models’ faces featuring bold lips and vivid red streaked across their eyelids, placed onto bubble letters spelling out the brand’s logo. It was a way to complement the theme of the collection: “Deconstructing beauty”.
If there was one show that stole the tech limelight this season however, it was Balenciaga. Taking immersion to the next level, the set saw a 360-degree kaleidoscopic tunnel designed to replicate the inner workings of a computer. Projectors cast multicolored lights onto the walls of the auditorium, which changed color and speed depending on both the model walking and the track playing. With set design by Jon Rafman, the idea was to draw influence from and attention to modern technology and digital media. The most controversial part of the show was actually on the clothes: Powerpoint Clip Art effects and Comic Sans adorned some of the prints. After turning ugly daddy sneakers into the hypest pair of shoes, Balenciaga is the right brand to end the ban of Comic Sans.
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Fashion and technology are increasing bedfellows, but at no time of year do we see experimentation between these two worlds integrate more than during fashion week season. In the past, we’ve been welcomed by drones flying overhead at Fendi, virtual reality adopted at Topshop Unique, and Google Glass (ahem) walking down the catwalk at Diane von Furstenberg. More often than not, such moves are part of an elaborate scheme to generate press headlines and consumer interest as the shows become re-engineered to appeal to the public rather than the trade audience they once were.
Meanwhile, in the technology realm, corporations are turning to the fashion world to a greater degree than ever before too. Apple teamed up with Hermès to launch a special luxury edition of the Apple Watch in 2015, while Virgin Galactic announced a partnership with Y-3 (the adidas and Yohji Yamamoto line) to create the outfits for its future astronauts, pilots and passengers (as pictured above).
So all of that got us thinking: If budget were no issue and innovation truly knew no bounds in the traditional fashion houses of New York, London, Milan and Paris, what dream technology tie-ups would we really love to see hit the catwalks? Read on below for everything from artificial intelligence to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop playing a part.
Call them all a gimmick, but they beat another Instagram takeover or Snapchat reveal… no?
Burberry and the invisibility “poncho”
Wearable technology has been pretty disappointing from a fashion perspective thus far. Smart watches and fitness tracking devices aside, the only thing that’s ever really stood out is Hussein Chalayan’s animatronics-based show in 2007, which presented the idea of clothes that changed shape. The question on everyone’s lips now then, is when will tech advancement actually hit the design of our clothes? Fibre science is the key, with smart textiles evolving so they’ll eventually be able to do everything from alter colour to indeed shift shape as Chalayan imagined. The one to really be excited about though? Scientists are exploring the way refracted light creates the bold colour of the Morpho butterfly in a bid to understand how we can create that much-desired invisibility cloak. Given the success of Burberry’s monogrammed ponchos, our first technology wish would be for such a collaboration on the London Fashion Week catwalk. Magic.
Alexander McQueen’s global holographic show
Speaking of illusions, we’ve seen a number of holograms being used in fashion shows in the past, from Polo Ralph Lauren’ 4D water projection for spring/summer 2015, to Alexander McQueen’s Kate Moss trick (as per the video above) in 2006. But these concepts are improving all the time. What if we took the idea further and had tele-presence technology in place so that when McQueen’s show occurred in Paris, it could also be seen in Shanghai, Dubai, Moscow and São Paulo at the same time – with a different audience but the same models, looks and experience portrayed. A win for VIP customers around the world.
Louis Vuitton as sponsor of the Hyperloop
Transport around fashion weeks is constantly troublesome for attendees. Heavy traffic, poor weather not to mention high heels makes for a laborious experience, especially if you’re in it for the full month of shows. If only there were some speedy way to get from one venue to the next? Or one city to the next even. Elon Musk is who we need, and more specifically, his vision for the Hyperloop – a high-speed transportation system enabled thanks to a reduced air pressure tube that could carry pods at up to 700mph. Originally imagined to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco (with an average travel time of 35 minutes), we quite fancy a short version of it like the High Line in New York to take us from say Milk Studios to the new Hudson Yards. Or from Milan to Paris perhaps. As far as luxury travel goes, Louis Vuitton inevitably springs to mind. Even more appropriately, it already ran a campaign with Buzz Aldrin some years ago (as pictured above), so has an interest in space travel, meaning its team is bound to get along like a house on fire with Musk, who does of course also run SpaceX.
