EYE ON INNOVATION: Technology Lights Up Annual Met Fashion Gala

Fashion and technology converged earlier this week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2016 Gala.

At the event Monday night, actress Claire Danes wore a gown that had 30 mini-battery packs sewn into layers of fiber optic woven organza that made the dress glow in the dark (see below).

Photos: CBC

Another highlight, a “cognitive dress,” was the creation of the fashion house Marchesa and IBM’s Watson. It analyzed tweets for the emotion of fans watching the Gala’s red carpet show on social media, and lit up embedded LED lights in corresponding colors.

These and other fashion statements embraced this year’s theme and the title of an exhibit that continues through August 14 at The Met: “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.”

The so-called “cognitive dress,” created by designer Marchesa and IBM technology. Photo: Getty Images

The Met’s Costume Institute exhibit explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready to wear.

More than 170 items, dating from the early 20th century to the present, will feature handmade elements of fashion such as embroidery, pleating, lacework and leather work, alongside versions that incorporate innovative processes, such as 3D printing, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, laser cutting and ultrasonic welding.

“Traditionally, the distinction” between haute couture and ready-to-wear was based on “the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other,” says Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Met’s Costume Institute. “‘Manus x Machina’ challenges the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy and proposes a new paradigm germane to our age of technology.”

A Karl Lagerfeld-designed “wedding ensemble” (back view) is one of the more than 170 items on display at The Met Costume Institute’s exhibit that features handmade and machine-made fashion elements. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

3D printing is one particular technology Bolton is especially intrigued by. As he told NPR’s Marketplace Tech, “We’re not quite there in terms of materials, but it has the potential to be revolutionary as a sewing machine and in terms of the democratization of fashion. Having a 3D printer in your house and 3D printing a dress or jacket that fits your body, that will be sort of the ultimate couture.”

Eye on Innovation is a monthly look at new technology and products.

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