It’s always interesting looking back at the most-read stories on the site for the year – a hugely indicative view on what the big subjects have been and the direction of travel accordingly for the industry.
This year – while we’ve been living a particularly tough time for retail, with multiple bankruptcies and ongoing store closures – the lens through which we report, has only been a positive one.
There’s been a big focus on sustainability for instance, from new bioengineered materials actually hitting at a commercial level, through to the role blockchain can play in enabling greater transparency.
Artificial intelligence has also been a particularly pertinent subject – ranging from the impact it’s having on personalisation, to the future of automated stores and the role of voice technology.
On the subject of the future, our ongoing fascination with space travel hit fever pitch this year too – as a society at large, and within the fashion industry itself once more – which was reflected in our long-read on the future branding opportunity that lies in spacesuits.
On top of that in our 10 most popular stories on Fashion & Mash this year was a look at augmented reality, the evolving view on the store of the future and the way in which Instagram Stories is being used.
Space travel has long been a source of inspiration to the fashion industry. When the space race between the Soviet Union and the US was underway in the 1960s, it influenced designers including Paco Rabanne, Courrèges and Pierre Cardin into all manner of both sculptural and streamlined looks.
High fashion houses since have regularly referenced everything and anything related to the galaxy, the fantasy of its contents and the way in which we could navigate it.
One giant leap to modern day and little has changed. This time around it’s the likes of Chanel and Gucci taking their cues directly from exploring our solar system and beyond.
Accessories brand Coach, meanwhile, recently unveiled a limited edition capsule collection of NASA-themed pieces, including handbags, purses and sweatshirts. Said creative director, Stuart Vevers, at the time: “The collection is very nostalgic. There’s something about the time of the space program that just gives this feeling of possibility. The space references, rockets, and planets are symbolic of a moment of ultimate American optimism and togetherness.”
In today’s political environment, that feeling of hope may be particularly sought after once more, but the renewed interest in space goes beyond just nostalgia. Head over to Forbes to read all about the space travel on the horizon fuelled by private companies, and what that means for designers in terms of potential branding opportunities as the spacesuit for Elon Musk’s SpaceX is revealed.
Omega is celebrating Moon Day with a short documentary called Starmen, which sees brand ambassador and actor George Clooney meeting astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
In the six-minute film the duo relive the infamous landing of 1969, by watching the original Apollo 11 footage – recalling an eight-year-old Clooney witnessing Aldrin become one of the first men to walk on the moon.
He tells his boyhood hero: “We looked through the telescope [that we’d bought] and I explained to my parents that I could see you guys walking on the moon at that point – which of course was impossible.”
He goes on to talk about the idea of everyone being obsessed with the space programme at that point and for the optimism it brought. “Everything was about the possibility of the imagination,” he notes.
The film also marks the 60-year anniversary of the Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, the only watch used in all of NASA’s piloted space missions. Buzz Aldrin was wearing it when he landed on the moon nearly 50 years ago, which is what gave it its nickname as the Moonwatch.
Further celebrating that fact is a campaign called #speedmasterfans, which sees more of the watch’s famous fans posing for portraits while wearing their timepiece. Consumers are also invited to upload theirs to social media using the hashtag.
Chanel grabbed everyone’s attention once again at Paris Fashion Week – this time for another future-focused theme with its spacecraft set design. Kudos to the work that went into that but can you imagine the budget? Even Karl Lagerfeld’s visions have got to come back down to earth (excuse the pun) at some point – where is the true value, is the question? Jeff Bezos of Amazon meanwhile, is genuinely exploring how to ship products to the moon.
Elsewhere this week, we’re also talking about Natalie Massenet’s other role running her own VC firm alongside her new co-chair position at Farfetch; the incoming of robots at retail; news of Everlane ditching Facebook Messenger notifications (an interesting move that may spell some serious indication around chatbot ROI); and under our tech header, a must-read from Wired on Ford’s future city including hoverboards that carry shopping and drone deliveries to skyscrapers.
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.
A NASA control desk was the inspiration behind a new Jean Paul Gaultier installation currently in place at Selfridges in London.
Created by British set designer Gary Card, the space station setup features multiple screens above various sets of keyboards, showing Gaultier’s autumn/winter 2014/15 collection alongside a series of cosmic images.
Referred to as a ‘digital experience’, it provides shoppers with the opportunity to become a part of it by sitting on a moon buggy that projects images of themselves onto the screens too. From there they can have their ‘selfie’ pictures taken and then share via social media.
Hosted in the Designer Galleries on the second floor, it is part of Selfridges’ autumn/winter 2014/15 campaign called The Masters. This celebration of 12 of the most accomplished names in fashion, also sees the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Dries Van Noten and Yohji Yamamoto featured in the department store’s windows, and a number of exclusive items and capsule collections on sale.
There is also a film created by SHOWstudio comprised of 12 short vignettes dedicated to each designer. It was created in partnership with SHOWstudio and Marie Schuller. Check it out below as well as a series of original images shot in the store.