The theme for the 2016 Met Gala was announced a few weeks ago. In a world consumed by laptops, cellphones, Drake (not complaining) and the Internet, it was no surprise that the upcoming exhibition is titled, “Fashion in an Age of Technology.” For the purposes of the Gala, there will be a special focus on the juxtaposition of the individually handmade, haute couture designs that came out of the top ateliers of the 20th century (think classic names Chanel, Gucci, Prada and so on) versus the new and efficient machine-made designs that we see in ready-to-wear collections today.

The theme of the upcoming Met Gala made me curious about just how much of an influence the technologies and innovations of today have affected this vibrant industry as a whole — from the trending clothes we wear, to how they are made conceptually and mechanically. In this series I will explore three distinct innovations that have taken place in the fashion industry that have been made possible through advances in the tech industry.

Fashion marketing

The fashion industry of today has evolved immensely. It began as an exclusive and elite activity, reserved for the upper strata of society. Yet, through the introduction of technology from machines to digital infrastructure, it has become revolutionized, fashion is now something of a hobby, a form of expression, offering products and services for everyone. While there is no use denying the existence of an exclusive and upper tier of the fashion industry that still exists today (that is unless my invitation to the Yeezy Season 2 premiere just got lost in the mail), partnerships like the recent H&M x Balmain collaboration we saw last week are just one example of how the industry is being democratized.

The industry would not be as powerful and influential as it is today without the revamping of fashion marketing through the introduction of the Internet and more specifically, social media. Social media platforms  — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — are bringing fashion to the masses on an everyday basis.

Think of famous bloggers like Chiara Ferragni or @sincerelyjules on Instagram, who document every moment of their lives from where they go to what they wear, all the way down to their sunglasses. Think about the live-stream clips of NYFW featured on Snapchat, or the listings of trends on sites like Marie Claire or Harper’s Bazaar. They are perhaps some of the best forms of free digital fashion marketing to date.

These bloggers and magazines have millions of likes and followers on their respective pages and accounts. Their photos are edited and strategically designed to look glamorous and perfect, adding to the allure of the entire narrative. People see what they are wearing and try to emulate it in whatever way they can afford. The emergence of fashion apps like Mallzee, The Hunt and Walk in My Closet, to name a few, not only allow individuals to find outfits mimicking those of celebrities or top bloggers, but they are also an opportunity for users to shop amongst others with similar tastes (think Tinder, but for clothes and shoes … it’s a real thing and probably 100 percent better than the original thing).

The concept of sharing, liking and retweeting on social media and the spread of these mobile apps, create these associative networks and online communities for aspiring fashion bloggers, designers or simple fashion enthusiasts. Many people today think the true test of a successful social media campaign is whether or not it created a digital disturbance, a perspective that is all about statistics — the numbers of likes or shares. But what about the number of people who were actually mobilized because of the post — those who were motivated to go and shop afterward?

Think about how many times you may have seen something on social media, whether it’s on a friend’s account or that of a blogger, and then went on to purchase that item. Personally, I’m guilty as charged.  I don’t mean to quote the Oscar-worthy film “Mean Girls,” but to quote “Mean girls,” “ I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip-flops, so I bought army pants and flip-flops.” Bet you never thought that quote would ever explain anything, ever.

Social media, whether intended to or not, has become a means to an end, and arguably the most successful form of fashion marketing. Whether we realize it or not, technology has affected every facet of society, especially fashion in the context of digital technology.

The digitization of fashion and the growing dependence we have on technology has shaped how we approach clothing, style and shopping. But how has technology influenced the way the clothes we buy are made? Up next, 3D printing.

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