High Fashion and High Tech: The Growing Role of Technology in Fashion | arts
Depending on who you ask, high fashion means classic Parisian ateliers like Chanel or Bode’s unique, bespoke upcycled pieces. The same focal points emerge: quality materials, impeccable tailoring, and of course hours of manual labor that elevate garment-making from a skill to an art form. This work can include intricate patterns of embroidered sequins, layers of fluffy tulle, or even an elegant little black dress; What matters is that it draws on years of human experience and developed techniques. The spray-on dress at Coperni’s recent Spring/Summer 2023 show raises a new and interesting question: Can the use of technology also be considered “craftsmanship”?
10 minutes: This is how long it took Bella Hadid to get fully dressed from bare underwear. She strutted down the runway in a gown sprayed onto her body from synthetic fibers and quickly tailored by Charlotte Raymond, Head of Design at Coperni, with a draped neckline and thigh-high slit. It was sleek, chic and a little bit sexy. It also defied any notion of traditional dressmaking – a bold reinterpretation of what it means to make a garment.
While Coperni founders Meyer and Vaillant insist the display case is no homage, it finds its clear visual predecessor in Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1999. In one striking display, supermodel Shalom Harlow stood on a rotating platform in a white dress while two robotic arms sprayed them with yellow and black paint. Crucially, this show added nuance to the idea of artistic creation. In a piece technically created by robots, the attribution to Alexander McQueen required viewers to believe that the artistic conception was just as important as the act of creation itself. Coperni’s latest show builds on that legacy – in a spray-on dress it is no need to sew or weave textiles, the ingenuity of the idea is part of its genius. Even as Charlotte Raymond changed it up on stage, all eyes were on the futuristic fabric that hugs the body rather than the tailoring.
In addition, Coperni’s dress also opens up an interesting perspective on the materials that fashion can use. The liquid sprayed on Bella Hadid is made from short natural fibers bonded with natural and synthetic polymers and then mixed with liquid solvents, an invention of Fabrican, the British company behind the technology. The material is a plant-based alternative and reflects a recent surge in the fashion industry, with designers using technology to find sustainable solutions to fashion’s longstanding pollution problems. For example, aspiring fashion designers like Grace Ling are using technology to address sustainability in less obvious but equally powerful ways. By integrating 3D software into the design process, her brand manages to create pieces with zero waste by calculating accurate quantities and creating 3D renderings. They also use infinitely recyclable 3D printed aero aluminum. As consumers become more sustainability conscious and brands try to present themselves as environmentally conscious, one could say that the acceptance of technology is necessary for fashion to remain relevant in the future.
Furthermore, these technological innovations suggest that the use of computers, synthetic fabrics, and experimental methods, rather than violating age-old techniques, are in fact part of the bold creativity and constant reinvention that drove haute couture. For Loewe Spring/Summer 2023, the brand collaborated with Spanish organic designer Paula Ulargui Escalona, creating fabrics that grow plants like chia and cat weed. The resulting garments were a wonderful fusion of nature, technology and fashion, with long green rungs hanging from coats like luxurious ostrich feathers. Much like Coco Chanel’s transgressive appropriation of menswear to redefine womenswear with smart trousers and well-tailored jackets, the use of materials demonstrates in new and surprising ways how crucial technology can be to the advancement of fashion.
Given the excitement generated by Coperni’s recent presentation, it is expected that other fashion houses will soon follow suit with larger and bolder integrations of technology into their collections. Brands like GCDS have even hosted entire fashion shows in virtual reality. Technology, it seems, is not only a tool but also an inspiration for creators. Defined by heritage and tradition, technology’s embrace of fashion offers a microcosmic model for society at large, showing how newfangled technology could actually offer opportunities for artistic creativity that never would have existed in the past. The future of fashion remains excitingly unpredictable, thanks in large part to the exponential development of technology in tandem. The question that remains in question is not whether technology will be introduced, only in what way.