Première Vision, the global materials & services sourcing fair, unites fashion insiders twice a year for 3 days in Paris. During its latest edition, the fair extended its Wearable Lab, which becomes a village entirely dedicated to Fashion Tech.
Structured around 4 axes, its objective is to present an international selection of raw materials, products and experimental services for the fashion industry:
- R&D, materials/components and start-up;
- An inspiring exhibition showcasing designer Clara Daguin’s creative process, with an exclusive piece made specially for the occasion;
- And a program of conferences around the theme of fashion and technology.
Among the newly launched startup corner, we had the pleasure to discover and rediscover some of the most exciting innovations happening currently: be it Kyorene, who happens to be the first company to ever develop, produce and commercialize a wide range of graphene oxide blended fibres and yarns; or Verisium, a Russian-based early stage startup creating an anti-counterfeit solution for luxury brands, based on NFC and Blockchain technologies; just to name a few. We happen to have run a 360° Facebook Live interview, which you can (re)watch just here, in 4 parts.
We also spent time on the “Reveal the Invisible” exhibition, showcasing designer Clara Daguin’s creative process and featuring a specially designed interactive piece / installation for the occasion. As you stepped in between the dress’ front and back, the incorporated sensors could sense your body’s heat and therefore activate its lightning system, illuminating its embroideries.
The flagship conference of the program, a discussion between Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Haute-Couture et de la Mode; designer Clara Daguin and Bradly Dunn Klerks, Senior Innovation expert for the arts and technology; moderated by Vincent Edin, helped industry professionals to analyze, think and decode the growing ecosystem of Fashion Tech.
FashionTech’s imaginaries & creations
Inaugurating the cycle of conferences, Bradly Dunn Klerks, Pascal Morand and Clara Daguin started the conversation with moderator Vincent Edin around the theme of creation.
The conversation first focused on how the speakers were inspired by technology. Sometimes considered as a threat in the collective imaginary, it is often central in modern dystopian scenarios. The future, as depicted in TV shows like Black Mirror, can indeed be a very frightening one. So what about fashion technology? To Mr. Morand, it is both a threat and an opportunity,
“Maybe the first thing is to put a short definition on what we intend when talking about Fashion Tech: in French we say “technologie de la mode”. It’s nothing new, it was maybe the first technology, clothing and textile. In fact, what we can say is that it is linked to the 3rd and 4th revolutions – starting with the digital revolution, and now spreading around to numerous technologies. And the digital factor is playing a very important role, because without the huge progress of the software that we are experiencing, we couldn’t do what we are doing now. And that is Fashion Tech. It is the part of fashion linked somehow to the Industry 4.0. movement and revolution.” Pascal Morand.
In terms of imaginary, according to Mr. Morand, fashion technology has considerable implications. Traditionally in the fashion environment, technology was something that professionals from the industry were supposed to cope with (CAD, weaving machines, etc…), and now, he said, “new doors were opening”. “But when we talk about the link between imagination and technology, we have to precise that it goes in both directions. Because technology is by itself firstly inspired by imagination, now we are far beyond the traditional rational approach on that, and that is typically a 21st century factor.” he continued.
On the subject of the fashion industry being influenced by tech giants, Mr. Morand shared that a necessary dive into the very meaning of these technologies’ concepts was necessary, as they mix new aesthetics with what designers have to say. “In the 20th modernism period, one of the most important things was in the Bauhaus culture, the relationship to the object, its function. What is it useful for? And then you have a pretty packaging. Now we are over it. We don’t consume objects. We consume experiences. In an experience, the aesthetics aspect of the project and the product and everything is intertwined, and fashion is at the fore front of this. And it applies to many other sectors as well.”
