WWDownload: What the Tech Spectacle at NYFW Means

·7 min read

While the fashion world convenes for the London shows, the glow from New York’s latest fashion week shines on, as experts continue to dissect the runways and the Met Gala from talent both familiar and new.

Adding to the spectacle was the technology spotted in and around the shows to strut their own technical stuff. The projects, some of which will extend throughout the month of September, brought augmented reality, behind-the-scenes reports, live shopping and even holograms, among other initiatives, to attendees and online viewers around the world.

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Today’s spate of innovations, flexed by giants across media, social media and e-commerce, delivered new ways to experience the action.

Snapchat’s release of fashion-oriented augmented reality lenses is based on forecasted style trends pegged to each of the four major cities to host fashion weeks this month. Launched with New York Fashion Week, the lenses — a product of the company’s work with digital fabric and body mesh technology — will roll out every week to let users walk their own personal runway by virtually trying on as many as nine different looks.

Yahoo, a Verizon Media company, had its own AR project from its latest partnership with Rebecca Minkoff, this time to feature digitized looks from her latest collection. The immersive experience offered online visitors a virtual version of New York to tour and model photos featuring Minkoff’s styles via NFTs. Additionally, 3D versions of her products will be available for sale through digital fashion marketplace The Dematerialised.

An official innovation partner of IMG’s New York Fashion Week, Yahoo was rather busy this season. The tech and media company also worked with Christian Cowan on a new project pegged to his event, with the designer appearing as a photorealistic hologram, triggered by QR codes.

“The ability to bring all of our followers at home into the collection and the runway show in such an intimate way feels really special,” Cowan explained in a statement. “And allowing our customers more in-depth descriptions of the pieces they are getting just adds so much to the retail experience.”

As a metaversal display, such pageantry showcases what technology can do, showcasing the glamour of technical wizardry. That’s not necessarily a new phenomenon. The interplay between tech and fashion goes back years — one peak in 2012 saw Google Glass land on Diane Von Furstenberg’s runway and 3D-printing company MakerBot collaborate with Asher Levine to offer on-demand sunglasses.

But there’s something different in the spirit of today’s efforts. Behind them, there’s a deeper sense that the velvet ropes cordoning off fashion events — and high fashion itself — are cutting loose.

New Snapchat augmented reality lenses will drop at the start of every fashion week. Pictured: Lenses for Paris, London and New York. - Credit: Courtesy image
New Snapchat augmented reality lenses will drop at the start of every fashion week. Pictured: Lenses for Paris, London and New York. - Credit: Courtesy image

Courtesy image

In that way, the latest wave of tech initiatives may finally be the catalyst that delivers the much-discussed democratization of fashion. But it’s also something more: Silicon Valley’s growing fascination with fashion week has shifted from attention-seeking experiments to a deeper understanding that digital innovation and fashion can evolve together.

That’s certainly true, at least when it comes to shopping. IMG, for instance, looked to drive on-demand sales directly from the runways this month.

Fans may cheer, but from a business perspective, the move has received mixed reactions. “I am not as convinced as others that the see-now-buy-now model will really connect with luxury fashion consumers,” said Dave Bruno, director of retail market insights at retail tech company Aptos. “However, I do believe luxury fashion brands must adapt their supply chains and merchandising practices in ways that will support the model nonetheless. Because the changes they need to make to support see-now-buy-now programs are the same changes required to more effectively compete every day.”

From his perspective, these forces play directly into issues like collaborative design, shortened consumer feedback loops, production and merchandise and inventory planning.

Those pressures, which are very real, may be inevitable growing pains. Because the rush to bring fashion content, creators and products closer to the masses isn’t stopping, in any event. That much has been clear from the activity swirling around the shows.

For instance: Pinterest, a first-time NYFW sponsor for IMG, marked the occasion both online and in the real world. A partnership with designer Sergio Hudson yielded a 360-degree tour behind the making of his show, as well as a shopping opportunity to pick up his latest looks on the platform, fresh off the runway. “PinCodes” left on each seat at his show guided people to Hudson’s Pinterest board, where he shared the inspiration behind his collection.

The company also promoted influencers who were on the ground to cover the events — including Tenicka Boyd, Nicolette Mason, Caroline Vazzana, Justine Marjan, Kristina Rodulfo and Erin Parsons — and hosted a physical lounge space and studio, so creators could recharge and push out fashion content, which was highlighted in the app’s Today tab.

According to a Pinterest spokeswoman, a deal this season with social and online intelligence firm Launchmetrics, which offered new and exclusive ideas during the weeklong event, will expand to cover Milan, Paris, Madrid and Mexico City.

Facebook also made its presence known via Instagram, which partnered with The Met and Vogue to launch a series of exclusive drops from American designers, including Bode, Brother Vellies, Christopher John Rogers, Collina Strada, Gypsy Sport, Prabal Gurung and Pyer Moss. The initiative was tied to the Costume Institute’s latest exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” Each month, the @themetstore will offer these special collections for purchase directly inside the app.

“We hope to spark global conversations about what fashion in America means today and tomorrow,” said Eva Chen, Instagram’s vice president of fashion and shopping, “and we’re proud to support these designers who are pushing culture forward and shaping the industry.”

Specifically for The Met Gala, Insta also worked with Charlotte Tilbury and other red-carpet makeup artists to make beauty looks shoppable. Tilbury hosted Live Shopping events to demo how to re-create looks seen on stars like Mindy Kaling and Carey Mulligan and shop the items used, with the videos remaining on IGTV.

For Tilbury, the project — a takeover of @ctilburymakeup “with instant access to the red carpet makeup magic” — was “an Instagram first.”

TikTok, which has become a major online force at fashion week, unveiled a new #TikTokFashionMonth campaign this month, with tips, trend reporting and demos, as well as new creative effects and virtual events.

Notably the platform promoted its inaugural “Fashion & Beauty Frontrunners List,” an honors roster comprising “high fashion favorites to beauty gurus changing the glam game,” according to TikTok. In particular, the honors acknowledge fashion and beauty influencers who use their platform to promote representation, accessibility and inclusivity.

“What’s special about this year’s fashion month is that we’re putting our creators at the forefront with the Fashion & Beauty Frontrunners list,” said CeCe Vu, fashion content partnerships lead at TikTok. “Our community has come to know and love how we bring them the behind-the-scenes moments from top fashion shows while also helping them get up close with designers. And now, we’re also spotlighting a group of talented and diverse creators we can all look up to and aspire to be.”

Not that fashion industry coverage is taking a back seat. Content collaborations with Tatcha, Glow Recipe, Tower 28, Hourglass, Balmain, Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch and Staud, among others, act like a showcase for new products, leading up to the Sept. 29 Balmain Live Runway event online.

Meanwhile, in the app, new creative effects aim to give users even more fashion experiences. Rate My Outfit scores outfits ranging from “fashion week icon” to “fashion faux-pas,” while a new Aesthetic Challenge tasks creators to dress according to a random style, from cottagecore to emo, preppy and Y2K.

It’s clear now that Big Tech was out to make a big impression at NYFW. That’s not entirely new. But increasingly it’s doing so in ways that feel more personal and intimate, while still delivering a wow factor, a dynamic that tends to be a hallmark of the design world’s creative geniuses. That suggests that the tech sector is, perhaps finally, beginning to “get” fashion.

Editor’s Note: WWDownload is a new ongoing feature looking at the latest trends in technology and related industries.

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