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Have phones taken over the catwalk spectacle?

Front-row selfies, skirts made from phones – is this the future of mobile tech in fashion?

This season fashion flipped the front row phone circus on its head. In London Fashion Week's viral moment, Cara Delevingne walked the Giles catwalk, filming a video selfie – suddenly the fashion show was less about the clothes and more about the phone in her hand. But this wasn’t the first time phone culture intruded on the catwalk. On the first day of LFW, Fyodor Golan showcased their digital technicolour dream skirt – an interactive “smart” skirt made of 80 Nokia Lumia 1520 smartphones. At once – as would happen three days later at Giles – the bubble of the fantasy, archaic fashion presentation popped, as we came to realise the extent of the fashion spectacle, and the role of the phone within it. At Fyodor Golan, audiences filmed a phone, through their phone, as a phone played images back at them. At Giles, we filmed a phone filming us. In the circus of screens, interfaces and obsessive instant documentation, you come to wonder at what point are we actually looking at the clothes?

At Fyodor Golan the audience – and the focus of their camera phones – was on the skirt’s glistening rhythm of colour, created by static images and live feeds interacting with movement and the environment. A purpose-built app utilising global positioning ensured that the movement of the images on the screen happened in line with the model’s – in this case appropriately worn by technicolour-haired model Chloe Norgaard. The skirt is clearly a showpiece in that each phone in itself costs £850, is packed with a powerful camera, ultra-vivid screen and cutting edge functionality – yet its role in the runway is to shimmer, animate and shift on command.

“A circus of screens, interfaces and obsessive instant documentation”

Fyodor and Golan were captivated by the vivid digital display of Nokia's new phone and its ability to perform changing colours and shimmer effects simulating realistic characteristics of fabric. Being quite a large, rectangular phone, the silhouette options for the skirt was always going to be limited, however where the Nokia 1520 is strong with the force is its photographic capabilities. Armed with a 41 megapixel camera, this is a dream work tool for hundreds of front row editors, buyers and photographers at fashion week, for whom smartphones are playing an increasingly integral role in documenting, reporting and publishing looks online before they even hit the end of the runway.

The images displayed on the skirt were taken during Fyodor and Golan’s travels to Burma, photographs collaged together to create a touch screen mosaic of pattern using an app developed by digital agency Kin. We asked the design duo to discuss the future – whether technology and the way we perceive the world through digital screens is affecting the way we wear colour and see fashion. With phones now not only recording the runway, but starring on it too, where can the digital spectacle move next?

Dazed Digital: Has modern display technology changed your perception of colour? As fashion designers?

Fyodor Golan: We are so drilled in judging the world through our little screens. For better or worse, our eyes’ perception has changed. For us, the most current way to work with textures is to use materials that we all know and transform them through feel and shine and always think of our pieces in 360 degrees. This season we were focused on iridescence using leathers, sequins and Swarovski crystals. Vibrance adds another layer to the garment, so that it’s not enough to just walk around in a green jacket, you'll have to wear a green iridescent jacket that changes colours to blue, then shines in pink!

DD: You have described your approach to your AW14 collection as 'modernising the wildness of hues with technology'. How did technology contribute to the colour and textures in this collection?

Fyodor Golan: Technology brings new elements to surface design. It is amazing what you can do with innovative coatings – for example, this season it helped us to transform wool to look like metallic pink leather, we were able to work with nylon coated cottons and print holograms for FG sweatshirts. We partnered with Swarovski to create a crystal embedded 3D-printed piece and partnered with Nokia on the 'phone skirt', which imitates the shine of fabrics with movement of colours over the phone screens as the model walks.

DD: Tell me about the experience of 3D printing your first FG piece. Is the 3D printing process for a wearable piece as complex as one imagines?

Fyodor Golan: OMFG. It was a long process and not an easy one! First of all, we were shocked to discover how a 3D garment design can be achieved on these new programs designers use. You can drape materials on a form on the computer and control it all at once with a 360-degree perspective. When we were designing we experienced many happy accidents, especially because it was our first time and there was so much to discover. Wearable materials are starting to become available to 3D printed fashion but the majority are still on the stiff side, so we’re still stuck in the realm of creating showpieces. However, it’s only a matter of time until we’ll be able to print a complete garment that can defy gravity and is soft enough to be worn.

DD: Are you personally avid technology users? Do you guys plan on continuing to experiment with technology for fashion’s sake?

Fyodor Golan: Funny thing is that we are not avid techies, but we are fascinated by it so we definitely will. It’s the future and we can't wait until we can design more wearable things using new technology. Our direction is to find ways to bring this to our everyday reality, but in a fabulous way!

DD: What would be some great characteristics of a futuristic fashion garment?

Fyodor Golan: Before we even go into the whole dress that can 'walk and talk', we'd love to the develop innovative materials that can change with the wearer, such as one that thickens when you want it to, and or one that becomes lighter on command. Something that can change colour or feel different against the body. One more – we have a dream to create a 3D embellishment that can move.