Alexander Wang and data visualisation
Last year, fans of Swedish designer Ida Klamborn were able to watch her Fashion Week Stockholm show from home via virtual reality using Google Cardboard. Better than that, they were also able to leave feedback on their favourite looks, providing data that showed in real-time on robots put in place to represent them on the front row. Those sorts of insights are hugely valuable for a brand, but what about if they could be gleaned from the audience of influencers actually present too? London-based science and design company, The Unseen, unveiled a sculpture called EIGHTHSENSE in 2015 that changed in colour based on the wearer’s brain patterns. Created in collaboration with digital studio Holition, it read EEG data through a headset and reflected different signals accordingly. That sort of sentiment analysis could make for a beautiful visual feast during a fashion show (albeit potentially a controversial one), if the audience were looped up in the same way. This one’s got Alexander Wang written all over it.
Gucci’s downloadable dreams
While we’re on the subject of the brain and data, dream reading is another science being explored. What could we do if we could not only understand dreams and be able to re-watch them, but also share them from one person to the next? By monitoring electrical activity in the brain it’s not impossible we’ll get to that stage; even a future where we can interact with what we’re experiencing too. Apply that to fashion week and perhaps we’ll have a future show taking us one step on from virtual reality and instead able to enter the dream of the designer and eventually manipulate what they see. We’ll take an Alessandro Michele at Gucci dream tonight; perhaps a Miu Miu one tomorrow.
Net-a-Porter and the 3D printer
One of the most concerning issues with fashion weeks as they stand, is the distinct separation between the digital experience consumers have with such events, and the lack of ability to buy the actual products shown. Usually it takes up to six months for the collections to hit the shop floor, by which point the hype generated at the reveal has all but died. Numerous brands are now looking to release items in-season in a bid to capitalise on the engagement achieved, but it’s a complicated model. Which is why 3D printing could be interesting, particularly as such tools become more able to create materials as soft and supple as what we’re used to wearing. Imagine a future where Net-a-Porter, as the luxury e-commerce giant in the space, can offer looks from the catwalk (rightfully gained from the designers) ready “for print”. Customers would be able to download their styles and customise them as they go.
Tommy Hilfiger’s shared deep learning
One thing always missing from fashion weeks in my humble opinion: live commentary of the shows, preferably from the designer themselves. Short of ruining the experience of the event – the music, the set, the lighting – a lot could be achieved by sharing the thoughts of the creative director relevant to each piece as it comes out, especially if such insights could be personalised. Enter artificial intelligence. If Hermès is working with Apple and thus perhaps they’ve got Siri, then how about Tommy Hilfiger and Google Brain? Imagine a process of deep learning enabling the machine to understand what every audience member has bought, featured in their mag, mentioned on social media, reviewed positively or otherwise in the past. From there, it would be able to temper its commentary accordingly. By knowing the new season inside out too, it would be able to provide live intelligence to the viewer via in-ear headphones as the show takes place, helping them do their job better and enjoy the experience all the more as it goes.
Chanel’s robot plant
We’re used to elaborate and theatrical sets during fashion weeks – with everything from a supermarket to casino or airport terminal playing out at Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel in recent years. In a well-rounded view of future tech, and one step on from its data centre last season, the French fashion house will turn to robotics for it’s next endeavour. Imagine a robot plant ready to create the dystopian future of man versus machine we’re so used to seeing from Hollywood. Conveyor belts would circle around the floor churning out next generation robots created as lifelike as in film Ex Machina, but this time kitted out in next season Chanel of course. There’d be the Cara, the Kendall, the Baptiste… even the Karl. While this sort of humanoid artificial intelligence is somewhat of a controversial move (have you seen the end of that movie?), there’s a lot to be said for also having a robotic version of Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette. It doesn’t, after all, get more Instagram-worthy than that.
