Models on the catwalkDior Men show, Runway, Fall Winter 2019, Paris Fashion Week Men's, France - 18 Jan 2019

“The King of Fashion,” Paris-based Paul Poiret was an early innovator, and credited as the first fashion courtier to use live models, or “mannequins” as they were called, in shows and window displays in 1904.

Today, fashion continues to offer opportunities for innovating. But what’s in, on, around and propelling the runway has been dramatically digitalized by apps and augmentation as well as pure imagination. And during this year’s New York Fashion Week, the use of technology and digital ingenuity is expected to be further showcased.

New Vision

The notion of using social media and digital technology was first tested nearly a decade ago. For the first time in 2011, New York Fashion Week organizers streamed more than 30 Lincoln Center shows in a partnership with YouTube and Maybelline New York.

In that same year, designers played with how their fashion shows could be evolved by technology and consumed by a digital audience. In an effort to appeal to Internet-savvy Chinese consumers, Burberry featured 3-D holographic models alongside real models in its Beijing showing, which was also live-streamed.

The Shoppable Runway

The next notable milestone was the emergence of see-now-buy-now whereby consumers can access designer collections immediately online. The idea is to shrink production timelines and to hand the consumer immediate purchase authority. But often, the costs of implementing various technologies serves as a barrier of entry to the market.

The slow democratization of fashion has enabled on-demand production as well as accessible technology that doesn’t choke limited show budgets. “Runway shows and other forms of presentations are incredibly expensive,” said Amanda Curtis, chief executive officer and cofounder of Nineteenth Amendment, in an interview with WWD.

“We’ve turned the model upside down. We’re helping brands do more with less by producing only what sells locally and on-demand. It’s a win-win for all parties and this model reduces risk and waste in the production process,” Curtis continued.

The partnership between Nineteenth Amendment and the Bravo-produced 17th season of “Project Runway,” which airs March 14, is an effort to inject something “relevant, unique and interactive to the new season,” according to Curtis.

Social Media Fodder

Meanwhile, social media continues to evolve in importance on the runway. Last February, SAP technology and Badgley Mischka unveiled the Badgley Mischka Runway mobile app by SAP, available on both the iPhone and iPad. The app allowed the audience at the designers’ show real-time interaction with the fall 2018 collection as it debuted down the runway. This year holds greater anticipation in the role of SAP technology on the runway at NYFW.

And at Dior’s recent men’s showing, models gave the standing ovation, referencing Kim Jones’ inspiration to couture salons of the past but with a futuristic delivery. Models stood still in black and various prints as a conveyor belt propelled them forward in the Dior Men’s Fall 2019 show in Paris. Manipulating the runway’s traditional movement further, Dolce & Gabbana’s fall 2018 collection featured drones carrying leather and jeweled purses.

Leveraging digital-first tactics and tech on the runway is an indispensable mind-set for fashion promotion, that actually connects with the younger generations, and forfeits undue costs of couture’s past.

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