Fashion Tech

In Silicon Valley, a Fashion Show Just as Much About Tech as Style

In Silicon Valley, a Fashion Show Just as Much About Tech as Style
Image credit: Betabrand
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In Silicon Valley, fashion may mean a hoodie or a startup-branded t-shirt, but that doesn't exclude the tech epicenter from getting its own fashion week. 

Betabrand's Silicon Valley Fashion Week? — question mark and all — kicked off May 12 with a three-day show complete with drones and robots literally carrying clothes down the runway.

Each night is split into different tech categories: electric motion, wearable tech, and crowdfunding. Fashion companies like Oscar De La Renta, however, won't be on the runway. Instead, companies companies like 3M, Misfit Wearables, and Pebble have joined with local designers who are allowing their creations to be modeled by drones and robots.

And in true tech fashion, the show will include talks from the designers themselves because San Franciscans can't just look at something beautiful without knowing how to make it themselves.

Some of the fashion press has slammed the event, including GQ, which compared the drones to modeling what a flying closet would look like (see the video above): "Seriously, tech bros. Stay in your lane, we’ll stay in ours. Silicon Valley Fashion Week? Please, don’t ask."

But, the question mark on the end was intentional and highly self-aware, said Betabrand CEO Chris Lindland. 

"I couldn't live with myself if the question mark wasn't there," Lindland said. 

Betabrand itself straddles the line between tech and fashion. The crowdfunded clothing company is known for its viral breakouts like the one-piece Suitsy, its work yoga pants and poop emoji shirts.

Lindland came up with the idea for the catwalk after seeing the crazy outfits his employees came up with for Burning Man. However, a runway wouldn't work with the festival's anti-commercial ethos, so Lindland pivoted it back to Betabrand's home base: Silicon Valley.

"The opinion is that this is not a fashionable place because the dress code is jeans and hoodies. However, a lot of those jeans and hoodie wearers are sitting there pouring over how to make iWatches beautiful," Lindland said. "iWatches and iPhones literally affect a person's identity and style. Like it or not, this part of the world is contributing to fashion."

And Silicon Valley Fashion Week? seems to have struck a nerve. The show sold out in two days for all three nights, and Lindland had to limit it to an hour-long catwalk each night. He doesn't want this to be a sign of the bubble or a tech company throwing a crazy party. Instead, he thinks of it as a new way to show off the talent in the Bay Area that's not behind a podium or attached to slide decks.

"If you look at what people do creatively in the Bay Area, it's gargantuan. It's just that no one has said 'Let's use a runway to demonstrate that,'" Lindland said. "Normally it's a stage. It's TED. It's a demo. The difference was to say, 'What if you strut it, not just talk about it?'"


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