The Spring/Summer ‘20 leg of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) kicked off this week, with highly anticipated runway shows using a range of technology to bring a digital experience to the physical catwalk. We take a look at what will happen at this season’s NYFW.

Nearly a decade ago, the late Alexander McQueen’s historic S/S10 Plato’s Atlantis show birthed a new age in the union of fashion and technology, when the first-ever runway show was live-streamed from Paris via Nick Knight’s However, after everyone’s favourite ‘Mother Monster’ Lady Gaga tweeted out the show’s link, just as her new single ‘Bad Romance’ was to debut on the runway – the site crashed, resulting in the stream going down.

However, fashion and tech have moved on from the days of livestream and this year’s Fashion Week is anticipated to take us to newer technological heights.

Tommy Hilfiger’s TommyNow show, in collaboration with actor Zendaya, will return to NYFW after a successful S/S19 show in Paris. This year’s show will include a new online virtual reality (VR) commerce experience, where fashion followers can visit a virtual pop-up shop to browse the collection.

Getting straight down to second base, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie show will stream on Amazon Prime on 20 September after its physical show on 10 September. Streamers will also gain access to an exclusive behind the scenes making of the show.

New York-based designer Telfar will be ditching NYFW to showcase his S/S20 collection in Paris later this month. However, the designer, known for his Telfar Tote Bag, won’t be completely ditching his home turf. Instead of a runway show, Telfar NYFW attendees will be presented with a ‘non-linear’ film featuring several industry experts, directors and musicians.

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Runway robotics takes over NYFW

Rag & Bone will lift its three-year hiatus to bring NYFW a runway show featuring robots. Entitled ‘Contrasts & Perspectives’ the New York-based brand describes the show as ‘a fusion of fashion, music and technology.’ Viewers can also watch the show live on Instagram on Friday at 5pm ET.

Rag & Bone’s robot isn’t the only one to take to fashion week. Production company Mélange Productions will debut this year with a runway show incorporating Hanson Robotic’s humanoid robot Sophia. In partnership with 360Fashion Network, the show aims to ‘explore the intersection where diversity meets technology.’ Sophia will join 360Fashion Network founder and CEO Anina Trepte for a speech about the show’s theme – diversity. WWD reported that the “show’s finale section will feature a series of robotic dresses made by fashion designers Clare Tattersall, from the New York-based fashion tech hub ThunderLily, and Beijing-based Azrael Yang”.

During NYFW Autumn/Winter ’19, software company SAP unveiled its Runway App at the Christian Siriano show. And this year, the company will not only unveil its newly enhanced app, but will also showcase tech-enhanced fashions in partnership with Canadian entertainment and theatrical producer Cirque du Soleil and fashion-tech designer Anouk Wipprecht. The tech-enhanced designs capture participant’s interactions with the models and designs, via a tablet, to deliver personalised beverages and fragrances to the individual.

Switching off the runway

Most Fashion Week disciples know that it doesn’t just take place on the runway. There are a number of off-the-runway Fashion Week events, powered by technology, happening around the Big Apple. 360Fashion Network will be hosting a two-day Robotic Dress Exhibition, from 8-9 September, in partnership with KNOTEL. The exhibition will also include workshops, such as wearable tech, sustainability and future technology, and 3D scanning.

Find Your ID NYC (FYID) is also hosting an event entitled, ‘Xchange Fashion Festival – Fashion & Technology.’ The Festival will see FYID partner with Jump Into The Light – A VR cinema, play lab and studio – to bring exhibitors fashion-focused VR reality games, trend knowledge, shopping and photo booth.

So what other tech experiences can we assume will happen at this year’s NYFW? Well, if you’ve had enough of Instagram influencers or the same generic models, this year we could see the wider introduction of the digital model.

Miquela Sousa, best known as Lil Miquela is one of many computer-generated influencers taking over the fashion industry. From attending PRADA’s A/W18 show in Milan to rocking designs by New York-based designer Proenza Schouler, to featuring in American fashion publication V Magazine, this AI-powered ally may be as real as it gets. Last year, French fashion house Balmain chose to create a ‘virtual army’ of digital models for its 2018 campaign, which included Shudu – the world’s first digital supermodel. Shudu was programmed into the spotlight when Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand reposted her ‘wearing’ one of its lipsticks – proving that fashion and beauty can transcend the physical.

So whether it’s live streaming, VR experiences or robotics, NYFW is expected to have it all on the technology front. And with London, Milan and Paris following shortly after, we can only expect more tech to grace the catwalk in the future.

Read more: AI takes root in the fashion industry with IBM partnership