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Wearable tech: hardly an expression that conjures up the most stylish of images

And yet, according to designers, brands and the most glamorous museum event of the year, technology is where it’s at when it comes to the forefront of fashion. It’s hardly surprising, really. We live in a world of shoppable runways and online retail, of Fitbits and smart clothes, algorithm-powered stylists and Hermès-designed Apple watches, one in which what we buy and how we buy it is inextricably linked with innovation in technology

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What is new on the scene, however, is the adoption of the latest technological advances by the high fashion world, as designers from Chanel to Chalayan get in on the game. Technology is no longer simply affecting how we buy our designer items—it’s shaping how they’re made and what they look like

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All of these creations speak to a wider movement in fashion

It is this sea change that’s the subject of Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which opens this month. Dedicated to showing just how innovative the fashion world can be, the show features 100 creations ranging from an 1880s Worth gown to Issey Miyake’s Flying Saucer dress. As visitors feast their eyes on everything from a pleated skirt designed by Raf Simons for Dior in 2015 using a technique invented in the 1760s to an Iris van Herpen dress fashioned from laser-cut silicon feathers, they will see that the industry has arrived at a place where the best of the best often owes as much to the machine as it does to the hand

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one that is as full of fast-paced innovation as Silicon Valley itself. As the curators of the Met’s exhibition have been keen to point out

this is not something new. Not for nothing did the birth of haute couture coincide with the invention of the sewing machine. But for several years now, in ateliers from the most innovative start-ups of London’s East End to the traditional workrooms of Paris, the exploration of new techniques has been at the forefront of fashion’s mind

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The first new technique off the blocks and into mainstream consciousness was digital fabric printing

Declared by The Wall Street Journal at the time as “probably the greatest innovation of 21st-century fashion,” the ability to transfer digital prints directly onto fabric was leapt on by brands from Prada to Pucci and Jil Sander to Dolce & Gabbana at the beginning of this decade, while in London, a whole generation of young designers such as Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto made their names off the back of it

And they haven’t stopped there. “As digital prints have become ever more prevalent and emulated, designers need to continue to push the boundaries,” explains Natalie Kingham, buying director of Matchesfashion.com

This means that we continue to see a huge amount of creativity from those who have become synonymous with print. Katrantzou is a great example of a designer who continues to evolve her style, from kaleidoscopic digital prints through to her intricate needlework. Peter Pilotto is another brand that has pushed the boundaries of digital printing, harnessing both digital technology and traditional craftsmanship to create collections that delight our customers season after season

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