Welcome to the age of the super-robot.
With their impossible proportions, thousand-yard stares and supernatural ability to walk in five inch heels, catwalk models often appear a different species to regular humans.
But it was the models, including Kate Moss’s daughter Lila, who played the role of vulnerable, flesh and blood creatures at the Coperni fashion show in Paris, where they shared the stage with five robots. Coperni partnered with Boston Dynamics for the first fashion show in which robots, rather than models, were the star turn.
As the lights went down, four pairs of green eyes began to flash in the darkness. When the “Spots” – Boston Dynamic’s robot canines, in tarantula stripes of yellow and black – stalked into the room there was an audible collective intake of breath as each creature seemed to lock eyes with, and approach, an audience member. The room took on an air of menace, as if in the grip of five modern day Hounds of the Baskervilles.
Models emerged to share the stage with the Spots, but not even the most magnetic could hope to be as compelling a watch as a robot’s spring-loaded feline grace and unblinking, emerald gaze. A human and a model approached each other, appeared to make friends, and the Spot helped her take her coat off. Another robot picked up and carried a model’s handbag for her.
The show was “a modern fable”, reconfiguring Jean de la Fontaine’s 17th century poem The Wolf And The Lamb into a story about power relationships between humans and robots, the Coperni designers said after the show.
Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, the duo behind the company, travelled to Boston to meet the creators of the world’s most advanced robots. Vaillant said Boston Dynamics was “the first robot company who signed a charter that they would never give weapons to robots, the first who sent robots to Ukraine to clear dangerous bomb sites”.
He added: “Ours is a positive message, that humans and technology can live together in harmony.” He said, however, that the first time he encountered a Spot, he found it an uncomfortable experience. “But now, I think they are just beautiful.” Coperni is a brand obsessed with technology, which last season broke the internet by spraying a dress out of a can straight on to the model Bella Hadid’s body during their show.
Catwalk convention dictates that as soon as the models have left the runway and the designer taken a bow, the audience scrambles for the exit. But with five robots still staring out from the stage, the room remained in stillness and silence long after Meyer and Vaillant had disappeared backstage. Whether this was out of nerves, or the lack of an etiquette guide for interactions with robots, was not immediately clear. Eventually the robots were joined by the handlers who had been directing the choreography from backstage, and the crowd breathed a sigh of relief. Soon after, in true supermodel style, the robots were besieged by fans requesting selfies.