Perhaps it’s the moment when the likes of Marc Jacobs and Valentino flocked to dress the avatars on Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or when San Francisco-based businessman Richard Ma spent USD9,500 on a digital dress for his wife that the realization of virtual fashion is becoming, well, a reality.
Ever since the beginning of 2020, the forced behavioral change from pandemic-induced lockdowns has surely alarmed the brands to realize that physical events can no longer be the sole platform for customer engagement. Interactive, immersive digital experiences are the future of live events – whether in augmented analogue experiences or pure-play digital events.
Fashion as we understand, too, has been adopting the “phygital” strategy whereby real life and digital experiences are further blended. Earlier this year, for instance, Balmain dove into the fantastical mind of brand director Olivier Rousteing through Oculus VR headsets; Chanel’s Virginie Viard rolled out her Cruise collection virtually in June; Italian fashion house Gucci has introduced augmented reality technology that allows customers to virtually try on its shoes on Snapchat; and Australian design duo Ralph & Russo used artificial intelligence to create an avatar to present their new collection. This boom in the new medium doesn’t come unexplained: according to Fortune Business Insight, the global virtual reality market size is expected to reach US120.5 billion by 2026.
Verizon Media Premiered the First-of-Its-Kind Virtual Reality Fashion Exhibition
The Fabric of Reality, by RYOT – Verizon Media’s Emmy Award®-winning immersive storytelling production house – is a new era of fashion shows using virtual reality as a platform for designers to tell stories in new ways to drive radical change. This immersive fashion show is done in partnership with Kaleidoscope, a funding and networking platform for immersive art, entertainment and VR artists; the Museum of Other Realities (MOR), a virtual museum that houses interactive, experimental VR projects by artists who are already breaking new ground and creating eye-opening works with this novel technology; and the Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London
Premiered in the UK on July 29, The Fabric of Reality created an immersive platform for fashion and tech aficionados to experience the visions of the three up-and-coming designers. Featured on the runway were Sabinna, Charli Cohen and Damara, whose designs were transformed into digital garments by the likes of VR artists including Anand Duncan, John Orion Young (JOY), Sutu and Vladimir Ilic. These virtual masterpieces all aimed to inspire viewers to rethink fashion as not just physical garments they’d choose to go to work or a party, but statements that transcend realms, interact with the space within we breathe, and, of course, sing artistic expressions.
Viewers at the show appeared as avatars and ghosts of varying shapes and sizes. They first enter the show on a winding purple carpet towards the exhibition hall, in which guests could speak and interact with other visitors; wear the three designers’ sculptural pieces in the exhibition room and venture into each project’s “Storyworld”, with accompanying unique audio and lighting. This Museum of Other Realities exhibition is also available on devices like the HTC Vive Cosmos for the next 12 months.
Virtual Reality is the New Reality
While brands are still trying to transform its messages from “storytelling” to “story living” by incorporating the viewer as a part of the overall interactive experience, they must first truly understand that virtual fashion isn’t just a temporary product of forced behavioural change, but it’s a medium that’s here to stay for a plethora of benefits. Namely, not only does it open up the opportunity for a myriad jaw-dropping moment for the brand to convey and communicate their messages, but it will also – and most importantly – democratise conventional front-row seats and VIP backstage passes to experiences that everyone can watch in the comforts of their pyjamas.
Vice versa, as the world for shoppers are widened, so does the palette for creators as technologies continue to broaden, giving them unimaginable horizons to express their creativity and their brand identity in ways that we have never thought of before.
As 5G allows almost instant, real-time digital interactions, as well as smaller device form-factors like AR/VR glasses that don’t need computers inside them, XR experiences will grow exponentially. As a part of Verizon Media’s broader XR programme dubbed Verizon Media Immersive, its latest fashion show with MoR hopes to open up a world of possibilities for the future of fashion and other live events, along with bringing inspiration and enjoyment to fashion and tech connoisseurs all around the world.
The Fabric of Reality is just our first step.