Did the IBM Watson-designed garment worn by super model Karolina Kurkova (pictured) at this year’s ritzy Met Gala in New York prove wearable tech is truly en vogue? Experts wade in.
The international creative sectors have long wondered when high-quality exclusively expensive designer labels would embrace ‘wearable tech’ and consumer-friendly ‘connected clothing.’
This year’s Met Gala, the fashion industry’s equivalent of the Oscar awards ceremony and one of New York’s grandest social events, brought haute couture and digital tech together on the red carpet.
With its theme of “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” the party on 2 May marked the opening of an exhibition of the same name at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
Co-sponsored by iPhone maker Apple Inc., arguably the world’s biggest tech conglomerate, and fashion industry bible Vogue magazine, the fund-raising ball seemed creatively and digitally spot on.
Supermodel Karolina Kurkova had on a “cognitive dress” jointly designed by Marchesa (pictured below), the New York-based label famous for dressing several Hollywood actresses, and the ultra Artificial Intelligence system IBM Watson.
Embedded with LED lights and sensors, the dress lit up in different colors in response to social media mentions as Kurkova strolled into the gala.
Conservative designer labels
Although haute couture signals the presence of big money, its investment in emerging consumer tech is said to be woeful.
Although tech investors and industry experts spoken to by TechMutiny disagree, they point out that the Manus X Machina party was not the showcase it could have been.
“My view is that (such activities) remain definitely in the gimmick bucket for now, designed to drive press and public engagement. But nothing on the table is even approaching mainstream wearable apparel tech,” declares Susie Stanford (pictured), Investment Manager at the UK’s Lewis Trust Group, the family-owned company that owns international fashion retail brand River Island.
London-based Maria Hvorostovsky (pictured), Founder/Director of HVO Search, an executive search and talent advisory company specializing in retail, digital and technology, also argues that the Met Gala’s efforts should not be seen as a reflection of where fashion and technology are actually intersecting.
“I envisaged the use of super innovation and engaging technology. I was underwhelmed,” she says. “Everyone wanted to look like robots. The dresses were beautiful but didn’t really come across as in tune with the theme. This had nothing to do with wearable tech.”
Stanford, Hvorostovsky, London College of Fashion’s Lynne Murray and Lewis Silkin’s Adam Glass, however, point out there is much, much more to wearables.
To find out what they believe is the fashion industry’s real strength in technology, download TechMutiny Issue No.13