Zac Posen partners with Google to show NYC fashion week's first-ever LED dress
NEW YORK — In a packed auditorium at Industria Superstudio on Tuesday morning, Zac Posen showcased his Zac by Zac Posen diffusion line as the first major show to kick off New York Fashion Week. Posen's final look was unlike anything in any of his past shows — and it dazzled the runway. The one-of-a-kind LED gown literally lit up the catwalk, with lights sparkling under its sheath.
The gown was created with LED segments that light up in different patterns, which Posen said was inspired by "Los Angeles after dark." The designer created the dress with the help of Maddy Maxey a fashion engineer and mentor at Made with Code, a Google-backed initiative. It was designed with a circuit infused into the textile to showcase different animations.
Posen said that he and Maxey collaborated at every step of the process. After selecting the pattern of the dress, they both decided how the placement of the LED segments would go.
"It's an extensive process both from a technology standpoint and from a fashion perspective," he said. "I, of course, wanted the technology to work perfectly, but I was also very cautious about what the finished garment would look like."
"My design process has definitely benefited from this experience and I will continue to look ahead in search of the next technology that can come to life through my creations," Posen continued.
The finished product was beautiful, yes, but was also a glimpse into fashion's experimentation with wearable technology.
Wearable tech is the phrase du jour and the tech industry is heavily investing in it. Google, for one, is betting that it will only grow in importance. Already, the Mountain View-based company has experimented with products like Google Glass and Project Jacquard, which attempts to infuse technology into the very fibers of clothing.
That, however, doesn't change the persistent lack of women in tech fields like computer science and engineering. Which is why Posen's collaboration with Made with Code is so important. It highlights the possibilities — and fun — with using code, while empowering and encouraging girls to get involved in the field.
"Very few young women see computer science as a part of their future — in fact less than 1% of high school girls choose it as a major," said Pavni Diwanji, vice president of engineering at Google. "We need to work on better pathways to encourage and support girls' interest in computer science, and connect them with peers who share that interest."
It's the very reason Made with Code was created — to inspire girls to try coding and discover it as a viable option for their futures. The program encourages them to become creative with projects that use Blockly, a visual coding system designed by Google. With it, girls can create GIFS, mix music, or code an LED dress. Already, the program has invested $50 million over the next three years in computer science grants to help women and girls pursue this for their futures.
Maxey, the Made with Code mentor, is a talented up-and-comer in the fashion technology space. At just 22, Maxey has already worked for Peter Som and Tommy Hilfiger. She won the $100,000 Thiel Fellowship in 2013, which allowed her to leave Parsons School of Design as a sophomore and pursue her entrepreneurial passions.
"Together with Zac Posen, we're aiming to show that code can bridge both the physical and digital worlds," Maxey told Mashable. "We hope to show how inspiring creative code can be."
With her collaborative efforts on fashion week's first-ever LED dress, the future for women in tech seems bright.