I’ve only just walked into “After Hours Fashion Tech,” an exposition on fashion technology at the McCord Museum, when an usher slaps a futuristic white watch on my wrist and a bartender thrusts an almond-lavender gin cocktail into my hand. I’m equipped, buzzed, and ready to maneuver this dense crowd mingling underneath similarly mobile spinning geometric neon lights while DJs pump steady bass heartbeats into the cavernous showspace. Some artist in their underwear is twisting into yoga poses in front of a mirror under muted red lamps. This is the future of fashion, bitches.
The McCord Museum of Social History presented “After Hours Fashion Tech” last Thursday night. The exposition was a one-night-only technological extravaganza highlighting the beginning of the “Printemps Numérique” (Montreal Digital Spring), Montreal’s 2017 theme for the city’s annual slew of summer festivals. Scanning the showspace, I notice that I can get holographically fitted for a bra or, for men, a full suit, which seems slightly incomparable, but whatever. A knee-high shelf in the centre of the room displays half a dozen impossibly high heels designed to look like surf-caught seashells and sparkling cliffs. Some have feminist mantras etched into the heels’ wedges. I immediately wish I had worn heels of my own so that I could easily see over the crowd, to where people are getting fancy mini-burgers.
The ultra-modern aspects of the exhibition stand in sharp contrast to the newest temporary exhibition, the Expo 67 (running until October 2017)—a collection of hostess dresses and other colourful outfits hailing from the year 1967. It’s somewhat unclear how much the interactive elements of tonight are meant to work with the Expo display, but patrons tired of the loud DJ hide deep in the maze of pastel suits, swirling their cocktails. While the exhibit is itself visually lush, to my chagrin, nothing about it is interactive besides a spacesuit-clad mannequin that flushes with LEDs when someone walks in front of a hidden camera in the lapel. I ask for a demonstration, but the museum employee informs me that it’s broken at the moment; remarkably poor timing, considering it’s not a permanent part of the Expo.
Some woman in a virtual reality (VR) headset is stumbling around a cleared semi-circle, using her arms to paint a 3-D dress. I try the headset after her, marvelling at the level of detail in my vaguely dress-like creation. Two minutes later, however, I have to step back to make space for the next Picasso fashionista. Again, I wish that this were a permanent part of the Expo 67 collection, since this Cinderella-esque single night of stylistic innovation would serve a as a greater inspiration for the masses if it could stay.
It seems the primary purpose of this event is networking, given the clusters of tightly packed people clinking glasses and wearing glowing watches, but the friend who accompanied me tells me the usher accidentally registered my synchronized watch under another person named Virginia. I will take time now to apologize to that Virginia for using my watch’s insta-contact-swapping powers to swiftly maneuver an awkward dude in a suit trying to flirt with me. I cut him off—one press of the watch’s single button, and both of our watches light up in apparent synchronization, allowing me to politely leave the conversation. What an unexpectedly awesome side benefit. Please ignore that automatic email from a certain clingy “Claude,” Virginia.
Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that this exposition will not last beyond tonight, as it would be an excellent addition to Expo 67 and no doubt the VR experience would draw visitors. But if this display of technological innovation in fashion is a mere example of what to expect for the festival scene this summer, then the coming months are bound to be exciting and explosively colourful.