What the Future Holds for the Fashion Week-Tech Convergence

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Welcome to the official kick off of the first Seamless thought-piece feature!

Given the time frame in which we are posting our first thought-piece, what better topic to cover than Mercedes Benz Fashion Week – New York, London, Milan and Paris, yes each of the cities – and the convergence of these events with technology.  Only here will you find this quick, hip global look at this subject as we curate stand-outs, note the thru-lines and identify opportunities for the future!

We are witnessing a true shift in our entire culture as a new mindset merges with tech usage. The

fashion industry’s response to this phenomenon can at times be inspiring yet puzzling, amusing yet thought-provoking; but it is always, somehow, impactful on a number of levels.   Upon observation one might say that the movements are as much about an industry re-defining interaction with its own members as it is about creating engagement with those outside of itself as it adjusts within a life where digital creates instant desire, instant opportunity, instant challenge.

And the journey known as Fashion Week is particularly rich in tech exploration, dare we say, excavation.

While many tech blogs opt immediately for the very obvious fact that there is live streaming of the runway shows, there are some subtle nuances that only a true fashion technista notes. Take, for instance, the fact that even though most shows were streamed, Marc by Marc Jacobs’ seemed to be one of the few that offered a cool, live picture-in-picture element; the smaller of which provided a close-up of the bags and shoes, upping the drool factor.   However, other designers decided to take the tech-style convergent vibe to a literal level.  In case you missed it, CNN covered designer Asher Levine in a segment offering  insight into Levine’s venture with  Phone Halo to actually manufacture GPS tracking into his men’s clothing and accessories for A/W 2013.  The intent? To ensure that consumers never lose a hat or scarf in a taxi ever again.  If said items get more than 30 feet away from the owner,

photo: engadget

photo: engadget

his phone starts beeping.

While the verdict my still be out on this one, we noted that our friends at Tech Cocktail did a stellar job  encapsulating on-site attendee experience at Lincoln Center as it converged with tech.  From apps providing show schedules, to digital look books; it seemed as though tech smoothed out the edges of a very frenetic event. Proof?  The QR code/digital kiosk integration was said to simplify the dreaded coat check lines (here’s hoping that offering will be implemented at the more popular sample sales, as well..lol). And we also loved the fact that Samsung (which is everywhere promo-ing as of late!?!) lent out their tablets each day via their Samsung lounge on site at Lincoln Center.  Was Vine utilized as a result of those tablets?  Possibly, since BusinessofFashion.com wisely noted that some fashionistas are incorporating Vine into the social media picture as well, now, making for yet more multi-tasking while taking in the runway scene.

But in terms of actual tech use in fabric and design, the stand-out here just may be Alexander Wang who, stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, calls a “technological genius.”  If you haven’t seen the show on-line, we suggest you take a look, and let us know your thoughts.  In our opinion, his tech usage in his own collection shown in NYC is only heightened by his Balenciaga debut – but hold on, that’s Paris, and we’re not there just yet…

London, followed New York on the Fashion Week sked.  The 5-hour time difference coupled with work demands, meant that the Seamless co-founders saw few shows live; but you better believe that an exception was made for Burberry!  Natch, Burberry has been out-front in terms of seducing the consumer via digital means, but now it’s on a completely different level. We are loving the idea of straight-to-online-retail pieces available immediately after the show.  But the “smart personalization” element takes the proverbial cake. The concept of the “made for” that the house provides is so very right for the times (take that, “Deluxe”, there is still some luxury left in the world).  And it’s all about the new chip (similar to RFID tags) that the house is using to trigger short films about one’s product of interest while in stores.  A “seamless” perfection of tech-style integration, if we’ve ever seen one.  Burberry seems to understand a new phenomenon that I am terming SmartPower.  It’s all about a new mindset where the individual is becoming more and more self-determinant, socially conscious, very vocal and using digital platforms such as smartphones to change the dynamics between us both in this country and around the world. Those who acknowledge the importance of the individual, not only in the fashion industry but all industries, will be those who win.

Another important tech-style integration worth noting that took place during a previous London Fashion Week was that from the UK Science Council.   Last year the Council  launched the Fashion & Textiles section on its Future Morph website.  That new  section of the site is intended to help young people explore the career opportunities on the interface between science and fashion and better understand the major part that science plays in fashion.  Naturally, we decided to follow up on this development, but sadly, there was not a lot of new and interesting news about the project.  We’ll be checking again on this during fall of this year for the next Fashion Week round because STEM + Fashion = opportunity for growth in a variety of ways.

photo: UK Science Council

photo: UK Science Council

A final note on London from a digi-fashion point of view: we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Top Shop Google collabo for the retailer’s multichannel fashion show.  In case you missed it, one of the main elements of this event was the addition of HD micro cameras on the professional models to create a feeling of being on the runway via something Top Shop entitled, “Be the Model.”  This would seem to indicate a belief that there is a psycho-social interest in this type of ID exploration which could be facilitated by technology.  Quick analysis may provide insight. In researching  the comment sphere on this element, as I do through one of my projects glassldc.com in order to obtain public sentiment and social change forecast, there are some telling elements.   Upon looking at pre-press on such sites as Cosompolitan.uk, there were 3 – count ‘em – 3 tweets about this event. Very few comments were left. Somehow consumers didn’t seem to be too awe-inspired about the show, perhaps indicating that there is a fine line of seamlessly (pun intended) integrating technology into a fashion event and a blatant forcing of it.  Part of the beauty of tech, particularly for the younger, hipper set is about discovery .  Smart retailers will learn that if that element is not respected, ROI may be very tricky. Savvy and an organic approaches will be ones that resonate.

