In yesterday's post we looked at cognitive fashion highlighting how IBM's Watson system spotted similarities and comparisons between some of the latest collections. As seen in that post, Watson must be fed with several images of fashion collections to make comparisons, spot similarities and identify trends. Yet, the system may prove incorrect or just partially correct: so far Watson has been fed only frontal images and not pictures showing a 360° perspective on a specific design and, well, fashion is made of details that may be scattered all over a garment, also on the back.
An example? In Balmain's A/W 2017 collection Olivier Rousteing focused on a palette that mainly featured black, brown, and gold, and on maximalist glamazon garments, accessories and embellishments, including suede miniskirts, long and sensual fringes, elaborate appliqued motifs, embroideries and metallic studs, and snakeskin legging boots. The black crocodile ensemble closing the show could have been filed under the "sensual Amazon living in a wildly glamorous environment" category, if it hadn't been from the back that featured a crocodile tail. This detail revealed an uncanny resemblance with Azzedine Alaïa's black wool fabric jacket with crocodile skin applique from the designer Haute Couture A/W 2003 collection.
In a way this comparison proves that cognitive fashion has still got a long way to go and that a trained human eye can be as efficient - though slower - than a computerised system.
If you want to discover maybe a bit more about this jacket and remember how important it is to go slow in life, check out the documentary recently shot by iconic fashion stylist Joe McKenna about Azzedine Alaïa.
Available to watch for free on joesfilm.com, the 26-minute black and white documentary explores Alaïa's world through the words of friends and admirers including Naomi Campbell, Carlyne Cerf, Grace Coddington, Katie Grand, Sophie Hicks, Suzy Menkes and Nicolas Ghesquière, current creative director at Louis Vuitton.
While Alaïa does not speak in the documentary, he is filmed in his personal Parisian headquarter in the Marais while he is at work on his patterns with a biro or with pins in his hands, he is shown playing with his St. Bernard or feeding his staff at his legendary kitchen table. The documentary has got a few lessons to learn: first and foremost, it highlights how the designer chose to follow integrity instead of the fashion rhythms, abiding to one personal principle - showing a collection when he felt it was ready and not when the industry wanted it to be ready to become part of a regulated calendar.
There are also several revelations in this short documentary, including Naomi Campbell talking about him like a father figure, a man who doesn't kiss anybody's ass, and Ghesquière confessing he thought fashion was about embellishments before learning from Alaïa that it is about construction and architecture (look at the honeycomb structure Alaïa creates in the documentary or listen to architect Sophie Hicks talking about Alaïa and you will easily understand these points).
Now, it would be intriguing to see a follow-up documentary maybe about the designers who, rather than being influenced by Alaïa or learning something from him, merely copied him: it would definitely feature some interesting surprises that maybe even cognitive systems may struggle to spot (remember, the strange Alaïa for Tina Turner-Roberto Cavalli S/S 16 connection?).