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In Milan, Exhibition Aims to Convert Fashion Faithful to New Digital Gospel

In a former Renaissance church, rigged with high-definition screens, infrared sensors and motion-tracking technology, art director Remi Paringaux is challenging the norms of fashion communication.
Post-Exhibition at Ex Chiesa di San Carpoforo in Milan | Source: Post-Exhibition
  • Vikram Alexei Kansara

MILAN, Italy — Fabien Baron has Interview magazine, Ezra Petronio has Self Service, Thomas Lenthal has System. Remi Paringaux, fellow fashion art director and the founder of London-based digital agency Meri Media, has Postmatter: a digital publication, first launched in 2010 as an iPad app, which has since become a website and platform for tech-enabled live events. For the fresh-faced, half-French, half-Japanese Paringaux, 30, whose commercial clients include Gucci and Stella McCartney, the editorial project functions as a kind of laboratory for testing the future of fashion communication, giving rise to ideas that sometimes find their way into his client work.

"Postmatter was originally launched, with the advent of the iPad, to question what was possible for a media brand on that platform. We wanted to approach touchscreen technology with fresh eyes and without the hangover of a print mindset dictating how or why things should be done," explained Paringaux. At a time when many major publishers like Condé Nast were simply repackaging their print content as "digital replica editions" that were fundamentally out of sync with the way people engage online, it was a bold and welcome experiment.

"It allowed us to develop formats, features and interactions that hadn't been done before, as well as proposing new formats to existing clients such as Gucci, Stella McCartney and Comme des Garçons," continued Paringaux. "We needed a laboratory that could be as rich and multi-faceted as the current media landscape. To me, print alone was no longer enough to convey current creative ideas. Digital allows people to get a lot closer to their content: to manipulate and adapt it, and interact with it," Paringaux added. "It also allows engagement with multiple senses: touch, sight, sound, which is obviously very potent. Digital editorial is still very much the 'Wild West' and there's still a lot of room to break new ground."

Now, Paringaux and his team aim to do just that with a live, interactive exhibition starting March 13th that takes "digital editorial away from the page, website or tablet to become a physically immersive experience." Staged in Milan, in a former Renaissance church that has been rigged with high-definition screens, infrared sensors, and motion-tracking technology, the exhibition consists of moving image that will respond in real-time to the presence and actions of the audience. The show is structured around three thematic pieces — Echo, Ripple and Gravity — each promising a different experience.

As for the objective, "there's something great about going to one of the main heartlands of European luxury and fashion, and trying to stir things up with this new vision," said Paringaux. "Standing at the alter of a de-sanctified church using interactive technology to adapt these swirling screens is quite an intoxicating experience."

Indeed, Paringaux isn't shy about his aim to convert attendees, who are expected to include senior figures from Italy's fashion establishment — some of whom remain resistant to new technology, despite the fact that today's luxury consumers are overwhelmingly tech-savvy and spend increasing amounts of time with digital media — to the new gospel.

"Consumers have changed, but the system hasn't and this is definitely down to the will of individual players who are hugely invested in the old world order," he said. "They grew up in a fashion industry that pre-dated the Internet and their skills, mindset, connections, way of operating — it's all wedded to this pre-digital era and they are not going to suddenly vote en masse to make themselves extinct!"

Whether the exhibition sparks a shift in attitudes remains to be seen. "It probably won’t be one thing that creates the change that we're looking for, but the accumulation of lots of smaller things."

Post-Exhibition is at Ex Chiesa di San Carpoforo, 10 Via Marco Formetini, Milan, 14-16 March 2014.

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