Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

Google and Samsung vie for attention with tech inclined upstarts
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New York Fashion Week's thirst for tech has made itself visible in a few different ways over the past few years. Last season, in September 2016, Intel was everywhere - in Baja East x Fila smart shoes, connected TOME bracelets and handbags not to mention powering catwalk shows in live 360 for VR.

In and around A/W 17, which started on 8 February, things are a little slower. We have seen a smattering of smart clothing on the runways as well as some interesting fashion tech and data experiments. Not one to be upstaged, Samsung is also going all out on its big virtual reality fashion show featuring designers from around the world.

Your name in lights

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

To cap off Calvin Yuo's unisex and "asexual" show at NYFW, the young designer collaborated with Lenovo on a black PVC capsule collection.

The sleeveless dresses, trench coats and jackets were linked to a smartphone app. In theory this allows the wearer to write a message, which is then emblazoned on the smart clothing via embedded LEDs. Models walked and danced down the catwalk with the designer's name (selfish) written vertically on the outfits, under neon lights.

Gotta sell, sell, sell

Two designers decided to connect accessories and clothing in order to shift more of them. Rebecca Minkoff launched connected handbags, which provided access to a Fashion Week show (which was actually staged in LA).

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

Limited edition #AlwaysOn Midnighter bags at $295 a pop were tagged to give them a digital VIP identity, which included a ticket to the show plus offers and styling sessions.

All Minkoff's handbags from now on will be 'smart' though it's not clear what exactly that means, previously that has meant that they come with built-in battery packs.

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

Over in menswear, which precedes the main NYFW schedule, New York label DYNE teamed up with Samsung so that each of the garments debuting at the presentation were worn complete with NFC tags.

Guests at the event could then use Android phones with NFC to get more information about each item of clothing, the collection and the designer. Not quite as blatant as Henry Holland's shoppable LFW catwalk, which also used NFC, a while back but getting there.

Experiments in fashion tech

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

Aside from LEDs and NFC, there were a couple of concepts at NYFW that aren't strictly wearable tech but do strike us as interesting in terms of what they say about fashion's relationship to the connected self.

The first is Google and H&M's Data Dress. The garment isn't itself connected to the wearer but the design process is. H&M's digital fashion Ivyrevel can take a week's worth of your personal lifestyle data, monitored using Google's new Awareness API, to create a digitally tailored, custom dress.

So, for instance, it will display your most taken routes in the town or city where you live as embellishments but also tailor the fit to your activity level and the material to the temperature from typical weather in your area. It's only open for "style influencers" right now.

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

Elsewhere, Ab[Screenwear] showed off iridescent jackets with thin, light responsive holographic panels that allow the user to interact with smartphone touchscreens through the clothes in her line of "screenwear".

Designer Olya Petrova hopes it will become a new genre in fashion and predicts that fashion will make the switch from "offline mode" to "content you project as soon as your mood swings."

And finally, which tech brand to do most associate with fashion? Apple? Intel? Epson has been trying to get itself into that mix. Yes that Epson, which makes printers and AR glasses. Its Digital Couture project at NYFW saw 13 designers from North and South America showcasing colourful pieces using Epson's dye sublimation and direct-to-fabric industrial printing tech.

Virtual fashion shows

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

There was no big Intel & Voke VR push this season but nevertheless we've spotted a few designers and retailers on 360 video over the past couple of weeks.

On 14 February, Samsung is putting on a VR-tastic fashion presentation that's crammed with tech. Samsung has worked on the event with startup Obsess, which is building a VR shopping platform for fashion.

A VR fashion film shot in Milan, Dreaming of Italy, will be shown on Gear VR headsets alongside the main event, a virtual fashion show in which viewers can browse looks and get more information on the collection.

As for the fashion, it ranges in both style and culture from the veteran Italian label Invicta to German streetwear designer Sonja Tafalmeier, fashion hijabs from Flummae and bridalwear from Israeli designer Lamour Ben Yosef.

You can also watch Olivia Palermo open her pop-up shop at Banana Republic in Soho, NYC last week in 360 degrees as well as a charity Red Dress fashion show for the American Heart Association. Expect more catwalk shows filmed in 360 to follow over the next week or so on YouTube and Facebook.

Still to come...

Wearable tech at NYFW 2017: Data dresses, LEDs, NFC and VR fashion shows

New York Fashion Week isn't actually over yet - it runs until 15 February and the program includes designers who have previously collaborated on smart clothing like Marchesa who made an IBM Watson-powered dress for last year's Met Gala.

Up next: London Fashion Week kicks off on Friday 17 February, we'll be checking out a shopping app for Microsoft HoloLens while we're there.

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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