From holograms to liquid fiber fabrics, dressmaking has come to mirror the technological advancements in fashion.
This past week, a new trend took over the conversation: Adobe’s artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled gown, which made its debut at the software company’s annual Creativity Conference on October 10.
Videos from the event, which showed one of Adobe’s engineers wearing the generative “Project Primrose” dress, quickly circulated across the internet, capturing the attention of media outlets like youth culture publication Complex.
Powered by AI, audiences were divided over whether the silver-hued, strapless gown was another gimmick or prophesied the future of material innovation and wearable technology.
The dress was constructed using a number of modular tiles (crafted from PDLC smart glass), which can change to reflect new fabrics, colors, and patterns in real time. When activated, each “petal” can turn from clear to frosted, completely recalibrating the dress’ aesthetic.
“Personalization has been a growing trend in fashion over the past five years. People want to express their uniqueness, not just their affiliations,” Daniella Loftus, founder of digital fashion house Draup, tells Jing Daily. “While I still feel that the aesthetic of the Adobe dress left a lot to be desired, the trend towards personalization in clothing, be it using AI or algorithms, as we do Draup, is inevitable and exciting.”
Adobe’s proto-dress may have piqued interest online and beyond, but is it enough to change the way we view wearability in today’s fashion climate?
History of innovation
The convergence of technology and fashion spans decades, with frontrunners like Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan experimenting with science in their designs before the post-digital boom.
In one of the earliest iterations of augmented reality (AR) on the runway, Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2006 collection reimagined the dress through holograms, projecting an animated version of Kate Moss enveloped in a dusky-blue gown onto the catwalk.
Chalayan’s work also earned him a reputation as an avant-garde fashion auteur. His famed, haute-tech gowns were brought to life using smart fibers, animatronics, and, in one case, 15,000 LEDs.
Today, innovators like Coperni are using clothing as a vehicle for technological exploration.
A spray-paint dress skyrocketed Coperni to cultural prominence in 2022, reaffirming fashion’s appetite for ideas that challenge the norm.
Skeptics are quick to tag concepts like Coperni’s as a bid for virality in an era dominated by internet exposure. But the numbers tell a different story.
To date, Coperni’s liquid fiber gown has been viewed over 3 million times on TikTok. The showcase also bagged the title of Lyst’s “Viral Moment of the Year” for 2022, with the brand attracting a 3,000 percent increase in searches during fashion month.
Kadine James, Chief Metaverse Officer of Artificial Rome and CEO and founder of The Immersive Kind, argues that these “wow moments” are pushing the narrative of fashion forward.
“It’s clear that ‘wow’ moments, such as Adobe’s foray into AI fashion, are making a significant impact in the industry,” she says. “Adobe’s AI dress is a remarkable example of how technology is redefining fashion.”
New wave of visionaries
Even with visionaries like Chalayan and Coperni at the helm, smart clothing and tech-enabled garments have been slow to take off.
Fresh talent is hoping to change the stigma surrounding digitally-driven dresses by demystifying the design process.
Cameron Hughes, a 28-year-old fashion designer based in New York, achieved TikTok fame after behind-the-scenes videos of his sculptural, high-tech frocks went viral on the video-sharing app.
As a vocal proponent of material modernization, Hughes merges the craft of dressmaking with engineering skills he learned from YouTube videos and online blogs. The results are often mesmerizing, spanning from a “living” butterfly gown to a skirt powered using thermal printing.
@cameronhughes 4 months on one dress kinda crazy but I finished before the new year. I’ll be making a bunch of videos with it next week. #sewing #fashiontech ♬ First Step – Hans Zimmer
Hughes is part of a new generation of designers adapting to the continued digitization around them.
Smaller tastemakers like Greek designer Dimitra Petsa, founder of cult brand Di Petsa, are also pushing the boundaries of dressmaking.
For her Spring/Summer 2022 collection, the Central Saint Martins graduate created a heat-reactive leather gown using thermochromic materials that change color depending on temperature. As the body warms, the dress’ color shifts from black to blue.
Memory of touch leather dress by Di Petsa pic.twitter.com/1rSLubYH6f
— sofia (@SOFIssticated) April 16, 2022
Is there longevity in these new mediums, or is their shelf life based on how much online noise they can generate?
“These moments are not just marketing ploys but a testament to the ever-evolving synergy between creativity and innovation,” James says.
Today, Adobe’s AI-enhanced dress remains only proof of concept, with the company admitting that the garment is not yet scalable.
But the potential of smart fabrics is already on the mind of fashion enthusiasts. The next step will be exploring the wider accessibility of garments like Adobe’s, and whether they’re easy to roll out on a larger scale.