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What Does Virtual Reality Mean For Fashion?

Joann Khatib discovers what all the buzz is about: virtual reality for the consumer, what it means for fashion and what will happen in the future 

If there is one thing this generation has embraced over the years, it’s the advancement of technology. We are the generation of Instagram, Snapchat and swipe left. Step forward the latest trend: virtual reality (VR).

Interest in this new platform has exploded in the past few years, quite simply because it’s phenomenal: all you have to do is strap on a headset and you’re transported. Climbing mountains in Thailand? No problem. Fighting zombies to save the world? Off you go. Downtime on Mars? Sure. 

So how does it all work? Well, here’s where it gets technical. Virtual reality tricks your brain into believing you are in a 3-D world, by displaying two slightly different angles of the scene to each eye, while a variety of different filming techniques create life-like experiences. 

Virtual reality tricks your brain into believing you are in a 3-D world

For consumers: 

When online shopping became popular, it became quite obvious that the way we buy has changed forever, and it looks likely to change again with VR screens making appearances in a whole host of shops, with several big retailers including Zara, Harvey Nichols and Macy’s trialling smart fitting room technology with interactive mirrors. 

And it doesn’t just relate to clothing. Tech brand Bang & Olufsen has created iPad app BeoHome, where you can place items in your home and see how they would look.  With the recent launch of the much talked about Oculus Rift, a VR headset to use at home, it’s surely only a matter of time before it becomes something everyone has.

“360 video tech is going to become much more accessible for more and more people. People will be shooting and sharing their own user-generated 360,” says Henry Stuart, CEO and co-founder of award-winning London virtual reality production company Visualise. “Realistically, for VR to reach the same kind of penetration as something like TV, we’ve got a few years to go. Goldman Sachs actually predicted that by 2025 the revenue of the VR industry will be bigger than that of TV.” 

For fashion: 

In the world of fashion, VR is moving much faster. Several distinguished brands have integrated this new technology into their catwalk shows. Not only did high street brand Topshop live-stream its London Fashion Week show back in 2014, Tommy Hilfiger allowed customers to watch its 2015 catwalk show in VR in select stores too. Meanwhile, the likes of Balenciaga broadcast its A/W16 show in virtual reality meaning that anyone with a headset, invited or not, could take a front row seat. Hussein Chalayan released a 360-degree video of its show and Dior took it one step further creating Dior Eyes, its very own VR headset. 

More recently, Coach brought its A/W17 runway to VR headsets available to shoppers in select shopping malls globally.  

For the future: 

So what does the future of virtual reality look like? 

“The consumer uptake of VR is not going to be overnight, it’s going to be steadier,” according to Stuart. “When it comes to the future in fashion, we should be able to pause the action on the catwalk, and using a simple gesture, select the outfit and place it in front of us while the background fades away. We’ll be able to explore a photorealistic model of the item from all angles, seeing the details, shape and fit. Another gesture and it’s in your shopping basket, the show fades up and the models start walking again. 

“Another exciting aspect will be immersing customers in the brand. They won’t need to stare up at a billboard of a couple in Belstaff jackets, they can put their headset on and be there with them, taking a unique journey and connecting with the brand on a deeper level.”