x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fashion gadgetry brings shows to life

The Aurasma app is the fashion of the future, bringing magazine photos to life on your smartphone.

I am not one for techy gadgets or gizmos, but during London Fashion Week (LFW) last week I stumbled upon something that totally blew me away.

Experience has taught me not to ignore tips from geeks. Years ago, my computer-literate brother-in-law attempted to tell me about a wacky new phenomenon called "email" that was apparently going to change the world. "Yah," I yawned, when he started on about a strange something called "Google". I ignored his pleas to "just tap anything into it, go on, anything and it will give you the information".

At the time, I was working as a researcher on a glossy magazine. Little did I know that this Google thing was going to transform my life and that of generations after me.

Which is why I advise you to take note of a recently launched visual browser app known as Aurasma. Developed by the British software giant Autonomy, the company at the heart of a takeover bid by HP for £7 billion (Dh40.2bn), it unites the cyber and the real worlds, as if by magic, with just a wave of your smartphone (Android devices and Apple's iPhone/iPad).

Once you've downloaded the free app and clicked your mobile to camera mode, hold it over any two-dimensional image that has been "supercharged" (a techy term meaning a photographic image has been programmed to "talk" to the app) and a portal appears on your phone. This then springs to life, showing you anything from moving catwalk footage to shopping pages to discussions with a designer.

This is part of a new generation of recognition technology, which is being tipped to transform fashion imagery in magazines.

Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-a-Porter.com, used it during the recent Vogue's Night Out in New York. Static photographs in shop windows could be transformed into Net-a-Porter's shopping pages by anyone holding up phones or iPads. Massenet had somehow also dropped in hidden clothing items that members of the public could win if they found them. This triggered scenes of round-the-block queuing, as you might imagine. "You should have seen Anna Wintour's face when she saw Aurasma for the first time," the app's marketing director, Tamara Roukaerts, told me during LFW. "She smiled the biggest smile."

I'll say. The implications for fashion advertising, which yields the revenue that allows magazines to exist, are enormous. By waving a mobile over pages of fashion shoots, potential customers could access stockists and be able to shop. Aurasma makes barcode recognition look like something a 12-year-old dreamt up.

On another techy fashion note, I've learnt two tech-related new words in as many days. The first, "tweetwalk", refers to Burberry's big cheese Christopher Bailey's new gimmick to get his brand out there and provide the general public with a taste of the catwalk experience. Another new term in the fashion dictionary is "twagerism". Remember when you were at school and glancing over your classmate's notes was considered cheating? Put in a cyber context, imagine how you might feel if someone cut and pasted your tweets and put them on their own. The latest scandal to emerge from the Twittersphere is that this is even occurring at front-row level.

"Reproducing someone else's work is lazy and pointless," the superblogger Disneyrollergirl told me during LFW.

Emily Johnston, the founder of the Fashion Foie Gras blog, has seen state of play worsen since Twitter. "Everything's become so viral. I blog fashion 'scoops' to my 15,000 followers. Fellow bloggers and the print industry are respectful; the problem is when Joe Public wants to fake, he's sitting front row."

During the London and New York catwalk shows, spotlights were turned up exceptionally high, enabling only professional photographers with sophisticated cameras to capture catwalk images and to prevent bloggers - and tweeters in particular - from filming shows on their mobiles then posting them online for others to lift and tweet at random.

Laetitia Wajnape, the founder of Mademoisellerobot.com, which has 300,000 hits a month, has been tweeting since Twitter started in 2006. She has spent time building up reliable insider sources and can quote with authority: "Now too many 18-year-olds aspire to be superbloggers overnight."

It's worse than that. Industry insiders are serial offenders.

"Face to face encounters are becoming rarer," the fashion blogger Susie Lau warns. "Now no one has the guts to go up to a designer and ask anymore, they just re-tweet. It's so lazy. Not to mention bad manners."