An important vision, shared by designer Clara Daguin, who told us more about her inspirations. In her eyes, the inspiration technology gives her is more of a response to the general nature of the society, and how technology is now sort of embedded in our lives. Daguin’s father happens to be an engineer, and as the young she grew up, she used to find opened-up computers and chips everywhere in her house, and that was the starting point of her inspiration. She explained how she evolved from not really knowing what to answer when asked about the function of her creations, to being proud of it: “I’ve been asked that question so many times. “You’re putting a heart sensor in your creation, what is it for? Does it serve a function?” Before I said I didn’t know, but now I see it as an artistic approach, it brings something beautiful, it gives an emotion. So now I am more confident to say it is not here to make your life better, but rather to highlight the beauty aspect of it. It’s more an artistic approach. And for me, what I see in FT today, there’s always the need for functions. My creations are not useful for everyday use, they’re more to convey an emotion.” Clara Daguin.
A declaration that was very welcomed by Mr. Morand, “What Clara says is very important. Because sometimes, it is said or thought that technology or FT is driving again to functionalism. But if you have something which doesn’t bring an emotion, and only gives you function, it’s very simple, people will get bored. And this is why numbers of the first generation of some FT products didn’t meet success, so then for designers the question is, as always, to appropriate the constraints, in order to use them and then to escape from them to develop their own universe, which is very emotional. And then you see the tech and emotional values combine.” Pascal Morand
On the idea of designers being replaced by machines and AI, Pascal Morand took the time to define the two different facets of this technology: differentiating symbolic intelligence from deep learning. On the second one, he explained how AI could compose music or draw collections, after being nurtured with archives. But according to him, such a music would be listened once before being forgotten, as people get bored when artworks lack emotion.
Reminding us how designers actually do not care so much about technologies, Bradly Dunn Klerks gave an interesting opening to the discussion. What they want, he said, is a way to create everything they have in mind. To that, technology can help, and designers are starting to realize it.
“You embrace different technologies, different kinds of craftsmanship, and use that through the SCIENCE ART TECH TRIANGLE. This triangle is very important, the alchemists in the old days were on this kind of way of thinking, inventing, researching and I think that we are now heading to the designer embracing that and being inspired by that, and thus becoming a new kind of an alchemist.” Bradly Dunn Klerks
Evoking the use of technology as a soft power tool for governments, Bradly Dunn Klerks shared his vision on how technology can be a tool to recentralise production back into our countries. Pascal Morand, putting the idea into perspective, reminded us that technologies also have their limits, and that we need to test them to see what is possible. Through the example of flexible material advances in 3D printing, he highlighted how so many things are still at the research stage. He also mentioned robotics automation, saying how complicated it is to apply the process to the fashion industry, in comparison to sectors such as automobile.
To close the conversation, Vincent Edin asked Pascal Morand about the pace of innovation versus the time-consuming ethical questioning and how sometimes asking too many ethical questions can be a way to lose markets and make us late adopters.
“These ethical questions are extremely complex questions. We know that somehow, the two main challenges of today are technology and sustainability challenges, we always have to keep that in mind. And the problem is that with technology, it is a marvelous thing and the most awful thing at the same time. So what can we do with that? We know that also it is a wonderful field of possibilities, and also what it has to do with creativity, for us, and by us I mean the FHCM and Première Vision and the eco-system, it is very important, it’s a battle for a humanistic vision of creativity, it’s embedded in ourselves in our culture, in our strategy, in our desires everything. We always have to wonder how tech can help us be more human & creative? We have a different words for it, in English we say design, and in latin cultures it is CREATION, which is somehow mystical… But still, it is creativity. And now, the question is how do we work on that? This partnership between PV and PFW is to make sure this city gets stronger in creativity and technology, and mixing the two, especially in the field of fashion.” Pascal Morand.
A statement that was completed by Bradly Dunn Klerks, highlighting how important investment are in this space, “Technology is expensive, just look at the phone in your pocket, every person here, every two years buys a new phone. So when speaking about education, we must speak of investments, the industry has to support the schools more, the academic, it has to work on both ways. It’s not only the responsibility of the schools, because they can invest in machines, and then these machines get outdated 4 or 5 years after. So we have to start the conversation around how the industry has to support this.”
A great way to close the conversation around creation and technology, and move up to the one we will be having over the next few years: how to train the future designers to tools that constantly evolve?