A Google Engineer Learns the Fashion Code (The New York Times)

Amit Sood discussed Google’s new fashion archive, We Wear Culture, at his Manhattan office. Credit Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Amit Sood, an engineer at Google, sat in his Manhattan office on a recent afternoon, explaining the tech company’s latest foray into fashion, We Wear Culture. It is an online archive that will appeal to everyone, he said, including his Indian mother, who can learn about the saris she wears, and fans of what he called “high couture.”

“By the way, I learned that word and how to pronounce it recently,” Mr. Sood, the director of the Google Cultural Institute, said. “That’s a big achievement.”

His colleague on the project, Kate Lauterbach, broke in, gently correcting him, “Haute couture.”

“Haute couture, O.K., whatever,” Mr. Sood said. “If you were a big fan of that, you could actually see the most iconic pieces in museum displays.”

We Wear Culture is an expansion of the Google Arts & Culture project, an online platform that Mr. Sood developed in 2011 with high-resolution images of artwork from around the world. The new fashion archive comprises more than 30,000 apparel pieces uploaded from 180 cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, including Coco Chanel’s little black dress and the red heels often worn by Marilyn Monroe.

Until recently, the man who assembled this virtual paradise for style lovers held a dim view of the fashion world. “I would not say I was interested in fashion as a subject,” Mr. Sood said. “I viewed fashion as a slightly elitist area.”

Turning to Ms. Lauterbach, 32, he added: “I didn’t know who invented the black dress until Kate told me. I definitely had to educate myself.”

In his efforts to bring himself up to speed, Mr. Sood, who is in his late 30s, turned to some of the industry’s heavyweights as his guides. He recalled a two-hour meeting with Paul Smith that occurred in a curiosity room the designer maintains in his London office.

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