Google Delves Into Fashion

An engineer at Google sat in his Manhattan office just recently, describing the tech company’s most recent venture into fashion, We Wear Culture. It is an internet archive which will appeal to everyone, he said, including his Indian mother, who will learn about the saris she wears or about the sales on shoes online, and lovers of what he called “high couture”, a phrase which the engineer only recently learned since tech and fashion have rarely met in the past, and never at Google.

His colleague On the job, Kate Lauterbach, broke in, gently correcting him “Haute couture.”, the engineer responded to Kate stating that if she indeed, was a huge fan of couture, then she may actually find the most iconic pieces on display plinths in museum and exhibition spaces.


‘We Wear Culture’ is a growth of the Google Arts and Culture project, an internet platform which Amit Sood developed in 2011 with high-resolution pictures of art from around the globe. The newest fashion archive comprises over 30,000 apparel items from 180 cultural institutions’ exhibition installations such as those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, such as Coco Chanel’s little black dress and the red heels worn by Marilyn Monroe.

Until recently, the guy who assembled this virtual paradise for fashion lovers held a dim view of the fashion world, it was never an interest of the engineers, and stored it away as a subject for the elite and highly talented, he wasn’t even aware of Chanel’s black dress, let alone any of the current trends and history in fashion.

In his attempts to bring himself up to speed, Mr. Sood, who’s in his late 30s, turned into a few of the industry’s heavyweights as his guides. He embarked on a two-hour meeting with Paul Smith that happened in a ‘curiosity room’ the designer asserts in his London office, to Amit’s surprise, Paul Smith was actually ecstatic with the ‘We Wear Culture’ idea, stating that fashion most definitely has an online presence, but the digital content is scattered across the web in an array of unstructured data that desperately needed some organisation. Sorting data was something Amit knew plenty about.

Natalie Massenet, the creator of Net-a-Porter, told Mr. Sood he couldn’t simply upload amazing photos of clothing as he’d planned; he needed to see garment workshops and talk to curators to find the stories behind their creation, and, as if making a pilgrimage to the Mount Olympus of style, Mr. Sood met with Anna Wintour, who steered him toward her friend Andrew Bolton, the head curator of the Met’s Costume Institute.


Mr. Sood has come a long way. For instance, he now knows what a dandy actually means, it originates from this British man named Theo Blu-mel or something he said.


For all his charming bumbling on the topic, Mr. Sood could be more of a dedicated follower of fashion than he lets on. He has gone to Tokyo 14 times by his count and can name-check Japanese designers such as Chitose Abe and Junya Watanabe.


At a splashy party Google recently held in the Met to unveil the We Wear Culture archive, Mr. Sood wore a linen blazer by Junya Watanabe, topped off with men’s dress shoes from the British legacy brand Edward Green. He also managed not to break into hives when he conversed with Ms. Wintour. Using the Archive he helped produce, Mr. Sood was able to immerse himself in fashion’s details. Most recently, he analysed lace and discovered that lace isn’t just for women, men can wear lace too.