MET Gala’s Unrecognised Opportunities & What Should Have Been

An exciting idea with so much potential, did the challenge to deliver Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology fail horribly?

Having us believe that no one puts innovation in the corner, the Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology theme for this year’s Met Gala, was all about showing off the union between fashion and technology. With Apple’s Jony Ives, Mr technology and Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Ms Fashion, at the helm we excitedly hoped that fashion technology was all but set to be the belle of the ball.

Vogue's Anna Wintour and Apple's Jonny Ives
Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Apple’s Jonny Ives

With expectations high and excitement feverish, we could not wait to witness how fashion was going to define it’s relationship with technology on the red carpet. Was Manus x Machina going to send a clear message to doubters that Fashion Technology was a blossoming industry that was here to stay? Well not quite, because as soon as the first invited guests stepped onto the red carpet we quickly realised that their interpretation was more Barbarella rather than the swagger of fashion’s advancement in technology. As the red carpet became more crowded, it was disappointing to see designers playing it safe. Instead of going all out, they styled their muses in metallic accents paired with sleek slick-backed hairstyles. True, it was a look that screamed the future from the movies, but in reality, I do not think that it was the kind of future that the fashion technology movement had in mind.

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The abundance of silver hues on the red carpet was courtesy of the likes of Zayn Malik, Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner, Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford, whose chosen sense of style seemed to belong more to a Comic Con event rather than the ‘super bowl of fashion’ that was the Met Gala . In one night, it seems that the swanky affair has managed to take the adoption of fashion technology a few steps back. This sad realisation has made it that little bit harder for an industry that has been trying to move away from the Jetson like future that the mainstream consumers envision fashion technology to be. With technology already questioned, resisted, or criticized by the majority of consumers, I cannot help but feel that in one fail swoop the Met Gala’s dress code incorrectly defined what fashion technology is .

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We envisioned, the theme Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology to be a great platform for fashion forward designers and engineers to come together in solidarity and show off their union. This was their night. It was the kind of opportunity that would have opened the world of fashion technology up to not only a wider audience but also to those who are unfamiliar with the noveau industry. As dramatic as it might sound, I am sure that there was a collective loud sigh of frustration by those who expected more, especially since the Met Gala’s greatest asset was the celebrities that attend. So why did the night that fashion was supposed to seamlessly sync with technology turn into a spectacle? Is this what fashion and technology has become? Where is the innovation?

attends the "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City.
attends the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City.

Before demanding answers to those questions, allow me to stress that I can understand stylists questioning how someone is supposed to dress for Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology theme, particularly since the definition of Fashion and Technology is still misunderstood by many people. But for the interpretation to be Katy Perry and her Tamagotchis, well to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. We envisioned, the theme Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology to be the night that fashion technology finally flourished from a misunderstood duckling to a beautifully turned out swan.

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With the disappointment of what could have been still ringing loudly in many ears, we have to take our hats off to Marchesa and Zac Posen, because hallelujah they understood the brief. It was great to see paparazzi’s getting themselves into a light bulb frenzy over Marchesa‘s Cognitive handcrafted IBM Watson couture gown worn by Karolina Kurkova. Designed by a cognitive computer system Marchesa co-founder Keren Craig shared, “This dress is our interpretation of the Manus x Machina theme, pairing delicate handcrafted floral petals with the IBM Watson’s unique ability to process fans’ reactions in real time.” She continued,“It’s incredible to see the dress’ colour change in response to the fans’ emotions surrounding it.”

Claire Danes's Zac Posen Cinderella Dress

Our favourite of the evening was Zac Posen. This is a man proving that he is the designer who wants to do more than dip his toe into the fashion tech industry. Last year Posen famously partnered up with Google initiative Made with Code and debuted a one of a kind dress, worn by the fabulous Coco Rocha at NYFW. Since then that same dress has been worn by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. This year the designer’s muse at the Met Gala was Claire Danes. She was dressed in Zac Posen’s modern take on Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology MET Gala Theme, a Cinderella like baby blue gown. The gorgeous glow-in-the-dark dress was lined with fibre optics all throughout, highlighted with delicate detailing from the corset to the full skirt and train- so beautiful.

Frieda Pinto at a fitting with Tory Burch
Frieda Pinto at a fitting with Tory Burch

Another worthy mention is Tory Burch. Although not as impressive as Marchesa and Posen, the designer dressed Emma Roberts, Frieda Pinto, and Mindy Kaling for the Met Gala with outfits that bragged Swarovski’s variation of crystal innovation. Then there was the nod given to sustainability by H&M, who debuted their eco-friendly dress on Jennifer Hudson, and fashion label Calvin Klein who created sustainable looks for Lupita Nyong’o, Emma Watson, and Margot Robbie. Proving that being innovative is all about thinking outside the box and creating partnerships that are a louder voice together than apart .

Emma Watson
Emma Watson attends the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art  in New York City | Photo Credit: John Shearer/Getty Images

Overall, I think that the MET Gala’s secret weapon should have been the inclusion of up and coming fashion technology designers. It would have been more newsworthy if lets say Balenciaga had collaborated with fashion tech darling Anouk Wipprecht to create a one off piece. Or dare I say if more fashion houses had collaborated with technology companies, like Marchesa did with IBM, to design innovative gowns for their celebrity muses. The MET Gala was the perfect excuse for designers in the fashion know how, to team up with tech companies with the engineering savviness. Together they could have introduced the merge to the everyday consumer through their pioneering haute couture designed to leave a strong and lasting impression.

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Sadly, this was not a missed opportunity by the designers and technology companies alone, it was also a missed opportunity by the MET museum themselves. There was so much more that they could have done with this theme. It was an exciting idea with so much potential. So how about next year they give it another go. Staying in the realm of fashion technology, we challenge them to deliver Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.

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