The relationship between fashion and technology has been somewhat awkward over the past few years, as designers and brands try to tap into the digital-minded consumer with wearables and other forward-thinking innovations that, frankly, often fall flat. Still, the intention is there — as seen first in this year's Costume Institute exhibit (and Met Gala attendees' dubious interpretation of the "tech white tie" dress code), and now in Karl Lagerfeld's spring '17 collection, aptly named "Data Center Chanel." As always, the designer transformed Paris' Grand Palais into a crossed-C fantasy land. This time around, the theme was computer lab chic, complete with neat multi-colored wiring, flashing lights, and rows of shiny servers and circuit boards. Two robo-models opened the show — a cross between Daft Punk and Stormtroopers who went shopping on Rue Cambon for their matching tweed suits. What followed was a parade of typical Chanel muses, like Edie Campbell, Binx Walton, Soo-Joo Park, and Arizona Muse, who was dressed in a white tweed jacket over a dusky pink negligee (the first of more lacy, diaphanous, underwear-as-daywear pieces than we're used to seeing from the legacy fashion house). There were, of course, the requisite bouclé jackets and tweed twinsets, modernized in an array of technicolor and graphic digital prints. The threads woven through the iconic Chanel tweed also mirrored the colorful cables, and the billowing chiffon dresses that closed the show were detailed with kaleidoscopic digi-prints.
The accessories comprised baseball hats worn at a jaunty skater-girl angles, pearl necklaces, light-up clutches or laptop bags, and two-tone metallic flats or booties — because that's what kids like these days, right? Then, of course, there were the handbags. The spring '17 selection was data-themed, with micro lights flashing with personalized messages, like "How are you?" and "Hello." Question is: Can its wearer code their own message to be displayed? If so, this could be a game-changer for ID'ing street style stars next season.
Data Center Chanel was replete with the tongue-in-cheek fun and spectacle we expect from the brand season after season — although, as far as actual technological innovation, it certainly wasn't the most impressive thing we've seen on the runway. Still, with these accessories, could Lagerfeld have hacked the industry's difficulty with making tech products luxury? We'll have to wait and see once the orders come in. If anything, he's certainly made a case for himself to be hired as lead costume designer for Ex-Machina 2.