PARIS — Fashion and Silicon Valley may be worlds apart, but “Fashion Hack,” an exhibition headed to the windows of Colette on April 24 for one week, is aimed at closing the gap through 10 objects merging inventive technologies by 10 tech start-ups based mainly on America’s West Coast with the creative vision of 10 fashion and beauty designers from around the globe.
Behind the project is French fashion writer Carole Sabas, a former New York correspondent for French Vogue, who is now based in L.A.
Available to order in limited quantities, the objects include a mask dubbed Dream Band. Designed by Erik Halley harnessing technology by Luciding, the sci-fi-looking accessory is designed to help induce lucid dreams by night and modulate energy by day using biometrics. A pair of Wink specs frames by District Vision sports a micro camera by Blincam that allows the wearer to take a picture in the wink of an eye. The snap is then sent to the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth using an app.
A range of pads in textured finishes like fur or exotic skins, meanwhile, serve as portable fancy docks for recharging wireless iPhones, codesigned by Studio D.B. and Bezalel Battery.
The Kitchen Garden by Natufia Lab, a fridgelike new-gen, soil-less appliance that grows fresh greens, herbs and vegetables, is also being brought over from Estonia, “Europe’s equivalent of Silicon Valley,” for a project called Boudoir Garden that is based on the 32 ingredients of Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s latest fragrance, Aqua Celestia.
“It’s a conceptual game. The inspiration was this idea of people being able to grow the ingredients of the scent overnight in the appliance, then put them in a blender in the morning and make their own perfume,” said Sabas, who came up with the idea for the exhibition while researching her latest guide: “Silicon Valley, a Fashion Field Trip.”
“Beyond the guide, the idea was also to encourage tech start-ups to collaborate with fashion designers if their intention is to target luxury stores alongside electronic retail,” she said. “I also wanted to entice fashion houses to reach out to tech people in order to get ready for the upcoming revolution: wireless charging bags, smart eyeglasses, [next-generation] high heels, connecting jackets and other wearables are coming their way.”
The book is also geared at helping introduce fashion designers and brands to the ways of Silicon Valley, she said.
“They have this special lingo. You have to know all the acronyms. Food is very important. There are all these great restaurants, but also fake food. They’re obsessed with things that nourish the body, but that is not real food, like Soylent, which is something that programmers invented because they had to work 24/7. You drink it,” said Sabas.
“It’s an anthropological study of sorts. The lexicon is so specific. Straight away, when you have a meeting with people, they send you a non-disclosure agreement [NDA], and you send them your NDA, and then you can talk,” she added. “All of the big groups like L’Oréal and LVMH organize field trips to Silicon Valley. They send their executives into the campuses — Facebook, Google, Apple, they’re all within a 10-mile radius of each other, and there’s a computer museum. But it’s all very controlled. Google will receive them, say, and explain why they should use them, the technology and benefits, etcetera, but if you take secrecy on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the Pentagon, they’ll go to two or three. You can get a glimpse of what’s going on, but it’s a highly secretive world.”
While the proximity of the Levi Strauss & Co. headquarters to Silicon Valley facilitated the development of the recently launched interactive denim woven with conductive fibers, coproduced with Google under the Project Jacquard banner, too big a chasm exists between the tech and fashion communities, said Sabas, for whom too often the aesthetics of wearables do not live up to the standards of the luxury industry.
The difference between Silicon Valley and France’s approach to fashion design, she said, can be summed up by Stitch Fix, a San Francisco-based online personal-styling service that is said to use data gathered from customers using artificial intelligence to design merchandise.
“It’s known as Frankenstyle,” explained Sabas. “They are using data to create clothes that reflect exactly what women want, whereas in Paris designers work from instinct. They are two opposite worlds. What we tried to do in the exhibition is bring in fashion, with its fantasy, texture, materials and ideas, and try to merge the tech to disappear behind it.”
The most exciting tech developments include connected fabrics, and the new technology geared to the eyewear industry is “ready. It’s going to come out. That’s why you have all the luxury brands moving in on eyewear,” added Sabat, for whom encouraging more interaction between the two worlds right from the early stages of development of smart fashion products would represent a win-win scenario.
The growing trend for handbags with built-in chargers is bound to produce some accidents, she fears. “Batteries are a huge issue as they are combustible. Just look what happened with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. I’m fearful that all these brands will start going to China to develop them and there being this tsunami of exploding bags,” she said, cautioning: “Go to the people who at least know about the technology.”
As tech developers increasingly move in on the fashion sector, with Apple, which launched an apparel line back in the Eighties and partnered with Vogue on the Met Gala last year, rumored to be mulling a launch of new clothing — or “soft goods” — it’s time for fashion designers to get in on the action, she said.
“Either fashion wakes up to the electronic revolution and integrates it or the tech giants are going to invent powerful brands, with enthusiastic online communities and powerful e-commerce strategies with one-on-one shopping experiences on mobiles….They will cultivate a whole new approach to storytelling based on pop culture, music, social media, video/gaming, mobile messengers, TV series, sport,” said Sabas, who is in talks with France’s Chambre Syndicale to explore possibilities of hooking designers up with tech firms.
“It will contribute to the emergence of a new, spontaneous generation of luxury lifestyle brands, totally attuned to Millennials,” she continued. “Imagine a collaboration between Nike or Apple and Off-White, with an exclusive video by Kendrick Lamar. Total utopia for now, but not so far-fetched.”