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TechBarbie or TechBaby?

TechBarbie or TechBaby?

If you’ve been following the couture runway shows taking Paris by storm, it’ll be no surprise to you that this blog post is dedicated to Schiaparelli’s robot baby. If you have no idea what a robot baby is or who Schiaparelli is, I’ll get you caught up. 

Schiaparelli is a French fashion house, founded in 1927 in Paris by Elsa Schiaparelli. The brand has never shied away from surrealism and eccentric looks. They focus on unconventional artistic choices that often play on the human body and existence. 

Flash forward to January 22, 2024; Schiaparelli’s latest couture show is in full swing, when model, Maggie Maurer, graces the runway carrying a large robot baby close to her chest. This isn’t an ordinary baby doll on her hip. It’s composed entirely of recycled technology from old cellphones, calculators, motherboards, CDs, and other forgotten technology that’s now considered outdated in the modern age of technological advancement. Schiaparelli succeeds in adding glamour and sparkle to what would otherwise be seen as tech waste or trash. Silver and green electronic panels compliment the pearl-lined circuit boards, while other broken cables and wires intertwine with thousands of Swarovski crystals, beautifully accessorizing the robot baby. 

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Moreover, the connection to technology in this show doesn’t end there. A stunning, high-tech cocktail dress was a hit on the runway, with the nickname, The Mother. Imagine a motherboard that’s been transformed into a gorgeous piece of clothing covered in other pieces of technology to create impeccable shape and texture. From far away the look is an immaculately constructed dress, adorned with green and silver accents, but when you look closely, you’ll spot calculators, old cell phones, and microchips repurposed and embellished with pearls and crystals. 

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Daniel Roseberry, the creative director of the Schiaparelli fashion house, reminisces in the show’s notes, “Now, the technology I grew up with is so antiquated that it’s almost as difficult to source as certain vintage fabrics and embellishments.” For this reason, Roseberry elected to take a risk and deliver something that captured how far we’ve come technologically over the last decade while keeping his finger perfectly on the pulse of pop culture with the resurgence of the Y2K style. 

Social media is currently obsessed with the comeback of the Y2K fashion and lifestyles, originally made popular by important figures in the year 2000. People are breaking out their old iPod Nanos and purchasing digital cameras to invoke the nostalgic feelings of a simpler life pre-iPhone. 

Roseberry perfectly seized the opportunity to repurpose what the unknowing eye would cast away as waste, and turn it into something relevant and beautiful, something part human and part machine. This can also be translated into a statement on how technology consumes our lives and imbeds itself into humanity through the fast-growing presence of AI. 

Now, I understand “The Mother” dress symbolizes both a motherboard for technology and the mother of the robot baby… but why a robot baby? The answer is simpler than you may think. Roseberry admits that this is an allusion to the character, Ripley and their robot baby in the movie franchise, Alien. 

However, there’s a more profound explanation for why the robot baby and “The Mother” dress are key elements of this show. I believe that Schiaparelli is subliminally hinting at the transition “to an inhuman, robot-powered existence” caused by an overreliance on AI as we move towards an uncertain future. 

Here, Schiaparelli triumphs in wowing their audience with a collection of couture fashions that commands attention on the runway, while sparking conversations about our consumption and perceptions of technology. We tend to obsess over the latest technology and the pressure to always be innovating until the trends reverse, and it’s out with the new and in with the old to achieve the vintage aesthetic. Schiaparelli’s show not only celebrates past technologies creatively but also challenges the way we view technology in reference to both fashion and humanity. 

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