Where is technology taking society? It's not a question you'd expect the fashion industry to answer, but Abasi Rosborough gave it a shot in its New York Fashion Week menswear show last week, which featured technology like cryptocurrency, self-driving cars, and phones with facial recognition.
The show's theme, Utopia/Dystopia, might give you a clue. But in recent years, fashion has moved away from incorporating fad gadgets into runway shows. Technology is now a tool, not a trick, required for all aspects of producing, selling, and marketing fashion.
One of the most vibrant examples is digital printing. Epson has been active at NYFW for a few years now. Its Digital Couture event showcases textiles printed on the Epson SureColor F6200, Epson SureColor F9370, and Robustelli Monna Lisa Evo Tre, and is a consistently colorful reminder of what can be achieved when a designer creates a garment and the fabric it's printed on.
At this year's NYFW, Epson introduced resources for those who might not have the funds or space for its printers. A global network of Epson digital textile printing partners can now produce a wide range of prints on demand in about a week.
For designers in Mexico, digital printing is revolutionary, fashion doyenne Anna Fusoni said at a panel hosted by Epson and the Wall Street Journal.
"We're a very textile-poor country," Fusoni said. "There are enormous, enormous installations that make millions of feet or meters of fabric that's very basic [and] doesn't help a designer, and with digital printing the designer can home in on what they want and...create original, differentiated designs that will make them successful to their small following."
Tech Beyond the Runway
Engineered for Motion, which held its menswear show last week, develops innovative materials and techniques with luxury sportswear lab Trinovation. At NYFW, it showed off welded seams, laser-cut neoprene, and four-way-stretch fabric, but those details might not be immediately obvious to the naked eye. As Women's Wear Daily noted, "[T]he collection's high-tech aspect tends to get lost on the runway."
There are times though when those fibers themselves are the focus, though, like the realistic way Marei 1998's voluminous faux furs fluff. "Technological advances led to a rise in strokeably soft pretend-pelts which draw a closer parallel to genuine furs and bear no resemblance to the scratchy, matted nylon of faux past," Marei 1998 designer Maya Reik says on her site.
Christopher Bevans, meanwhile, started menswear line Dyne and put in some time as a fellow at MIT's Media Lab. Dyne clothing is embedded with NFC so the garments and the brand can connect with wearers, from providing information about the pieces to accessing playlists.
L.L. Bean is also incorporating blockchain technology into its boots and coats to find out how they're being used by customers. Sensors send info to the Ethereum platform if the purchaser opts in; in return they'll get discounts on other items.
For those who are discomfited by the fashion industry keeping such close track of them via their clothing, know that some labels allow technology to keep a keen eye trained on them as well. AI fashion forecaster RevelGlam watched Nicole Miller's NYFW show last week, for example, and will use what it saw to predict upcoming trends.
One thing is clear: tech is altering the industry far beyond the runway.