Depending on your requirements, haute couture can mean one-of-a-kind bespoke upcycled pieces from classic Parisian studios like Chanel or Bode. The same focus emerged: high-quality materials, impeccable tailoring and, of course, hours of craftsmanship, elevating garment-making from a skill to an art form. The piece can include intricate embroidered sequin patterns, layers of fluffy tulle, or even a chic little black dress; what matters is that it draws on years of human expertise and techniques developed. The spray-painted dresses on Coperni’s recent Spring/Summer 2023 runway raised a new and interesting question: Could the use of technology also be considered “craftsmanship”?
10 minutes: That’s how long it took Bella Hadid to go from naked underwear to getting dressed. She walked the runway in a dress made on site, sprayed with synthetic fibers, and quickly cut by Charlotte Raymond, Coperni’s head of design, complete with a draped neckline and thigh-high slit. It’s sleek, chic, and a little sexy. It also challenges any concept of traditional clothing making – boldly re-imagining what it means to make clothing.
While Coperni’s founders, Meyer and Vaillant, insisted the display was not a tribute, it found its clear visual predecessor in Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1999 collection. In the flamboyant display, supermodel Shalom Harlow stood on a rotating platform in a white dress, two robotic arms spraying her with yellow and black paint. Crucially, the show adds nuance to the idea of making art. In a work created by robotics, attributing it to Alexander McQueen requires the viewer to recognize that the artistic conception is as important as the act of making itself. Coperni’s latest runway builds on this tradition—creative creativity is part of its genius in spray-on dresses that don’t require stitching or weaving textiles. Even though Charlotte Raymond altered it on stage, all eyes were on the futuristic fabric, not the cut.
In addition, Coperni’s gowns made an interesting point about the materials fashion could utilize. The liquid sprayed on Bella Hadid consists of natural staple fibers bound together with natural and synthetic polymers, which are then mixed with a liquid solvent, the invention of Fabrican, the British company behind the technology. The material is a plant-based alternative that reflects a recent push in the fashion industry, where designers use technology to find sustainable solutions to the fashion industry’s long-standing environmental pollution problems. For example, up-and-coming fashion designers like Grace Ling use technology to achieve sustainability in a less obvious but no less impactful way. Incorporating 3D software into the design process, her brand successfully creates zero-waste pieces by calculating precise quantities and 3D renderings. They also use infinitely recyclable 3D printed aerospace aluminum. If consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability and brands try to present themselves as environmentally conscious, one could argue that embracing technology is necessary for fashion to remain relevant in the future.
Furthermore, these technological innovations demonstrate that the use of computers, synthetic fabrics and experimental methods does not infringe on age-old technology and is in fact part of the bold ideas and constant innovation that drives haute couture forward. For Loewe’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, the brand collaborated with Spanish bio-designer Paula Ulargui Escalona on fabrics grown with plants like chia seeds and cat grass. The resulting garments are a wonderful blend of nature, technology and fashion, with long green shoots hanging from the coat like luxurious ostrich feathers. Like Coco Chanel’s over-appropriation of menswear, redefining womenswear with sleek trousers and well-tailored jackets, the use of materials in new and surprising ways shows the importance of technology to fashion’s advancement.
With Coperni’s recent presentation making a splash, expect other fashion houses to follow suit soon, incorporating bigger, bolder techniques into their collections. Brands like GCDS even host entire fashion shows in virtual reality. It seems that technology is not only a tool, but also a source of inspiration for creators. Defined by tradition and tradition, fashion’s embrace of technology provides a microscopic model for society as a whole, showing how novel technologies can actually provide opportunities for artistic creativity that never existed in the past. The future of fashion remains excitingly unpredictable, thanks in large part to the exponential growth of technology. The question that remains in doubt is not whether the technology will emerge, but just how.