Use of technology in fashion adds to the magic of it
The idea of fashion is not to pit machines against men. Technology provides innovative techniques & enables mass production. But machines can also over simplify the process of creation
Remember Amitabh Bachchan in the movie Yaarana, dressed in a LED suit, dancing to the song ‘Saara Zamaana’? The song is just as popular now as it was then. And part of the reason why the song became so popular was the suit Bachchan wore. The brown suit with LED lights encrusted across the shoulders and chest became a topic of conversation, as well as fancy. In a decade where LED lighting was believed to only exist on walls and ceilings, seeing your favourite Bollywood star wearing them was a fascinating treat. In all, the audience were impressed and left wondering of the prospects of lighting, machinery and technology in ones closet.
One of the most common distinctions made in clothing is between handmade and machine-made. While handmade clothes are more traditional, machine made clothing is gaining more and more credence because of the clear advantages they enjoy over handmade clothing. Institutes within the country, like the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and National Institute of Design, as well as many others, are embracing the use of modern technology and machinery over traditional methods of craftsmanship. In the past few fashion weeks in India, we’ve even seen designers completely basing their collections on modernisation of fashion technology and using fresh techniques and machinery.
The idea of fashion is not to pit machines against men. Having only either of the two could be quite problematic and unpragmatic. Technology provides innovative techniques and creative potential, enables mass production and cuts reasonable costs of money, time and effort. But machines can also over simplify the process of creation. As a fashion designer Alber Elbaz said at Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in 2015, "Ideas start with intuition and fear, which is the essence of creation. Computers don't have intuition; they are machines – machines with brains, but not hearts. We designers don't work with a calculator; we work with dreams and visions."
The initial hostility and lack of knowledge is now out of the way. Fashion industries within the country and around the world have welcomed computers and other machines into their ateliers and workshops as part of not only the marketing process, but the creative, too. An example of this could be the 2016 Met Gala held in New York, which celebrated the theme of ‘ManusXMachina: Fashion in age of Technology’. The ball and exhibition, one of the most coveted annual events in fashion, showed how technique can be juxtaposed with technology to produce masterpieces. Recently, designer Gaurav Gupta teamed up with IBM’s Artificial Intelligence platform, Watson, to create a cognitive gown that lights up in different colours and patterns based on the personality of the person interacting with the wearer of the gown. Last week, at Amazon India Fashion Week, designer Rimzim Dadu showed elements of technology in her designs as well as runway décor. Known for her intricate cord work, Dadu impressed every one present this year, too, with her interesting take on technology in clothing.
A very important point that is brought up when the debate between man and machine begins is about the boundaries between use of technology as a primary creative tool or simply a secondary marketing tool. Many designers and creators still prefer the pen-paper approach to creation, while others find comfort in using the precision and intricacies provided by the screen and mousepad. Today, almost all fashion designers, bloggers and journalists use the medium of social media and networking to promote themselves in the industry. The industry is seeing an increased use of Instagram pages and YouTube channels and is becoming increasingly aware of their influence and powers. Live streams, QR codes, coupons etc. are revolutionising the fashion retail experience. Techniques like laser cutting, thermo shaping, circular knitting and 3D Printing are giving shape to ideas and visions previously thought impossible. Machines are enabling the creation of conscious fabric, which is recyclable and environmentally sound. Computer research has even made clothing more comfortable, fluid and wearable.
While all these advances wouldn’t have been possible by the human hand, they were brought about by the human mind. Fashion is beginning to accept that technology is becoming an important part of their industry, in more ways than one. When used in a clever manner, technology is not the big, bad villain but in fact a means of creative and commercial expression and expansion. The competition between the man and the machine is futile and illogical, because both of these have a dichotomous, symbiotic relationship. And when the two come together, it is nothing short of magic.