Techno couture

Steve Dinneen
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Gadgets and fashion are uneasy bed-fellows. Top designers tend to shun technology in favour of tradition: natural fibres are still the go-to materials – despite the progress of nano fibres – and an expert eye is favoured over the laser precision of a computer.

Tom Ford went as far as locking out bloggers and banning Twitter from his New York Fashion Week show, fearful that the industry is already over- exposed. Where technology has been applied, it has tended towards the gimmicky – dresses with LEDs sewn into them or thermochromatic garments that change colour in the cold.

But technology is, inevitably, infiltrating the industry. Gadgets from laptops to smart cars have cropped up at the major fashion shows and young designers like Diana Eng and Anastasia Radevich are championing a new generation of techno couture.

There are also signs of a shift in high-end tailoring. Spencer Hart, the Savile Row tailor that serves clients including Robbie Williams and Dermot O’Leary, is the first to make tablet computers a standard part of its service.

The process of browsing, measuring, altering and tweaking is now all controlled from a 6.5” Samsung Galaxy Note. Basic suit templates are stored on the device, allowing the tailor to flip through them with customers. Any changes – different pocket shape or altering the position of the buttons, for example – can be drawn directly onto the device.

Measurement details are all entered into the tablet and emailed directly to the production team. The best part, though, is when the item comes back for alterations. Using a purpose-built app, the tailor takes a photograph of the customer wearing the suit and makes any alteration notes directly onto the screen, almost eliminating the possibility of mistakes.

Soon the integration will go even deeper: Samsung and Spencer Hart are developing a system that will link the tailoring app to the firm’s computer system, allowing it to access dynamic information such as fabric prices and stock levels. Once a customer has been quoted for a bespoke suit, they will, for example, be able to instantly find out how much it would cost to switch to a different fabric.

Joe Wolfe, Spencer Hart’s creative director told City A.M.: “I was sceptical – in many ways we’re very traditional in the way we do things but this seemed like a logical progression. Within a few weeks it already feels like a natural way to do our job.”