With 15 years of experiential, tech-driven programming under its belt, Nolcha Shows has grown into something akin to a smaller version of CES, except more tailored to the fashion industry, cofounder Arthur Mandel told WWD — and the latest installment on Sunday alongside New York Fashion Week is no exception.
The Mercedes-Benz Manhattan showroom at 54th Street and 11th Avenue will be home to multiple tech showcases geared toward elevating the business, innovation and talent at fashion’s forefront, as shaped by virtual elements and artificial intelligence.
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Those interested in more earthly pursuits may take note of the sustainable and ethical fashion brands in the line-up, as selected with Wear The Future. They include Francesca Cottone, Michelle Fite, Pavé the Way, Nandanie, Aks Mathur, Kimberly Pucci, Cocoredoux and Anna Zuckerman.
But it is the fusion of digital and physical that comprises Nolcha’s center of gravity.
“That’s what makes this event so cool. It’s like a very mini CES,” boasted Mandel, referring to the annual consumer technology trade show in Las Vegas. “Here, we’ve got seven brands that are showing really interesting Web 3.0 technology on site, and the great thing about this event is that they’re all different from each other…so the experience for the people attending are actually going to enjoy it as well.”
The event appears packed with offerings that traverse virtual and virtual-meets-physical experiences across exhibits, demos, gamified interactions, avatar wearables and real-world runways. The show’s focal points will be digital wearables, augmented reality and virtual reality, AI, interactive fashion gaming and sustainable fashion.
According to digital-first luxury fashion brand MetaBurnett, its DeMode by Modernist x MetaBurnett collaboration will bring an invite-only immersive and interactive event featuring digital art from Kelly Max, creative director of The Modernist, to “serve as the mood board for models on stage dressed in designs from cutting-edge designers such as Romeo Hunte, Pamela Dennis and Renee Cafaro Atelier.”
The exhibit’s theme, which connects digital and physical art, extends far beyond its time and place. Apparently plans are in the works to send digital twins all the way to the moon this year. The virtual art will be dispatched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as part of a permanent art moon museum.
The brand also plans to reveal a new Web 3.0 partnership with Alphaa.io at Nolcha Shows. On site, the partners will offer unlockable 3D content, winnable prizes and more using twin tag technology from packaging company R-Pac. Models will carry NFC tags (short for “near field communications,” the same technology that allows tap-to-pay in smartphones), and QR codes on a Times Square activation will enable visitors to tap-to-claim collectibles and join the brands’ ecosystem. The partners will be on hand to offer tech consultations for interested brands. So far, they’ve already consulted with the likes of Romeo Hunte, Pamela Dennis and Renee Cafaro Atelier on extended reality and NFT integration through NFCs powered by R-Pac.
“When we think about the impact, that fashion and technology have on the world, we recognize it’s powerful role in breaking down barriers, creating unity and being a positive platform for change,” MetaBurnett’s Emily Burnett told WWD.
Longer-term, the duo eyes other digital twin initiatives, with Alphaa.io’s wallet connecting to physical garments and other AR/VR experiences that can load straight from physical apparel.
Meanwhile, at Nolcha, visitors can expect to see immersive environments featuring narrative-oriented AI bots, courtesy of ISG Metaverse and Convai, that can act as everything from retail associates to fashion models. Ridi is one example and, according to Mandel’s description, Nolcha attendees will actually be able to have a full conversation with it. Ridi and other experiences will be available through monitors set up and installed on location.
“What we will have is kind of like a personalized experience station: Once you walk up, you have a 42-inch screen, a microphone and, essentially, you just press ‘T’ when you’d like to speak to the AI,” explained Blake Hotz, co-owner of ISG Metaverse. “You can move around with Steam [a gaming platform], they will follow you and/or direct you.” The application holds obvious implications for shopping, which is only natural, considering the other co-owner is Isaac Gindi of department store Century 21. The company developed its own physical-to-digital collection, ISG Elite Gear, which can act as a proof of concept for the tech that it’s developing with 3D models, VR and more.
WebAR creative firm ARkivist also focused on storytelling in its work with partners Montserrat New York and Cocoredoux. The group developed a range of location-based, WebAR experiences that will be accessible through mobile devices and offer digital collectibles and other giveaways.
Other elements featured include:
“Ones to Watch” showcase featuring Web 3.0, ready-to-wear and wedding brands Vitruvius, NY Culture Club, Tina Tandon, Oh Polly, Nazranaa, Fite Fashion and Francesca Cottone;
an eight-piece apparel collection by New York Culture Club with embedded microchips that, with the tap of a phone, activates immersive AR experiences and other interactive features;
digital art collective Numb3r xA’s display for blockchain-verifiable luxury goods featuring AI-designed, on-chain physical jewelry by Nebulous;
360Fashion Network’s AR 360Fashion Maze Game featuring runway brands and AR elements throughout the venue;
new community tools for content creators by Lavo;
Leia’s Lume Pad 2, which it bills as the world’s first 3D-AI tablet that can create fully immersive 3D scenes without any specialized eyewear;
a tech lounge with consultations for brands and designers interested in how to implement many of these technologies;
a continuation of its four-year tradition of offering VIP makeovers for military spouses, thanks to ECRU New York creative director Lisa Lobosco and a “glam makeup session” by AOFM’s Michelle Webb. Also VIP and backstage access and front-row seating for military spouses, who can ride in one of Mercedes-Benz’s new all electric vehicles to the event;
Dr. Rossi Derm, on his skin care solutions, and
3D-printed chocolates by 3D Confectionary.
For Nolcha, this whirlwind of technology is no fad. In fact, said Mandel, they represent the biggest disruption in culture, as applications of “digital transformation to enhance our existing reality.”
That often takes Nolcha from fashion to other corners of the modern world, with shows at NFT.NYC, Consensus, Art Basel and the Bitcoin Conference. This experience, and the decade and a half preceding it, offers helpful context for its latest NYFW event.
“A lot of the technologies our partners are presenting have actually been around for a long time, but we weren’t ready for it yet,” he explained. “That’s the paradox we are dealing with right now: Technology was developing so quickly — exponentially, really — but we didn’t have the means and the infrastructure to adapt it to our reality or culture in order to enhance our lives.”
But he’s betting that this is about to change, thanks to all or at least some of the event partners preparing to display their technologies on Sunday.
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