Big tech showed up at New York Fashion Week - but I'm not so sure it's going to stick

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Christian SirianoJOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

  • Software company SAP unveiled its Runway App at Christian Siriano's show during New York Fashion Week on Sat., Feb. 9.
  • The app offers in-person showgoers and at-home viewers the ability to "like" and "love" looks as they debut down the runway, while also giving designers live feedback of each look.
  • But aside from seeing a description of each look as it makes its way down the runway, the longterm appeal of such an app for consumers seems uncertain. SAP's Runway App only offers a "favorite" feature right now - which seems no different than favoriting a photo saved to your camera roll.
  • The company said it may include a "see now, buy now" feature in the future, which would increase the app's consumer appeal.

How compatible are fashion and tech?

It's a question that's been increasingly asked as both billion-dollar industries eye potential ways to cash in on the other. Upon first glance, it may seem obvious the two are interwoven: iPhones line the front rows of fashion shows now more than ever before.

At Christian Siriano's runway show Saturday during New York Fashion Week, we saw the pairing in full force ... kind of.

The designer, from Project Runway fame, teamed up with global software giant SAP to feature a "live-voting" app, where attendees and remote viewers could "like" and "love" the various looks in real-time.

Siriano's show at 30 Rockefeller Plaza drew celebrities, influencers, and industry elites. Before taking the elevator 67 stories up to The Top of the Rock, where the show was held, attendees passed SAP employees handing out flyers for the Runway App. Many just walked right on by, totes and tiny sunglasses in tow.

A few days before the show, 360-degree photos are taken of each look (Siriano had 57), which helps the app's machine-learning tools recognize the outfits through a phone's camera as they come down the runway day of. The app then prompts the user to give it a thumbs up or a heart.

As of right now, there is no "see now, buy now" feature, though SAP sees it as a potential asset later.

Yet, it's what the app offers to designers that may be its best quality: Designers can also use the Runway App to go back and review the feedback data to determine what could work in department stores as consumers head to the racks. According to SAP, the app helps "brands to increase margins by understanding what's loved in real-time and avoid investment in unpopular designs."

The primary capacity of SAP's Runway App for users is the favoriting feature. But how is that any different than taking a photo of a look that stands out to you?

The app is attempting to break a convention already set in stone, one rather already simplistic nonetheless, in the fashion world: the camera function. Why go through an app when you can merely swipe left on your iPhone's home screen? A fashionista's camera roll is already a collection of her favorites. Without the "see now, buy now" option, the app's appeal to the average runway attendee seems uncertain.

Not to mention, SAP's Runway App design is rather primitive in nature and battery-draining: I had to quickly shift to low-battery mode during Siriano's show while using the app and ended up with 1% at the end. For someone attending more than one show, this would be a buzzkill.

Similar to how the fashion houses experiment with new looks during fashion week, SAP seems to be doing the same thing with its software - trying to better understand how to appeal to consumers while helping out the businesses behind the experience. The company did not immediately respond when asked how many people used the app during Siriano's show Saturday.

Whether stars like Christina Hendricks, Mariska Hargitay, or Deborah Messing, who were in attendance, were using the Runway App is unknown... but seems unlikely. Unlike the rest of the attendees, their phones remained relatively out of sight.

Take a look at how SAP's Runway App works:

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View As: One Page Slides

After you've downloaded the Runway App, you are greeted with a page featuring designers SAP has partnered with. This past Saturday, the only designer listed was Christian Siriano, with whom the app was debuted.

After you've downloaded the Runway App, you are greeted with a page featuring designers SAP has partnered with. This past Saturday, the only designer listed was Christian Siriano, with whom the app was debuted.

At the bottom there are 2 options: Runway Camera and View Collection. If you are in the audience, you can open the Runway Camera.

As the show begins, the app's camera function surfaces looks that come down the runway with its machine-learning algorithm. The app then prompts a pop-up — a thumbs up or heart accompanied by a description of the outfit.

As the show begins, the app's camera function surfaces looks that come down the runway with its machine-learning algorithm. The app then prompts a pop-up — a thumbs up or heart accompanied by a description of the outfit.

The "like" and "love" feedback can be immediately accessed by the designer. Users can also take photos that are then saved in the app's camera roll.

Once a look has made its runway debut, photos begin to populate in the "View Collection" tab on the show's home screen.

Once a look has made its runway debut, photos begin to populate in the "View Collection" tab on the show's home screen.

Here you can "like" and "love" looks you may have missed while they were coming down the runway. The collection is then made permanently available inside the app for viewing even after the end of the show.

Here is an example of a picture taken through SAP's Runway App.

Here is an example of a picture taken through SAP's Runway App.

And then what it looked like on the 'View Collection' tab after hitting the 'Tap for More' prompt.

And then what it looked like on the 'View Collection' tab after hitting the 'Tap for More' prompt.

SAP's Runway App is available for iPhone and iPad users and can be found in the App Store.

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