Donald Trump’s first week as President has been quite something… for this industry, it’s the overhaul on trade deals particularly to keep an eye on, as outlined by Bloomberg below. Elsewhere, the past seven days have been all about British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman stepping down, through to lots more in the way of technical detail from the couture shows in Paris.
Also worth reading is the BoF’s piece on automation, a view on what the store of the future looks like now we have Amazon Go, and the unveiling of the first dress made with graphene.
Nike and Ford caught in crossfire of Trump’s trade overhaul [Bloomberg]
British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman steps down [Vogue]
Meet Fashbot, a life-sized robot that took to London Technology Week this week to showcase numerous famous fashion designs in hand-drawn form.
Juxtaposing analogue craft with the latest in digital technology, the installation saw looks from the likes of Alexander McQeen, Christian Dior, Gianni Versace and Valentino all slowly appearing in projected form as though they were being drawn onto the dress in real-time.
The installation was concepted and created by designer Brooke Roberts, as part of a commissionion by London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s promotional company. She wanted to demonstrate fashion and robotics, with a human sensibility, so approached 3D-printing robotics company InMoov to help her.
The result was a robot draped with a piece of clothing upon which projections of the various fashion imagery appeared, produced by digital agency Holition’s in-house creative artist, Gintare Zukauskaite.
Holition CEO, Jonathan Chippindale, said: “As an anti-tech technology studio, Holition has always been more focused on the experience, the engagement and the digital anthropology between humans and technology, rather than the wires and circuit boards and the algorithms. This installation fits this ethos nicely – although on paper it is a collaboration involving 3D printing, robotics, fashion and projection mapping, it is actually a narrative that discusses the connection between analogue and digital, a story of fashion told through the medium of technology and ultimately a study of what it is to be human.”
Correction: an earlier version of this story wrongly stated Brooke Roberts was just the designer of the dress and not full creative behind the installation.
The theme of “technology” was taken quite literally on the red carpet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute gala in New York last night, with celebrities including Claire Danes and Karolina Kurkova both stepping out in light-up eveningwear looks.
Danes wore a pale blue Zac Posen dress made from a fiber optic woven organza (as pictured). Reminiscent of a modern-day Cinderella, the fairytale look came alive in the dark, glowing from head-to-toe. Posen teased the gown via his Instagram channel, where followers got to see the impressive lights working to full effect.
Supermodel Kurkova meanwhile was dressed in a look designed by Marchesa, in collaboration with IBM. More than just a garment covered in three-dimensional LED flowers, this was also an intelligent piece of work that reacted to online conversation about the event in real-time throughout the night.
Read more about this cognitive design, plus check out all the celebs that took the “Manus x Machina” theme to the robotic extreme, via Forbes. A positive view: the real future of our wardrobes was also highlighted by those turning to sustainable design.
Poor working conditions. Inability to meet demand. Slow trend response. They’re all consequences of the move to low-cost manufacturing in factories many thousands miles from brands’ creative centres… until now, that is.
Fashion has finally got what the car industry has known for decades – robots can make a difference, a BIG difference.
A German factory mainly operated by robots will open next year and be ready to make its first Adidas shoes, a reversal of the trend that has seen the company shifting production to Asia where over one million workers currently make its footwear.
The Speedfactory near the Adidas HQ will make its first 500 shoes in 2016 with full commercial production by 2017. Later there’ll be Speedfactories in the US too.
The aim is to get production closer to the company’s biggest markets, to offer super-fast response to trends and to produce the more personalised shoes customers want.
But it’s not about cutting costs, we’re told. It would have been ironic if cost was a factor as it was the main reason production moved to Asia in the first place.
Asian manufacturing will stay, albeit with less of it in China where wage costs are rising. Instead this new development is more of a complement to those production locations, a new way of thinking about production and an initiative that rivals are likely to try to match.
This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday