Virtual Reality and Fashion

Virtual Reality and Fashion
By Lily Da Huang

A dream crossover that may transform and grow the fashion industry.

In the new Spring/Summer 2017 season, several designers at last Fall’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW) enhanced their consumer experience by introducing virtual reality (VR) technology to their runway shows adding a new layer of consumer experience, and diversity to their brand portfolio.

Last September, fashion lovers joined the real time shows with 13 different brands including Erin Fetherston, Noon by Noor, Lisa N. Hoang, Dan Liu, Namilia, Marissa Webb, Band of Outsiders, Irina Vitjaz, Supima, Misha Collection, Prabal Gurung and Telfar. The live broadcasted runway shows were covered in full stereoscopic virtual reality spectrum. Voke, an Intel technology that helps creating a real time natural viewing environment, powered the experience.

By downloading VOKE’s GearVR app and linking it with a Samsung Gear VR headset, fans could live stream the whole event in 360 degrees in front row seats on their couches. Fashion media such as Refinery 29 created a collection of 360 degrees videos for the seasons’ NYFW. Viewers could also view the 2D version runway shows on the official NYFW website.

The booming of social media has radically transformed the way fashion industry communicates with their consumers in all aspects. Fashion week, which used to be a closed event for buyers, press and other industry insiders are now celebrated as a firsthand marketing spectacle that is increasingly linked to retail sales.

The social media buzz created on the week could contribute immensely to brand revenue, at the same time promoting the brand to an industry’s leadership position. To adapt to the new “see now, buy now” trend, many designers including BurberryTom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger have announced plans to capitalize on the consumer conversations generated by fashion shows.

Virtual reality is the next new step that those avant-garde designers aimed for to place their brand at a leading position. Demand was higher than expected, Voke co-founder and CEO Sankar Jayaram said that he expected only one or two designers would be interested initially.

“It’s groundbreaking for fashion,” he said. “By providing the capability, you have opened up a market of tens of thousands of people who can now have a front row seat. That’s an enormous increase in the visibility for the designer to be able to now say they can have 10,000 people sitting in the front row simultaneously.”

For fashion brands, which depend on selling not only products but also a lifestyle experience, VR holds particular promise, and a number of companies have already been experimenting with the technology. The North Face and 7 For All Mankind have both created VR-enabled films, while Dior and Tommy Hilfiger installed headsets in stores, enabling shoppers to enjoy the pre-recorded catwalk shows.

“Once you have this storytelling medium, where you can put a person in the front seat, there will be some very interesting experiences that will come up in the storytelling," said Jayaram as he envisions the further opportunities to add more capabilities to the experience. In the future, brands would be able to pull up information about products as well as creating supplementing content.

Lily Da Huang is a graduate student at Georgetown University.