IBM’s Watson Helped Fashion House Marchesa Design a ‘Cognitive Dress’ for the Met Gala

Data meets couture

IBM's Watson is set to make a splash on one of fashion's biggest stages: the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual gala. IBM teamed up with design house Marchesa to create an interactive dress, which will debut tonight on the Met's red carpet alongside fashion luminaries and celebrities including co-chairs Anna Wintour, Taylor Swift and Idris Elba.

The theme of this year's Met Gala, "Manus x Machina," explores fashion in the age of technology, making the Watson tie-in a perfect fit. "The theme is all about technology and humans working together, and technology helping humans be more creative, which is what Watson does," Ann Rubin, vp of branded content and global creative at IBM, told Adweek.

The dress is designed to show how Watson is giving artists and designers new avenues to approach creative thinking. To design the dress, Marchesa first selected five key human emotions it wanted the garment to convey: joy, passion, excitement, encouragement and curiosity. IBM Research input that data into its cognitive color design tool, feeding Watson hundreds of images of Marchesa dresses in order to learn the brand's color palette. The dress, which has LED lights embedded in it, will change colors in real time based on emotions as the public conversations around the Met Gala unfold on Twitter. Ogilvy & Mather developed the creative work for the effort, including the campaign videos, social media efforts, behind-the-scenes and red carpet photography, and influencer-generated content. 

"It's hard for people to really experience our brand because Watson is very complex," Rubin said. "This is a nice way to show Watson in action." Rubin would not reveal who will be modeling the dress tonight. 

IBM previously has featured celebrities like Bob Dylan, Ridley Scott and Stephen King in its Watson ads to highlight the supercomputer's role in solving business problems by connecting data to music, storytelling and entertainment.

"Using celebrities gets people into a frame of reference really quickly and helps them understand complicated technology," Rubin said. "We want people to understand that cognitive technology is influencing every industry. It's a creative and fun way to show Watson in the real world."