Ah, the first Monday in May. The time when anyone who’s anyone in the fashion and entertainment come together to celebrate the theme of the New York’s MET exhibition. And what a more suitable theme for 2016 than Manus x Machina: Fashion in an age of technology?
Sponsored by tech giant Apple and with the support of Conde Nast, the Manus x Machina exhibition explores how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear. Featured designers include Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Pierre Cardin, Hussein Chalayan, Chanel, Valentino, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Iris van Herpen, Mary Katrantzou, Issey Miyake, Prada, Gareth Pugh, threeASFOUR, Yohji Yamamoto, and many others.
So, how did celebs interpret ‘fashion in an age of technology’? Like a lot of silver, it seems. Metalics ran through the outfit choices of those who dressed according to the theme. Which is okay, but it can get tiresome after a while. Bearing in mind this is THE party of the year, we’d expect nothing less than THE spectacle of the year. That said, there were a few noteworthy gowns and some incredible accessory pieces throughout the night. Here are our favourite picks that go beyond the gimmick in celebration of this year’s MET theme.
Claire Danes in Zac Posen
Without a doubt, the belle of the ball was Homeland actress Claire Danes who outshone others on the red carpet by a mile. Her secret? American designer Zac Posen, who designed a Cinderella-like baby-blue gown that glowed in the dark thanks to 30 mini-battery packs sewn into layers of fibre optic woven organza. Posen is known for including tech in his designs in a seamless way, without going out of his signature couture silhouettes. Back in September, the designer teamed up with Google’s Made with Code and wearable technology designer & coder Maddy Maxey to create an LED dress, aimed to encourage young women to get into coding.
Karolina Kurkova in Marchesa
Want a real manus x machina collaboration? Look no further than supermodel Karolina Kurkova’s Cognitive Dress. The LED gown was designed by fashion house Marchesa and IBM’s supercomputer Watson. The designers came up with the dress silhouette and five key human emotions – joy, passion, excitement, encouragement and curiosity – that they wanted it to convey. IBM Watson then studied hundreds of past photographs of Marchesa dresses to decide on the ideal color palette for the gown.
The LED-powered colors changed according to what people were saying about the Met Gala, Marchesa, IBM, and the dress itself on social media by using the hashtag #CognitiveDress. Watson's Tone Analyzer read and interpreted the tone of people's tweets and determined a corresponding hue. Karolina herself took to Instagram to encourage fans to tweet and comment their thoughts to see the dress in action.
Karlie Kloss in Brandon Maxwell and Lisa Perry
Leave it to supermodel, super coder, kookie maker & vlogger Karlie Kloss to show you that fashion tech can look superbly elegant without going over the top. Karlie showed up in a gorgeous all-white Brandon Maxwell gown (which the designer cut live on Snapchat!) holding a Lisa Perry Scintillator light up clutch. The arm candy was unveiled back in February and is the first foray into fashion tech for Perry. The Scintillator clutch is a collaboration between the designer and American artist Leo Villareal.
Liu Wen in Iris van Herpen
In 2012, fashion darling Liu Wen strutted her stuff on the Iris van Herpen runway in one of the designer’s most iconic looks - a 3D-printed skeleton dress. In 2016, this still feels very much futuristic so, naturally, Wen chose fashion tech pioneer Herpen for her designer of choice for the Met Gala. Instead of a skeleton dress, she opted for a long, laser cut leather dress. Half-mermaid, half-robot – looks just as good as it sounds.
Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace
Taking manus x machina quite literally, Hollywood actress Kate Hudson turned up in a stunning white Atelier Versace gown mixing a lot of materials and fabrics in a perfect combo, creating an edgy yet feminine look. While we’re not entirely sure it was comfy to walk in, Kate was absolutely captivating.
Diane von Furstenberg in DvF
When it comes to fashion designers eager to embrace tech the iconic Diane von Furstenberg immediately springs to mind. In 2012 she collaborated with Google in an attempt to make its geeky Glass more style-friendly. Diane even put the goggles on models during her runway show, filmed the catwalk ‘through Glass’ and got on stage with Sergey Brin and Yvan Mispelaere. While the collaboration didn’t save Glass from fast rise and fall, DvF has been a believer in tech in fashion from the early days of the wearables era.
But, perhaps contrary on popular expectations that she’ll be the biggest tech advocate at the MET, the designer used the occasion to make a powerful statement. Wearing a sparkly black and white gown (her own label, of course) the queen of style turned heads with the numerous technicolour butterflies she chose to put in her hair, declaring ‘The triumph of technology is nature’.
Emma Watson in Calvin Klein Collection
Another powerful statement came from the gorgeous Emma Watson and her outfit of choice. For the MET Ball, the actress showed up in Calvin Klein Collection to highlight the incredible advancement in eco fashion. Calvin Klein collaborated with brand consultancy Eco Age to create Emma’s look, which was made from 3 fabrics woven from yarns, all made from recycled plastic bottles. As plastic is one of the biggest pollutants being able to turn this into red carpet-ready high quality material is a seriously impressive feast! To read more about sustainable fashion through technology, check Marianne Hughes’ talk from INTERLACED 2015 and our article on The Next Generation of Sustainable Fabrics.