Six things we learned about fashion tech from the Met Gala

The dress code? Tech white tie
6 things we learned from the Met Gala

The first Monday in May is Met Gala time. But this year the exhibition, which runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York until 14 August, had the title Manus x Machina, a co-sponsor in the form of Apple and a "tech white tie" dress code for the first night party.

Did this one, celeb-studded evening shift the relationship between high fashion and wearable tech? No. Did we see some LED dresses and Tamigotchis as accessories? Yes. Here's what we learned from the opening fundraiser, otherwise known as the Met Ball.

The Met isn't ready for wearable tech

Apple might have wanted the Met to put on an exhibition of Apple Watch and Hermes straps but that was never going to happen, at least in 2016.

Instead, the tech themed Manus x Machina, curated by Andrew Bolton, puts new fangled methods like 3D printing and laser cut celluloid sequins next to traditional couture techniques using dozens of actual humans. This is how technology helps to create fashion or, as the subtitle makes clear, fashion in an age of technology. Not tech you wear.

Celebrities think silver and Tamigotchis count as fashion tech

The tradition at the Met Gala is that celebs parade around on the red carpet in outfits that nod to the theme. So Beyonce, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Alicia Vikander etc turned up mostly in silver designer dresses with lots of cut outs, robot details and even a chainmail arm (!) on that One Direction boy.

Just to make us feel really old, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom also turned up wearing matching Tamigotchis as part of their ensembles. "Well, this is a Tamagotchi," the singer told Vogue. "It's been my tech contribution for this year's Met Gala. It's humble, but it's tech."

Fashion historians will remember that Perry attended the 2010 Met Gala in a CuteCircuit light up dress...

Only two stars donned a light up dress

Not as many light up garments as we expected at 2016's bash, illustrating (hopefully) that 'fashion tech' can move beyond this narrow definition. Though shout out to Zac Posen and Claire Danes for keeping the LED dress dream alive with this very pretty, Cinderella-style gown made from fiber optic woven French organza.

And to the model Karolina Kurchova who wore a Marchesa/IBM dress with 150 LEDs in handmade 3D flowers that lit up whenever anyone tweeted with the hashtag #CognitiveDress. IBM's Watson analysed and categorised the sentiment of each tweet (joy, curiosity etc) and then lit up the dress accordingly. is committed to wearables

Woah. So, will.iam rocked up to the Met Gala in an AI-powered tuxedo. The assistant, in question, is of course AneedA which features in his new iam+ dial smartwatch, now on sale in the UK.

A mic, speaker, and the rest of tech in fact, was built into the lapel of his Gucci jacket - not that ridiculous visor - so he could talk to AneedA throughout the night. Nuance handles the voice recognition, Israeli startup Sensiya the machine learning and Wolfram Alpha is on hand to provide a knowledge engine. He also looked to be wearing the watch but I doubt many people noticed.

Jony Ive hasn't given up on the Watch yet

As Apple was such an aggressive sponsor of the fundraiser and exhibit (not to mention all those Vogue ads), Tim Cook and Jony Ive were in attendance at the Met Ball alongside Laurene Powell Jobs. Ive co-chaired the event and in an interview with Business of Fashion, re-iterated what we heard from Tim Cook earlier this week - don't dismiss an Apple product based on the first gen device.

"It's quite interesting that if you look back at the first generation of the iPod or the Phone — what happens in the next two, three, four years is dramatic," he said. "You'd be very surprised about some of the things you would absolutely assume that the first Phone did and it didn't have.

"Of course, this is a new category for us, one that we think is such a natural one because we think in a very authentic way. It's not us being opportunistic in the way our competitors are. It's not us thinking, 'Well, this is a growing category.' That couldn't be further from the truth."

In other words, the Apple Watch wasn't just designed to replace slowing iPhone sales. It's the future of computing.

Apple won (and so did Vogue)

We've argued that wearable tech needs to be treated more like fashion or luxury products and with these moves, Apple is racing ahead of its tech competition, at least, though there's a way to go to compete with say, Fossil's stable of established brands.

Apple's ad spending, sponsoring and involvement with Vogue and the Met Gala isn't about hard sales, at least not immediately. It's something much more intangible. Cupertino has gone straight to the top of the fashion hierarchy with Anna Wintour and the Met and asked to be anointed as legitimate, trendy, hot, 'in', 'it', fashionable.

And now, though the difference between the designer garments in the Met exhibition, the red carpet looks and a $299 Apple Watch are quite clear, the association is very much alive.

Image credits: PA, Business of Fashion, Zac Posen, Yahoo

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