The intersection of fashion and tech has been a big conversation for a while now, but this year, it’s also getting put on exhibition quite a bit — literally. You’ll have to wait until May to check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s next Costume Institute exhibit, Manus x Machina (though here’s a first look). Unlike what we expected, Manus x Machina actually seems like more of a celebration of venerable handiwork versus an extensive look at the most technologically sophisticated techniques being used in fashion design. But there’s a smaller, decidedly more tech-centric show already on display. Last week, Pratt Institute (a design and fashion school in NYC) unveiled CODED_COUTURE at its Manhattan gallery space. “We noted that designers were using code, in its many forms, to particularize [and] personalize garments, [and to create] a new kind of couture,” the exhibit’s co-curator, Judy Fox, told Refinery29. Fox and her co-curator, Ginger Duggan, came up with the exhibit’s theme by “taking the pulse of what is actually happening" instead of how “many curators come up with a theory and then hunt around to find examples to prove their idea — we work in the opposite way." You probably aren’t too familiar with the names of the 10 designers featured in the exhibit, whose innovative conceits include the iMiniskirt (pictured above) a mini that displays tweets, changes color, and displays animation based on real-time audience input (by British brand CuteCircuit’s Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz; they also designed the Twitter dress). Also of note: a voice-activated dress paved with dressmaker's pins, by Ying Gao (pictured below).
The “most complex” piece on display, Duggan says, is by N O R M A L S, a French design group that whipped up an augmented-reality T-shirt and accompanying app. An image is created in real time and projected on the shirt, based on characteristics culled from the wearer’s tweets. “The augmented-reality approach is clearly one of the more exciting developments in design and technology. It’s quite relevant in the fashion world,” Duggan says, "but to see it used in this particular capacity was exciting, especially [compared to] ubiquitous smart fabrics and 3-D printing.” The exhibit also includes work by Marloes ten Bhömer, Cedric Flazinski, Ying Gao, Mary Huang, Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, Simon Thorogood, and Alison Tsai. CODED_COUTURE is on display — completely free and open to the public — at Pratt’s NYC gallery until April 30 before traveling nationally through spring 2018, when it hits galleries including the Ulrich Museum of Art in Kansas and Tufts University Art Gallery through spring 2018. “This is work that points the way into the future,” Fox says of the exhibit. “Clothing that reacts to our behavior, administering shocks if we lie or that is activated by our changing heart rate; jewelry that is made by cultivating our own cells; garments that are designed to mirror our social media activity — these are all very surprising and could not have been envisioned just a few years ago, but now are becoming possible.”