that one time the met gala was "lit"... for real

Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination. Art is the aesthetic ordering of experience to express meanings in symbolic terms... in new perceptual and material form. Art is an end in itself; its values are intrinsic. Technology is the instrumental ordering of human experience within a logic of efficient means, and the direction of nature to use its powers for material gain. But art and technology are not separate realms walled off from each other. Art employs techne, but for its own ends. Techne, too, is a form of art that bridges culture and social structure, and in the process reshapes both.
— Daniel Bell, The Winding Passage: Essays and Sociological Journeys, 1960-1980

Fun tidbit about my sister: When we were teenagers, she had a couple of bright ideas about what she wanted to be when she grew up. One of these things was a glamorous hair model for Pantene; and though she has an enviable silky soft head of hair - that dream never quite came to fruition. The other goal was to become a fashion designer of some sort. We would watch Fashion File together every weekend, commenting on the runway pieces, like we really knew what fashion was. And for a fleeting moment (a solid week or so, at least), she seemed committed to that dream. We even found a second-hand sewing machine for her to start making clothes. 

Fast forward to present day: that sewing machine is now just another piece of furniture to pile clothes on, whenever I pop by my mom's house for a visit. Let's just say that overall, these days when it comes to new advancements or trends in high fashion (haute couture) or new technology, my sis is... not overly enthusiastic. She tolerates trends. Meets them with polite indifference. Granted, between a demanding career and parenting my niece and nephew, she doesn't exactly have much free time or energy to care about 'what's trending'... So, fair enough. I, on the other hand, still love taking in fashion and seeing how it evolves over time. Same with new technology. The person who watches every season of America's Next Top Model, and 'unboxing' YouTube videos whenever a new product comes out? That's me. I can't help it - I find fashion and technological evolution fascinating and stimulating.

So when this year's Met Gala theme was announced as "Manus x Machina (aka hand-made vs machine-made): Fashion in an age of Technology", I was definitely curious to see how celebs would interpret the theme for their red carpet ensembles. I was even more intrigued when I learned that technology giant, Apple was going to be the official sponsor of the gala, and that Jony Ive (Apple's Chief Design Officer) was going to co-chair the fashion event alongside Anna Wintour, American Vogue's Editor-in-Chief and longtime Met Gala chair.

The obvious question of course: "What the heck does Apple know about high fashion"? It's an odd pairing at first thought, right? But then the reality and every day presence of wearable technology comes into focus. Apple has been progressively making strides over the years, offering more customized versions of their flagship products, and developing new wearable products like the Apple Watch. So, of course... when you look at it through that lens, the pairing of the Met Gala with Apple starts to make good business sense. Fashion certainly is beginning to have more and more of an influence on technology (at least for me it does). When picking out a new smartphone, as much as the functionality matters to me... so too does the aesthetic. The look and feel of the thing are what I'll have to live with from day to day, so I have to seriously consider how it will look on me, in my bag, or laying on my coffee table. I have to consider what options I have when selecting a case for said phone too. Not all phones have nice case options, so I take that into consideration too. The same logic also applies on larger scales, like when buying a car or home appliances. Aesthetic matters! Functionality is always the main priority but, design also plays an enormous part in my decision-making process when committing to new technology.

The reverse is also true, however. Technology has also had a significant impact on fashion over the past few years. Perhaps not in a blunt and obvious sense; but in every day things that we put on our bodies. Athletes, for example, have come to depend highly on common wearable technology like: Dri-FIT materials for their workout attire and uniforms, kinesio (KT) tape to help prevent or correct joint injuries, and high tech running shoes to help improve their speed, agility and stability. Some of you bball fans might even recall how popular the original 1989 Reebok Pump shoe was when it was released. And then there are more obvious pieces of wearable technology, like mp3 players, watches, Fitbits (activity trackers), bluetooth earpieces, Google's Google-glass, and Samsung's Gear Virtual Reality (VR) Oculus device. Truth is... there's a reason why we aren't walking around with WalkMans and DiscMans anymore. They just wouldn't look good with our outfits. In fact, I'm sure there are people out there who plan their wardrobes around their wearable technology. They think about what might go with their turquoise watch. They pay attention to whether their gym clothes will clash with their iPod or not. It's just a fact of life. We live in a highly image-driven society where details like these matter to some.

Technology and fashion were always destined to become intimate bed fellows; and so I thought the theme of Monday night's Met Gala was spot on. That said, many celebrities interpreted the Manus x Machina theme to be a literal blend of man-made materials with machine-made pieces. There was a lot of metallic, laser cut-outs, ornate jewels, and 3D-printed embellishments. One of the stand-out gowns of the night, worn by model Karina Krukova, was co-designed by British designer, Marchesa and (drum roll please).... IBM! Yes... IBM, the computer company!!!

Dubbed "The Cognitive Dress": White tulle design embroidered with 150 LED-connected flowers that were programmed to light up based on varied "emotion-based" social media reactions. Say whhaaa?

Dubbed "The Cognitive Dress": White tulle design embroidered with 150 LED-connected flowers that were programmed to light up based on varied "emotion-based" social media reactions. Say whhaaa?

Depending on which fashion publication you ask, you'll get a myriad of different answers when it comes to this year's best dressed list.

The clear "internet-breaker" for me though, had to go to actress Claire Danes for her Zac Posen designed, Cinderella-inspired "Luminate" ball gown, made out of custom fiber optic woven organza. Seriously. 

The dress went from this:

To THIS!

The "Luminate" dress: fiber optic woven organza from France, with 30 mini battery packs sewn into the gown's understructure. The gown is hollow underneath (no tulle!) – holding its own structure.

The "Luminate" dress: fiber optic woven organza from France, with 30 mini battery packs sewn into the gown's understructure. The gown is hollow underneath (no tulle!) – holding its own structure.

I wonder how many total man-hours went into the making of this piece?! I mean... Can we say "LIT"??? Showstopper. Case closed.

Can't wait to see what next year's Met Gala will bring, and who the crowned Queen or King of the red carpet will be.

To see and learn more about Apple's tech influence on this year's Manus x Machina event, feel free to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art's website.

 

 

Shaolin Says.

Shaolin "J" Style

Ontario

Creative writer. Professional ranter. Canadian-born. Caribbean blood. Probably the worst introvert you'll ever meet.