TECH TALK: “Technology is disposable,” said Will.i.am during a talk at Sotheby’s in London’s Mayfair on the night of Feb. 6. “So technologists and designers are invariably starting to make objects of desire.”
Tania Fares, the BFC Fashion Trust’s co-chair hosted the talk with Will.i.am and Farfetch founder and chief executive officer José Neves. The Fashion Trust is a British Fashion Council charity that supports young designers. Topics ranged from artificial intelligence to the importance of data to Will.i.am’s regrets about not having studied computer science.
No stranger to tech collaborations, Will.i.am, whose real name is William James Adams, had previously teamed with Farfetch, launching wireless I.am EPs headphones called Buttons in September. In 2015, he partnered with Gucci on a smartwatch that allowed users to take selfies and conduct video chats, and also worked with André Leon Talley on a dial fashion bracelet, which is similar to a smartwatch and incorporates technologies that allow the user to make calls, send texts, post to social media, play music and track fitness.
The musician and entrepreneur said AI is the next-biggest technological advancement.
“It’s 2017, and the new thing is called AI,” he said. “And it’s more powerful than the Internet, because the Internet didn’t think, the Internet didn’t know you. So that shift is about to happen again, where there is a new type of way that we connect and get information. It’s about to enter society and it knows a lot. It’s coming and it’s going to be awesome. Are you a contributor? Are you creating and helping solve problems? Or are you just going to stay here? Those designers and those companies need to hire AI scientists ASAP or else you won’t be part of the future.”
He also advised young designers to engage with people who are involved in technology. “If I was a fashion designer right now and if you’re not coding, collaborate with a developer from the beginning,” he said. “And you will be amazing. When I say technologists, it’s not just the coders but folks that are working with new types of materials, scientists. Right now is the time to create, to invent, not innovate, you need to invent right now.”
He added that fashion needs invention “or else, Google will be fashion. Tech will be fashion. Tech is the music platform, not Universal. Don’t let that happen to fashion. Who should you be competing with? All of fashion should be competing with Apple and Google — they hire the best. Poach the minds from that world to this world, because guess what, they’re going to poach this world.”
He also called data the new currency. “Don’t just think about the clothes,” he said. “Think about designing a new platform or a new experience. So when you walk into the store, the store should know what I’m looking for. It should know before you get to the store. In order to fix it you have to dream and see the problems. It’s about services and that service is going to be about algorithms and it’s going to be intelligent.”
He admitted that if he were 18 again, he would have studied computer science. “If I wanted to do fashion I’d be doing computer science [rather than music or fashion],” he said. “Because you can make the machine be the musician and you can make the machine design the closet. That’s the power of computer science. It’s the most amazing time to be creative if you have that as your tool.”