At New York Fashion Week, Tech and Fashion Intersect for Entertaining Mix

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The following guest post is by CUNY professor Elizabeth Wissinger:

On a recent frosty New York Fashion Week afternoon, TechStyle NYC 2015 (a play on “textile” of course) converted Bumble and Bumble’s Meatpacking district salon into an oasis of girlie bliss.

There was relationship advice from SkinnyGirl’s lifestyle columnist Elena Murzello, author of “The Love List.” There were on-the-go hairstyles and mini massages from wherever/whenever beauty services site Reddera. There was a line for the free glittery tattoos (the fake kind, natch) from MySpa2Go, an in-home salon service for working gals too exhausted to make it out to get their hair and nails done.

Fashionistas happily sipped fruit-and-veggie-packed, no-sugar Koa juice or antioxidant-rich “couture tea” by Big T NYC, before succumbing to the charms of Swill’s micro brews—who knew they made beer in the Bronx? Then they could happily cop to it in Blue Nun’s #TrusttheNun selfie confession booth. But what did it all have to do with tech?

Not much, as it turns out. While the event billed itself as showcasing “the latest trends at the intersection of fashion and technology,” the experience seemed more like fashion and tech parked next to each other, which nonetheless afforded an entertaining mix of up and coming brands.

A scant six feet separated the super-enthusiastic bitcoin promoter, patiently explaining the wonders of the digital wallet, from the downward dog enthusiast showcasing her yoga mat towels designed to prevent hot yoga-induced “slip and slide” (hence the name NamaSTAY).

Of Mercer, an online clothing purveyor with cute, form-fitting sheath dresses, achieved more of a middle ground with its affordable brand of office chic.

The most interesting contrast was between the high-tech Stylinity mobile app and the low/anti-tech purveyors, Shaman Furs and T.Tandon New York.

Stylinity, a clever mix of Pinterest, Polyvore and online shopping, takes “where’d you get that?” to a whole new level. Shoppers snap photos to share their “gets” on their social network. So how’s that new? You scan in the barcode or tag on your new find to go with your selfie. While “the world shops your style,” you score trademarked “styleperks” rewards, redeemable for cash, products and experiences, translating the currency of authenticity and trust into cold, hard cash.

In a completely different take on “authenticity,” two designers pushed back against high-tech fashion production. More along the lines of “textile” than “techstyle,” Tina Tandon’s gorgeous hand-beaded and tucked T. Tandon creations showcase the talents of Indian women, in her eco- and socially conscious frocks.

Not only are a percentage of her profits funneled toward helping underprivileged children in the slums of India, her natural, sustainable and biodegradable fabrics will ultimately return to Mother Earth from whence they came.

Shaman Furs takes the close-to-nature authenticity prize, however. Its display prominently featured an image of the hunting gear-clad Yup’ik Eskimo designer, Peter Williams, proudly brandishing his rifle. The caption read: “I Hunt the Otters I Sew With.”

A very earnest, sealskin-accessorized young lady explained that only Alaskan natives can hunt sea otters. She proffered a card explaining how this arrangement preserves a “sustainable relationship” that has lasted for thousands of years, and happily showed me the hand-sewn construction of her furry vest.

You can’t get much more low-tech and eco-sustainable than that, but it left me wondering: What would the folks from PETA have to say?

You can’t please everybody, but this year’s TechStyle NYC 2015 had something for just about everyone. It will be interesting to see what develops at the intersection of fashion and tech in the coming year. Stay tuned!


—Elizabeth Wissinger, PhD, is Associate Professor of Fashion Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology at City University of New York. Follow her on Twitter: @betsywiss

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