One step down the catwalk for Google Glass; a giant leap for branding?
A couple of months ago, I claimed that Google Glass was irrelevant to fashion:
Ten years down the line when there are 500 different styles of face-mounted display screen and its varied forms aren’t trying to claim any relationship to function – *then* Google Glass may have a chance to be something about fashion. Or when the technology’s reverse-mounted into vintage sunglass frames. Or maybe fashion is parasitic on other sets of referents: maybe Google Glass will only be able to be fashion when to wear a pair is to be making a visual reference to sci-fi movies of the 1980s, or Taiwanese street style blogs, or a glimmer of a 2014 revival in the pre-fall collections of 2023 — that is, when wearing a pair of Google Glasses ceases to be mostly about “Oh my god I’m wearing a pair of Google Glasses”.
But fashion is a fickle (and fast-moving) mistress, and yesterday Diane von Furstenberg sent models down the catwalk at New York Fashion Week wearing… Google Glasses.
Naturally my first thought is to argue that Diane von Furstenberg’s flattering resort-wear and wrap dresses aren’t exactly capital-F Fashion - a little too New York commercial.
But, giving it a little more consideration, the press release is interesting:
Today we’re thrilled to collaborate with the visionary and celebrated designer Diane von Furstenberg. For the past week, we’ve been using Glass to capture the DVF creative process from entirely new perspectives.
Soon you’ll get a glimpse into what it’s like to design, prepare and experience the DVF show at New York Fashion Week through Diane’s eyes and a few other views.
Essentially this backs up Robin Sloan’s argument from May 2012, Pictures and vision, where he argued that:
Google is getting good, really good, at building things that see the world around them and actually understand what they’re seeing. […] Maybe in twenty years we’ll think of Google primarily as a vision company—augmenting our vision, helping us share it—and, oh wow, did you realize they once, long ago, sold ads?
From a fashion critic’s perspective, however, the New York Times On The Runway blog isn’t impressed:
Well, the line between artistic statement and marketing opportunity became blurry a long time ago at Fashion Week, especially at Lincoln Center, where the event is named after a car (Mercedes-Benz, if you need ask). So Ms. von Furstenberg did not seem to have a problem with putting Google products on her runway, specifically the Glass by Google. That would be those weird pseudo-glasses thingies that Google is developing to take us into the future and turn us all into walking surveillance systems. They look like something from “Star Trek,” with a tiny camera built into the frames and a little bitty monitor in the corner for all those people who are not satisfied looking at the world solely through their hand-held devices. Supposedly, they can give you directions to the nearest Starbucks.
Mr. Brin was wearing a pair with a turquoise stem that made him look as if he had stabbed himself in the eye with the straw of some tropical frozen cocktail. But that was not all. Some of the models wore them, in pink or white variations, and even Ms. von Furstenberg, who had nothing to do with the design of the glasses or the color choices, wore a pair when she took her bow
What stands out ultimately here - for Google and for fashion - is the question of the kind of brand who’s prepared to let this spectacle dominate their catwalk show.
Diane von Furstenberg may have piloted this because, as I said above, hers is not the most “fashion” of fashion brands. Unlike Louis Vuitton, or Chanel, the spectacle of the catwalk show does not especially contribute to the DvF brand image, and the lack of press coverage for the actual clothes won’t stop her regular customers buying another flattering wrap dress or three next spring.
But can you imagine Kaiser Karl allowing this at Chanel? Well… yes. Perhaps not for Google itself, that’s true - but this is the man who owns 4 iPhones, “20 or 30” iPads, and “hundreds” of iPods. He’ll send an iGlass down the catwalk when he’s good and ready - as a provocation, and as a way to sell ten thousand quilted, monogrammed iGlass cases for cold, hard cash. And as such a provocation, it *will* be a fashion moment.
Marc Jacobs would make the same move at Vuitton, for the same reasons. Younger designers, like Alexander Wang, might - perhaps with a little more engagement with a techno-aesthetic.
As a European, I cleave to a haute concept of fashion - genius, impracticality, excess, purity of execution. This is of course a fantasy I have been sold by the great commercial machines of Chanel et al. You think they weren’t measuring ROI on that iceberg? LV’s $8m train came with a global PR strategy. I’ll take the NYTimes’ comment one step further: At some point, the marketing strategy became the the artistic statement.