As we swipe over to Milan, perhaps one of the nicest stand-outs was not on the runway, but off the catwalk via a special art installation entitled “360 Fashion & Tech Exhbition” which took place during Fashion Week in that city.  As if not to be out-done by New York and London, the exhibit included a special augmented reality app providing viewers a way a new way to interact with a normally static photo exhibition.  However,  we did not notice too much in the way of innovation in terms of the shows themselves and technology.  We’d love to see Milan push the envelope more in this realm in the very near future.  But social media was utilized during Milan Fashion Week to encourage a collaborative effort.  The Italian National Fashion Chamber urged the fashion community to post and tweet to keep up the pressure for the search for Vittorio Missoni and 5 others who disappeared aboard a plan near the Venezuelan island in early January – a sorrowful turn of events, indeed.

photo: AP

photo: AP

Finally, we arrive at Paris.  The land of the Minitel has always been tech-forward.  I know from having lived between Paris and the U.S. for the past several years. One of the biggest tech-style stories for Paris A/W 2013 was the 3D printed “tech couture dress” by designer Iris van Harpen.  Partnering with the company Stratasys Objet Connex, Harpen created striking dresses straight from the 3D printer.  The take-away here is not only the innovation, but the reaction to it all as well.  Upon scanning the comments at the key tech blog The Verge, for example, one comment was particularly telling.  Could it be that, “designer’s work will be copied and they will loose money”, as one commenter so blatantly put it?  Might we see tech at odds, as it so often is within a variety of industries given its disruptive nature, with the fashion industry; or will it be hailed as the new future of manufacturing?  How will we re-define the term proprietary given the impact of printing/copying?  Who will set the standards?  On what precedent will they be based? It is not so much the answers as it is posing the proper questions as we barrel forward into a new era where tech further penetrates  all.

In other convergent observations of Paris Fashion Week, we noticed the super uber tech direction for the set design of Kenzo that was created in participation with Kenzo Digital.  But it’s those Balenicaga tops that we must mention and are still something of an enigma – an awe-inspiring demonstration of the magic of technology colliding with the right visionary.  (note: a member of the legacy fashion guard took the opportunity to note during an interview that the appearance of such fabrics at Balenciaga means that there are some things we just “can’t experience and understand clearly via Internet.” Tone: disdainful)

photo: Balenciaga

photo: Balenciaga

Perhaps in pondering these digi-style observations during Fashion Week,  we may ask what is next, and where are the opportunities?  With FNO now officially on hiatus, how might tech assist in driving both the allure as well commercial aspect of style?  From a fashion technista’s point of view, we predict that more houses will run to keep up with the Burberry immediately-ready-to buy offering.  It’s an ideal opportunity to drive purchase (those Prada shoes, anyone!?), but particularly mCommerce since so many shows are viewed via Tablets (and therein lies the other side of that opportunity since all things mobile is often such a poor experience from many houses).

photo: Prada

photo: Prada

In terms of brand loyalty, however, many houses could benefit hugely by understanding that social media is two-way, not one way.  There is nothing but love to be “earned” from liking consumers photos on Instagram, responding back to Tweets and more.  The aloof, unreachable luxe brand on digital is fast-becoming boring.  That’s just not how the game is played.  Bergdorf’s is a nice, though early, example of how digital relationships can be mutually fulfilling.  Further, we know that RFID, as this writer said 2.5 years ago, could be a huge break-out for fashion houses if  finally used.  There seems to be much trepidation about the possibility.  Perhaps, here is where the right consultants are needed in order to make magic happen that clearly is ready to be unveiled.  Burberry makes a nice attempt here, though while a serious shopper might not want to take the time for viewing a complete short film on the floor of say, Bloomingdale’s, there is the clear possibility to use content to drive purchase, if handled in a creative manner.

Indeed, to end at the beginning is always something of a curiosity.  For here, we find ourselves right back at the concept of the live stream concept.  While basically revolutionizing and democratizing access to runway events, to a certain extent, we predict that houses that up the ante in this realm will be those that run away with the spotlight during future Fashion Weeks.  We suggest that multi-screen, HD shows could make a nice next addition, giving the viewer the true power to control his/her own experience by swapping out different screen that provide different angles to the show.  One of those screens should definitely include a certain backstage/inside view, with other views from various angles. In the SmartPower era, the new value system is all about self-determinism and transparency.  What could happen if the reigns were taken off a bit in terms of live streams?  I know the potential success this can have from creating such a show for, of all artists, the wonderful Snoop Dogg  – a concert, 5-angle, HD, on-line, live in L.A. that was insanely well received.  I think we all have to keep in mind that we are competing with extremely tech-savvy, aesthetically sensitive teens who are offering digital images that out-perform corporations often times, so upping the ante each and every time will be imperative when it comes to fashion and technology.

Stay tuned for the next thought-piece from the next member of our new collective.  Until then, stop by daily for the best and only aggregation of tech-style news and picks daily.

– Lauren deLisa Coleman

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