Mar 1st, 2019, 10:48 PM

Error 404: Model Not Found

By Jacqueline Wegwerth
Technology is impacting every stage of fashion design, leading people to question its place in where fashion is going. Image credit: Rick Han/Pexels
Technology continues to infiltrate the fabrics of our daily lives through its recent influences on fashion.

Like any art, fashion is a discipline that necessitates diligent manual labor. At its most extreme, it requires at least 15 full-time employees of a given atelier, among other requirements, to be dubbed haute couture. However, fashion is not immune to the impact of the digital age, and technology is beginning to seep into the fabrics of modern fashion. 

Rag & Bone made a promise in 2017 to avoid putting on another typical fashion show. Following last year's avant-garde film, the brand decided to host a dinner party of sorts to showcase its Fall/Winter 2019 collection at New York Fashion Week. The party, called "A Last Supper," seemed to have it all—except the presence of models.

The stunt was achieved by groundbreaking use of an AI projection screen and featured an avatar voice from Radiohead's Thom Yorke. The guests all sported pieces from the collection to play off of their goal to make it feel like a dinner party. The AI would then use its depth camera and cloud point data to describe what it was seeing on the screen at the front of the room. 

While Rag & Bone utilized their guests as models, some brands have opted out of models altogether. At 2018's Milan Fashion Week, Dolce & Gabbana used drones to showcase their new line of handbags. Months later, a Saudi brand followed suit and displayed dresses hung on hangers flown down the runway by drones. 

Technology is even being woven into the literal fabrics of design. Smart accessories have grown in popularity since the first apple watch was released in 2015, but the idea of wearable technology is growing. In May of 2018, Levi's worked with Google to create a smart jacket. The jacket connects via Bluetooth to the wearer's mobile phone and allows them to control music, get directions or make calls with the brush of a hand against their sleeve.

Even the assembly phase is removing more of its human players. Sewbo founder Jonathan Zornow was troubled with the thought of how much manual labor is still needed to mass produce ready-to-wear clothes. As a solution, he created a way to stiffen fabric enough to allow a machine to assemble the entire garment without the need for human intervention or assistance. An early demo of the process took roughly 30 minutes to complete one shirt, but Zornow remains confident about the ability of Sewbo to become more efficient and change the way brands produce garments.

Perhaps the biggest concern is AI's growing ability to read fashion. Amazon has been hard at work developing algorithms to determine how fashionable certain garments are by looking at labels associated with an image. After analyzing them, the technology could provide feedback or suggestions for adjustments to make it more fashionable. 

At Lab126 in San Francisco, an Amazon team created an algorithm which can develop completely new fashion designs based on information it was fed on what is fashionable. The designs are simple, but they point towards a new future for design. 

New emerging technologies are offering alternatives for manual design at every stage of the process. At the current rate of invention and innovation, it won't be long before technology can design, assemble and model its own line. It's becoming more likely that in the coming years, an algorithm can emerge as a favorite celebrated designer.