High style and high tech may have seemed like awkward bedfellows once, but the pair may yet prove to be a power couple, judging by projects for, around or timed alongside New York Fashion Week, which comes to a close Wednesday.
After ushering in Rebecca Minkoff’s landmark NFT debut during NYFW’s spring 2022 edition in September, Yahoo, IMG’s official Innovation Partner for the shows, returned with new experiences for Rodarte and Maisie Wilen.
The former, featuring the brand’s original “Black Swan” sketches as animated projections, immersed visitors at a Spring Studios event on Friday. The next day, the tech company flexed a different tech muscle for the Maisie Wilen NYFW fall 2022 Collection Holographic Experience.
“We are capturing an entirely new fashion show experience,” Maisie Schloss, Maisie Wilen’s creative director, explained in a behind-the-scenes video. Schloss presented the collection as holograms presented to the live audience, as well as fans at home through their smartphones and augmented reality. “To know the fantasy is no longer stuck to what we can do in the real world, we have a whole new world to display,” she said.
Tombogo also caught the hologram bug this week. The Los Angeles-based fashion brand presented its fall 2022 collection in collaboration with Portl, a maker of holographic machines that can capture and display life-sized holograms. The partners teamed up on large custom-made devices to show 10 select looks from the line.
The goal, according to the company, was to create “a unique digital-meets-live experience.”
The looks were shown both in-person on live models and remotely. Models such as Junebug, Yeek, Julius Caesar, Aerin Creer, Phabo and Caleborate wore Tombogo’s pieces in the brand’s Los Angeles studio, and the platform captured their full-size, high-definition visuals in real time and projected them to Portl’s machine across the country to Fashion Week spectators.
New York wasn’t the only place to check out fashion this week. The virtual realm saw a fashion comeback of sorts from Second Life, a pioneer in large-scale virtual worlds in the 2000s, in the form of its very own fashion week.
Second Life, as an early metaverse with customizable avatars, inspired and hosted an exhaustive range of user-created accessories, apparel and other looks. Wearables and clothing still remains a key commerce category for the platform, which, according to its figures, boasts a $650 million dollar virtual economy.
For the tech side of this new event, the developer worked with Everyrealm, a Nas and Lil Baby-backed metaverse firm that just closed a $60 million funding round. But the creativity came from elsewhere — namely a collaboration between Blueberry Inc, a Second Life fashion brand since 2011, and designer Jonathan Simkhai. They translated certain items from Simkhai’s 2022 fall collection into digital versions for avatars to wear. Some pieces were also available for purchase as NFTs.
Speaking of blockchain-based digital products, the tech trend brought other fashion debuts as well — such as premiere offerings from Altuzarra and Markarian, which worked with the Bubblehouse, a carbon-neutral and social NFT marketplace, to create and launch the NFTs.
While various efforts sought to elevate and spotlight the work of human designers, LG brought artificial intelligence to the creative equation.
The South Korea-based tech company took NYFW as an opportunity to introduce an AI artist and designer named Tilda to the world. Created by its AI research division, Tilda contributed patterns, prints and color schemes to a collection by Seoul-based fashion brand Greedilous.
According to LG, Tilda specializes in illustration, collage and pattern design, and she’s capable of creating brand-new images using EXAONE, LG’s multimodal “super-giant” AI modeling, which allows her “brain” to take in millions of data points.
For the tech-forward brand, which is known as much for its bold use of graphics and colors as its eco-conscious ethos, the chance to work with Tilda was exciting.
“I saw potential in Tilda’s artwork right away when I was introduced to her,” says Greedilous creative director YounHee Park. “It fit like a glove with my fashion philosophy. I didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity to move forward with this collaboration as I knew it would bring the ultimate synergy and I am so thrilled with how it turned out.”
The Greedilous by Tilda fall 2022 collection, titled “Flowers on Venus,” debuted on Monday at a runway show at Spring Studios.
“The pandemic was a wake-up call for so many retailers who had relied on decades-old means and measures. When the customers changed their behavior, it lit a fire under retailers to really begin to innovate,” said Vic Drabicky, chief executive officer of consulting firm January Digital.
Forward-thinking brands are embracing AI and tech online and in physical shopping experiences, he noted, and even metaverse clothing. But not everyone.
“There are brands that have been slower to change — and those brands will continue to see headwinds until they get caught up,” he added. “We see across more than $1 billion in retail sales per year and, for the most part, brands testing tech are seeing higher customer retention, higher sell through and lower acquisition costs.” Not that tech integration is a guarantee of success, but in some ways, it’s “ushering in new life to a retail scene that was beginning to feel stagnant.”
Drabicky called it a “much-needed renaissance.” And, it would appear, the fashion designers agree.