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Drone Supermodels, 3-D Printed Bras: Inside Silicon Valley Fashion Week

No hoodies in sight.

Carmel DeAmicis / Re/code

Silicon Valley Fashion Week. Four words that do not belong together.

It seemed the organizers of the event felt ambiguous enough about the idea that they added a question mark as part of the official title: “Silicon Valley Fashion Week?”

By its second night on Wednesday, no big-name designers or tech companies could be found on or off the runway. The event was a big elaborate marketing stunt for crowdsourced clothing startup Betabrand. And that stopped no one from buying tickets, and the three-night event sold out within days of its announcement.

Wednesday’s theme was “wearable tech” — Tuesday night was commuter clothes and Thursday featured crowdsourced fashion.

 Two women model headpieces whose color changes are tied to their heartbeats.
Two women model headpieces whose color changes are tied to their heartbeats.
Carmel DeAmicis/ Re/code

“I didn’t know what to expect of this event because it’s San Francisco. People don’t necessarily know anything about fashion,” said former New York resident Adam Broidy, who bought tickets after his girlfriend told him about it.

At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Attendees jostled each other to order from the open bar. Okay, so Vogue wasn’t here. But reporters from the local PBS affiliate KQED, the San Francisco Chronicle, BuzzFeed, TechCrunch and Refinery29 slipped into VIP seats early. The evening before, CNN and a freelancer for the New Yorker showed up.

Clearly we weren’t here for haute couture. The onlookers were there out of curiosity — what disaster awaited the drones on the catwalk? How many startup T-shirts and hoodies could one possibly endure?

 Drones carry a spandex space suit down the runway behind protective netting.
Drones carry a spandex space suit down the runway behind protective netting.
Carmel DeAmicis / Re/code

“The irreverence of the question mark [in the official event title] totally drew me,” said Emily Pierce, a San Francisco local who works in real estate marketing. Like most of the attendees, she heard about it through Facebook after seeing people RSVP for the event page.

The show opened with two women clothed in white, doing a robotic dance routine and moonwalking down the runway. The evening’s emcee, local event organizer Mustafa Khan, took the stage clad in a gold suit. He held up his wrists, showing off a Misfit smartwatch that he claimed was emblazoned with Swarovski crystals.

The tone was set.

 A woman in an LED dress takes a turn on the catwalk.
A woman in an LED dress takes a turn on the catwalk.
Carmel DeAmicis / Re/code

Men and women wearing different designers’ lines strutted down the runway. They modeled laser-printed textiles and dresses adorned with lights. They carried purses and sunglasses that displayed words and shapes in LED bulbs, controllable through phone apps. A shirtless man of pudgy build wore a light-up space helmet and little else.

The crowd oohed and ahhed at a collection of 3-D printed masks and hats. The emcee bragged, “This designer sells to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.”

“There was some stuff I’d never ever wear, which I think is a good sign for the fashion legitimacy of the show,” said Liam Hausmann, a content marketer for data science startup Datahug. He looked down at his tech uniform — T-shirt, jeans and an upscale hoodie — and shrugged.

 A shirtless man in a light-up helmet strikes a pose.
A shirtless man in a light-up helmet strikes a pose.
Carmel DeAmicis / Re/code

A group of young men paraded out with sticks attached to a net. Quadcopters, supplied by CopterOptics, hovered over the runway with spandex cat suits hanging from them.

After they departed backstage, the emcee strapped virtual-reality goggles to his face and looked at the crowd. “I’m kinda nervous so I’m looking at you all in your underwear,” he said.

With that, the show was finished.

“I don’t think we saw anything groundbreaking in wearable fashion, but maybe I’m just a cynic,” said Broidy. “It’s not like you’re at New York Fashion Week hanging out with designers and models.”

 The emcee finished the night with a VR set strapped to his face.
The emcee finished the night with a VR set strapped to his face.
Carmel DeAmicis / Re/code

“I saw a lot you could wear to Burning Man,” said Pierce. “But not every day.” She enjoyed the performance aspect of it all but was disappointed there weren’t more technical innovations presented.

Her friend, an online course developer named Kelly Reed, agreed. “Haven’t we known how to strap lights onto dresses for 20 years?” she said.

A man hawking biking jackets with lights strung along the zipper assured me the clothing required tech that might not be that obvious.

“We just patented this stuff last week,” he said.

Carmel DeAmicis / Re/code

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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