Beware of robots: Fashion’s fascination with tech on the catwalk
The fashion industry thrives on looking into the future. Typically it is only looks a few seasons ahead, but recently some designers are using shows to look into the distant future. Megatrends such as robotics are being featured on the runways more and more mixing present with future.
On the catwalk in London, a robot is set to present the latest fashion. The robot Ohmni, developed by the OhmniLabs of Silicon Valley, will step onto the catwalk for the first time in cooperation with the House of Icons.
The aim of the collaboration is to “marry fashion, culture and technology into one harmonious balance”, said the designer of Honee, who decided to use robots, in a statement. The Ohmni robots will debut at London Fashion Week on September 15 and 16 alongside human models at the Millennium Gloucester London Hotel as part of Honee’s fashion show.
Although the show marks the first time that robots wear collections on the catwalk, exploring the possibilities of robotics within the realm of fashion has fascinated designers for a long time. Whether it be to extend limits of expression of garments or to add some memorable show extravaganza.
Robots on the catwalk can be traced as far back as to designer Alexander McQueen’s spring 1999 collection. At the end of the show, model Shalom Harlow appeared on a revolving circular platform, wearing a full white strapless white dress. Two industrial robots, usually used to paint cars, sprayed black and yellow colors on her, while she spun around in a choreographed dance.
German designer Philipp Plein also explored the staggering effect of mechanics in his shows over the past years. In his spring/summer 2016 presentation, models walked down a runway set up as an assembly line. Robots along the line added the final accessories to these models at Milan Fashion Week. Plein’s autumn-winter 2018/19 show kicked off with model Irina Shayk holding hands with a robot on the runway.
Even Karl Lagerfeld masked models as robots in his spring/summer 2017 show for Chanel to claim the future for his designs. “The robot – that is my idea of the most iconic jacket of the show on a creature of an unknown future that means Chanel is timeless,” said Lagerfeld in a video published on the website of the French luxury house. “Even if you don’t like the idea: Technology rules the world because it changed the world. It made many things easier.”
Robots in the fashion world
Last but not least, drones debuted at Fendi’s autumn/winter 2014 show to deliver a live stream from the runway. Fellow Italian fashion house Dolce and Gabbana employed drones during its autumn-winter 2018/19 show to carry its newest bag models onto the catwalk.
The aesthetics of robots isn’t limited to the catwalk. It’s already seeping into everyday garments as trends forecast for the autumn/winter season next year.
“The border between virtual reality and our own daily reality will merge”, said Dutch trendwatcher Christine Boland during the opening of her seminar “Mixed Realities” organized by Appletizer, which took place in Amsterdam in May. What may sound like a prediction for a future decades away, was actually referring to winter 2019. “Human and machine are not opposites anymore. Instead, they grow closer and closer to each other. In this grey area where technology, artificial intelligence, fantasy and creativity meet, a new design language will develop, with its own vocabulary”.
This story was written with the assistance of Barbara Russ, Marjolein Stormezand and Caitlyn Terra.