As far as New York Fashion Weeks go, spring 2015 was a good one. While some designers looked back (see Stuart Vevers's explicitly nostalgic collection for Coach, Michael Kors's rehash of American prep and Ralph Lauren's trip to colonial India), many more looked forward.
A few designers did so by incorporating some bit of technology into their presentations. While fashion shows have become increasingly "digital" on the consumer-facing side through social media broadcasts and live-streaming video, the show experience for actual show-goers has stayed relatively analog.
But some designers are starting to think about how to modernize the fashion show, using pre-recorded digital video to enhance a message — or at least serve as a cool backdrop. On the first Thursday of Fashion Week, English designer Gareth Pugh led hundreds of attendees through connecting rooms, where groups of interpretive dancers performed in front of large screens that played dark, somewhat sinister videos of (seemingly the very same) dancers —all wearing Pugh's clothes, of course. The whole experience was rather overhyped, but we appreciated Pugh's attempt to present his clothes in a more creative way.
Gwen Stefani had more success the next day, sending models up on a white platform to showcase designs for her label, L.A.M.B. Again, digital screens served as a backdrop for the live performers (in this case, models), and again, the videos showed dancers dressed in clothes from the collection, but the feeling here was cool rather than artistic — less "interpretative dance" and more "music video." The cocktails and general dance club atmosphere contributed to the vibe.
Reed Krakoff took the video experience a step further — or at least elevated it— at his presentation in a white-walled Chelsea gallery on Wednesday. Photographer Steven Sebring used bullet time photography to capture models in Krakoff's clothes from every angle, compiling those photographs into looping videos that made it look as if the models were rotating, frozen, on pedestals. The videos and show setting — combined with the collection's use of ultra-luxurious materials like python, machine-precision tailoring and equally precise design details (see: laser-cut leather bonded to tweed and layers of macramé) — aligned Krakoff's collection more closely with modern art than fashion. And this was ready-to-wear!
Not all uses of technology were so tasteful. CuteCircuit, which showed at Lincoln Center on day one of Fashion Week, is trying to build a brand on light-up LED dresses. Elie Tahari created an "iPhone dress" showpiece for his spring 2015 presentation, revealed the same day Apple unveiled its next-generation iPhones on the other side of the country. More than 50 iPhones were attached to the black garment which — wait for it — was said to capture video from the presentation in 360 degrees. It was certainly a play for publicity, albeit a successful one.
But perhaps the most interesting (and yet most subtle) exploration of technology came from Marc Jacobs, who closed out New York Fashion Week on Thursday. He didn't incorporate digital screens into his show, but he did explore technology thematically. In lieu of speakers, showgoers were hooked into the show's audio track via Beats by Dre headphones — simultaneously connecting everyone to the same experience, and isolating them from each other. Sounds kind of like the Internet, doesn't it?
Technology is bound to have a bigger role in future seasons, as designers look to align themselves with what's modern and what lies in the future. Some executions, like Tahari's iPhone dress, will be gimmicky; others, cool; and the best of them won't just give us a spectacle to gape at, but ask us why we're gaping.