It’s hard to find someone who is less of a Luddite than SHOWstudio founder Nick Knight. “We’ve never been able to communicate as a species before like this. So it’s kind of an exciting time,” Knight says of the panoply of apps, filters, and gadgets now available to us. He spoke to the Cut about how SHOWstudio was an early adopter of many technologies, and the ones on the horizon he’s most excited about.
For the 2001 video “Sweet” (above), Knight and stylist Jane How re-created some of their favorite runway looks out of candy and cupcake wrappers and doilies, and documented the results using a 3-D scanner. Knight calls the result “fashion sculpture.” He took the idea to its logical extension with a video last year, titled “The Elegant Universe,” where he scanned the season’s couture pieces.
“It’s hard to believe [these] images were shot on an iPhone,” mused Cara Delevingne of Knight’s Instagram-based photo shoot for the site back in 2012. It’s hard to remember such an innocent time; Instagram has accelerated to the point where, now, professional photographers see it as just part of their tool kit. But only three years ago, it was novel. “Using your phone as a way of creating imagery — it’s so exciting,” muses Knight. “It frees you up physically. You can move in a more exciting way around your subject and with your subject. When you’ve got a camera on a tripod, you get these rather formal approaches to people.” Knight sees it as another innovation in the history of photography: “The physical performance of a fashion image-maker is an incredibly important part of it,” he says. “You see photographs of Avedon jumping with Twiggy. He was such a dynamic photographer.”
“J-Walk,” a video starring Miss J Alexander (also known as Naomi Campbell’s runway coach), documents Alexander’s signature runway strut using motion-capture technology.
What did we do before GIFs allowed us to express our excitement or deliver side-eyes without speaking a word? Knight was early to harness the power of moving images in a comic-book-style shoot he did with Lindsey Wixson, complete with text by Perez Hilton.
SHOWstudio began livestreaming its shoots early on, and famously simulcast Alexander McQueen’s spring 2010 show “Plato’s Atlantis.” But since the practice was then in its infancy, it was an uphill battle to sell the designer on it. “If you listen to an interview I did as part of ‘Unseen McQueen,’ you can hear me trying to convince him to go live with his shows on the internet, and it took me two or three seasons to get him to say, ‘Okay, I want to broadcast my shows live,’” recalls Knight. “Nobody else was at all. There were like two or three other people doing it.” Thanks to an assist from Lady Gaga, who premiered “Bad Romance” at the show, the livestream basically broke the internet at the time. Says Knight, “the fashion world finally worked it out: ‘Christ, millions of people want to see this.’ Why are the fashion shows just 200 or 300 people — who all look bored, incidentally — when I know there are thousands of people out there who would love to go and see a Thierry Mugler show, or a Gaultier show or a Yohji Yamamoto show?”
And Next … Holograms?
Knight is bullish on 3-D imaging: “It’s not very long before you’ll be able to project Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss walking up and down in a piece of clothing so you can see her life-size. Those things are not far-off.”
Fashion for Robots?
“We’re looking at AI, artificial intelligence, which I think is an incredibly exciting area. A friend told me that 55 percent of all internet traffic is actually done by bots. So if our audience is mostly not human, then we should start to in some way engage with that. Let’s do fashion imagery for robots, then! Let’s see what artificial intelligence makes of it.”