Fashion, Tech

#TheDress that Broke the Internet

In the end it wasn’t this dress that broke the Internet.

Kim Kardashian on cover of Paper Magazine

Kim Kardashian on cover of Paper Magazine

As you must know by now, the Internet exploded last Thursday into a heated debate about the colour of #TheDress. Was it white and gold or blue and black? The differing opinions on the colour combinations took over social media at warp speed – over 16 million people shared The Dress article in the first five hours.

The idea that two people could see such wildly different colours in the exact same item shook our collective sense of reality to the bone. Who knew a $90 (CDN) dress could wreak such havoc on the world? #TheDress was mentioned 11 million times on Twitter with celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Anna Farris weighing into the debate. Seemingly every brand piped in hoping for their Oreo/Superbowl moment. Few were memorable, even the UK store Roman Originals who made the dress.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.21.45 AMBut, as Wired magazine noted, this fight is about more than just social media, “it’s about primal biology and the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world.”  So is colour just a matter of personal perception? As with most things in life, context is everything. Colour artist Nathan Fairbairn points out, “Color perception is weird, but the most important thing to remember is that colors don’t exist in a vacuum. Colors are all perceived relative to the tone, value and saturation of the colors around them. Contrast is the key.”

The Dress by Nathan Fairbairn

The Dress by Nathan Fairbairn

Pantone, the global authority on colour, confirmed the dress actually is blue and black. Soon colour could come down to pure chemistry or technology rather than biology. Colour change is just one of the concepts being explored by the fashion tech industry and people like Lauren Bowker.

Bowker recently founded The Unseen, a trio of London fashion designers using chemistry, digital technology and exquisite tailoring to push the boundaries of fashion. Prior to launching the collective, Bowker was developing inks for use in fashion that respond to light, heat and friction, changing colour as the wearer moved.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.52.41 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.52.57 AM

We can envision a time, not far in the future, where #TheDress can be any colour you want.