Technology & Couture Meet at Paris Fashion Week

A week ago, Fashion Week was in full swing in Paris.  Fashion Week, whether in Paris, Milan, London, or New York, has always been known for a display of cutting edge notions of what beauty can look like.  Those who follow both Fashion Week and Apple’s releases might remember last year’s London Fashion Week, where the iPhone 5S’s slow motion video capability was debuted with an Instagram video of a Burberry runway show (video here).

Still from Burberry's iPhone 5S slow motion video of their Spring/Summer 2014 runway show at London Fashion Week.
Still from @burberry‘s iPhone 5S slow motion video of their Spring/Summer 2014 runway show at London Fashion Week.

Apple has been working to be seen as “fashionable tech” arguably since the clamshell iBook from fifteen years ago, which featured bright colors and rounded corners — a significant departure from the existing design of laptops.  As mobile phones became common place, so did phone cases and charms.  A fashionable person’s cell phone was not complete without a shiny cover or sparkly charm.  In the 90s, merely having a cell phone was a status symbol, but by the time Motorola introduced the RAZR, it was clear that the kind of cell phone you had was as important as simply owning one.  And this trend has skyrocketed since the invention of the Smart Phone.

As technology seeps deeper and deeper into our every day lives, it makes perfect sense that it becomes a part of our fashion aesthetic.  We carry our Smart Phones with us everywhere, and for many of us, they are constantly in our hand.  It functions in many ways like a clutch purse, but it is not limited to a feminine look and is far more likely to appear in a professional setting.

Watch in 18 kt rose gold with light beige leather strap.

The year 2014 has seen the release of a Smart Watch from many leading technology companies.  Naturally, a piece of technology that is carried with us even more prominently than the Smart Phone has to be designed with fashion in mind.  Given Apple’s history of debuting iPhone features at London Fashion Week, it seems unsurprising that they would take the opportunity to display the first Watch at Paris Fashion Week this year.  And while Apple has placed great emphasis on design in the past, the Watch takes their tech products to a new level as fashion accessories with the release of several versions, including 18kt yellow and rose gold options.  In a space where luxury fashion reaches an apex, Apple is very clever to promote a far more beautiful Smart Watch than most on the market.

3D Printed dress from Iris Van Herpen's SS15 Collection. Photo: Imaxtree.
3D Printed dress from Iris Van Herpen’s SS15 Collection. Photo: Imaxtree.

At this year’s Paris Fashion Week, technology has also taken the runway in less obvious forms.  In Iris Van Herpen‘s Spring/Summer 2015 collection, many of her pieces were created with a 3D printer.  The creation of wearable fashion items from unlikely materials is common in Haute Couture shows, but no other material requires the designer to create a digital representation of the item the way 3D printing does.   The Iris Van Herpen dress pictured on the left was made by scanning a dress form to obtain a base shape, then the designer worked with a 3D modeling specialist to create the ice crystal details of the dress.  The piece was printed in two halves, front and back, and then assembled on the model.  While wearable in a broad definition, it’s certainly Haut Couture over ready-to-wear.

No other material allows a nerdy fashionista with access to a 3D printer to create their own version of the item at home, opening the door to an entirely new way to sell fashion.  While current 3D printers are large and expensive, there is no doubt they will become more accessible in the future, perhaps making high fashion more accessible in tow.

3D printed footware
3D printed footwear at Paris Fashion week. Photo: @maccosmetics.

Perhaps a more realistic possibility is a service similar to brands with “build your own sneakers” app.  A person could pay for access to a set of designs from a given designer, and is then able to adjust certain features to their liking and order them to be 3D printed by the company.  Take the 3D printed footwear on pictured on the right: a customer could adjust the length to which the pointed pieces on the back of the shoes extend, the height of the heal, the thickness of the platform, even the internal shape and perhaps texture of the arch to provide custom support paired with a high fashion look.  Personalized pieces worn by celebrities would be harder for the public to replicate, but customers could also feel a closer connection to their own items.   In either case, were it to become available, custom couture would change the nature of exclusive high fashion.

With smart devices being worn as accessories and 3D printing changing the way clothing and accessories can be created and sold, it’s no secret that technology will play an important role in the fashion industry, and that design will continue to become more important in the world of technology.

Apologies for the unintentional three-month hiatus!  I’ve settled in New York City and am greatly enjoying my new tech job.  I don’t know how consistently I will be posting in the coming weeks, but I hope to be getting things up with relative frequency again.


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