Words by Molshree Vaid
Definitely the most engaging and rather animated conversation at Hyeres Fashion and Photography Festival 2017 was‘Fashion Tech and Fashion Design’, moderated by Lucas Delattre, Professor, IFM. The panel featured an impressive line-up, that included leading fashion technologist Amanda Parkes, Bradly Dunn Klerks CEO of Iris Van Herpen(IVH) and Charles Thurat, Heuritech, an AI based tech startup.
A few minutes into the conversation, tension took centre stage.
The panel opened with Charles talking about his company’s tech innovation that aids the creative process for a designer through cataloguing of real life inspirations fed into the programme, which then throws up several permutations and combinations of the colours, shapes and patterns to choose from or rework further.
In a swift response, Bradly from IVH expressed a strong disagreement stating that creating design process is far removed from such an approach.
It was not surprising to hear that opinion, given the setting of this conversation, France, the land of purists where emotion, fantasy feeds into the fashion creation process. Later in the debate, he was honest to state, ‘We are cynical of technology. We just want to make things, see how the garment moves and falls on the body, how it moves in the sunlight. The tech ideas (around fashion) are boring.’
While the existing schism between technology evangelists and fashion designers was amply highlighted by the debate, interesting nuggets were shared on why the collaboration between the two has been difficult. Big fashion and technology companies are driven by different agendas and thought processes.
So say, if it will be a herculean task to get two behemoths, Apple and Inditex to share a platform, the small and nimble startups, operating at the intersection of fashion and technology, are what the industry experts are betting on.
Fashion and technology are making further inroads, beyond the gimmicky dresses that light up with bulbs sewn on them or the clunky wearable technology, dismissed by a majority.
Amanda crystal balled into the future to say that the future is in fibre technology, whether it is the development of mushroom leather as an alternative material or other sustainability driven innovations that will change the working of our fashion system. She also touched upon the interesting interaction of wearable technology with clothes for better understanding of garment usage patterns.
Recently appointed Chief Innovation Officer at Fashion Tech Lab, Amanda’s work in this space will be worth tracking.
Fashion industry, for all its excitement and beauty, ranks lower on the scale of innovation, and these are definitely exciting times to witness new plans being stitched up for its future.
According to Charles, fashion industry will see a big shift as inspiration will flow in from other industries around computer assisted design.
The anxiety and resistance to technology by fashion designers is an interesting dynamic. Not so long ago, I suppose, the photographer would have felt the same while getting introduced to Photoshop and perhaps the same goes for the writer with the writing software. Somewhere along the line, the embrace happened and the human emotion still flows through photographs and written texts, while technology is down to playing a supporting role.
We are not going back to the 30s and technology is here to stay and will forge ahead, it is up to us to figure the use of technology and artisanship to realize our creative vision.
That being said, I do worry about the direction of the current agendas. If the software, mentioned at the start of this post is used to speed up the design and production of fast fashion, there is a huge problem at hand. Here is the question. How can technology be used to clean up the current mess of the fashion system?
And finally, the regulation and legislation around technology, in my opinion, is a bigger worry to address than to push back the integration of technology and fashion’s creative process.