It’s in the name: Where sights and sounds take you to a realistic virtualised 360° computer operated world. Oculus, Sony, Microsoft and Samsung have taken virtual reality into their own hands, creating a diverse selection of headsets with this experience. Used not only for gaming purposes but also for medical training and mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorders. In the world of fashion, many businesses have started funding this technology and research for a future with interactive Fashion Weeks all over the world, available to everyone, and different shopping experiences including virtual fashion stores and even virtual fitting rooms.
Oculus created one of the first Virtual Reality headsets available for consumers, Oculus Rift was released in March this year. The company is now owned by Facebook, since 2014, and has also partnered with Samsung to design the Samsung Gear VR. These may look unusual and bulky but they are some of the best virtual reality headsets around at the moment. The technology advancement for these headsets is comparable to that of the original smartphones “before the release of the iPhone in 2007”, states Forbes – Fast moving but we are still at the beginning of virtual reality series.
Topshop Unique was one of the first fashion businesses to exhibit their catwalk show in virtual reality view. They sat customers in the Oxford Street window of the shop wearing Oculus Rift headsets as they watched the Autumn Winter 2014 collection. This was a couple of years ago yet only recently have more fashion houses used Virtual Reality with catwalk and brand advertisement. The Topshop runway itself was set at the Tate Modern, the 3D spectacle showed not only the collection itself but the front row and upper levels of the building.
Fashion house Christian Dior was the next to develop a virtual reality headset. The completely 3D printed headset, Dior Eyes, featured in the brand’s Spring Summer 2016 Ready-To-Wear collection with then creative director Raf Simons. The 360° vision and audio headset shows not only the collection at Fashion Week but also backstage prior to the catwalk and showcasing the new range of Dior Show makeup. The Dior and DigitaLBi collaboration will be available in shops from June 2016. Similar in shape to the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headset, however these will have the ‘Dior’ logo at the front of the glasses, which will illuminate when the glasses are in use.
Back to the catwalk, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia showcased Mirror to the Soul: A 360° video of backstage, catwalk and after-show footage available for the worldwide audience, not only Fashion Week moguls. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia chose the New York based company, YouVisit as the platform to present the 3D video. This virtual reality fashion scene shows the several designers’ collections from Fashion Week but also interviews with Fashion Director of Kabuki Paris Elina Halimi, runway model Anastasia Sergutko and Fashion Illustrator Jae Suk Kim. Founder and President of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia Alexander Shumsky said, “I truly believe that VR could leverage the communication part of the fashion industry. It could provide fashion show experience in detail to customers who never attended Fashion Week.” Everyone is able to watch the video on YouTube, however the full experience of Mirror to the Soul, is only available through the suitable headset, like the Oculus Rift. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia are planning to launch a virtual reality lookbook to display collections quickly and effectively.
Balenciaga and Hussein Chalayan are the first prominent fashion houses that have decided to translate the conventional runway show into 360° virtual reality which is available online or as an app. For Demna Gvasalia’s debut for Balenciaga as creative director, the brand created a free custom app that enabled viewers to watch the Fashion Paris Week show through a virtual reality vehicle. This particular app had no e-commerce attached with the app and the brand itself. The reason for this is that Balenciaga and many other brands are opposing the concept of ‘buy now, see now’.
Creative director Hussein Chalayan of the Chalayan brand partnered with the Swarovski Group and created an embellished collection named Teutonic. Teutonic is available in 360° for everyone to view online. Featured at Paris Fashion Week, the Pre Fall 2016 collection was revealed from all angles and showed German inspired leather co-ordinations alongside gimmick ponytail earrings and a body chain/choker combo consisting of purely embellished letters and numbers. “I’m excited about it because it gives the viewer an experience removed from both space and time”, stated Chalayan on the subject of virtual reality with DazedDigital.
Previously, Polo Ralph Lauren exhibited a 4D holographic Spring Summer 2015 catwalk show in Central Park during New York Fashion Week. The video images of the models were projected on The Lake, creating a unique wave texture to the show. Many thought the clothes were too simplistic and repetitive and all the focus was positioned on how the collection was to be displayed.
Louis Vuitton, has entered the virtual reality world in an alternative way – through Anime character, Lightning. She has featured in the Spring Summer 2016 advertisement, wearing and styling Vuitton garments and bags. Quoting Nicolas Ghesquiere, creative director at Louis Vuitton, “Lightning is the perfect avatar for a global, heroic woman and for a world where social media and communications are now seamlessly woven into our life”,
On the high street, virtual reality is taking shopping to the next level, possibly changing the traditional physical shopping experience forever. A collaboration with luxury boutique The Line and digital platform SapientNitro has resulted in the opening of a shop in Manhattan called The Apartment. This virtual reality shop allows you to look at the items through a different perspective, the perspective being the Samsung Gear VR headsets. You are able to view them in different colours, sizes and even in your own home.
The new trend for fashion stores is the virtual reality changing rooms. Though more augmented than virtual reality, the changing rooms take real life into consideration with the computer technology simply being placed on top. The computerised world recognises certain features of real life, such as the way you move your head. Zugara is the company providing this augmentative technology. They have partnered with companies like Barbie, Ted Baker and PayPal who are all using this innovative shopping experience. However, for the high street these are not expected to be commonplace anytime soon, but something to certainly look forward to.
Virtual reality is a very swift-moving technology with several high quality headsets available to you now. Nevertheless when it comes to fashion and virtual reality shopping the wait is sadly longer. The technology is expensive and many high street shops may find this shopping experience too costly or even trivial. Still, make sure to look out for virtual reality being utilised next time you go shopping – you may find glimpses of it you wouldn’t have recognised before!