Clothing designers and retailers are using alluring new technologies to entrance fashionistas, spark AR and VR couture trends and help everyone find styles with the perfect fit.
The next staple in fashion is less likely to be a new take on the little black dress than it is a little black headset.
With augmented and virtual reality breaking into the mainstream, fashion industry innovators are turning to these technologies to bring their creative visions to life.
“This new space — VR — truly requires out-of-the-box thinking,” said Ruvan Wijesooriya, fashion photographer and creator of “Unstitched,” a VR-powered video that takes viewers behind the scenes of a high-fashion cover shoot.
At the Photo Shoot
With its pulsating soundtrack, attractive subjects and playful edits, Wijesooriya’s “Unstitched” could pass as a stylish, high-energy music video.
With just the click of a mouse or the turn of a head, however, viewers can see the full studio space, lighting rigs and crew.
The final project was released in a variety of forms. A print magazine cover story for Iceland’s version of Glamour appeared on several social media outlets as flat-screen and 360-degree videos. Then there was the full VR experience.
“It’s an amazing creative process to make work directed for multiple media outputs simultaneously,” said Wijesooriya. “Being multi-disciplinary allows me to translate my work into VR in the most interesting ways.”
On the Runway
Acclaimed fashion house Dior used a sleek, custom-built VR headset known as Dior Eyes to grant shoppers at select Dior boutiques virtual access to one of the most exclusive areas in fashion: backstage at a runway show.
Touted as “the world’s first combination of VR imagery technologies and sound recording in 360 degrees,” Dior Eyes was created at DigitasLBi France. It includes video and audio from backstage at one of Dior’s ready-to-wear fashion shows.
The 100 percent 3D-printed VR headset features a smartphone with a high-density screen and a custom-built VR app that can render 360-degree audio and video. The sound for Dior Eyes was recorded live using a binaural microphone.
No one testing out Dior Eyes will ever be asked who they’re wearing either — a backlit Dior logo powered by an electronic board and a Lithium battery is emblazoned across the front of the headset, ensuring the innovative device is also on brand.
At the Department Store
“The virtual reality store is a glimpse into the future possibilities of shopping,” said Mark Cripsey, Myer’s Chief Digital and Data Officer.
To access the store, users download the eBay Virtual Reality Department Store app and then insert their phone into a VR viewer. The company offered up 15,000 free custom cardboard viewers, Shopticals, specifically for use with the app.
Shoppers navigate the store using eBay Sight Search, a new technology that allows them to browse and buy items using only their eyes. By holding their gaze on an item, users can see details about it, such as price and availability, look at it from multiple angles and place it in their shopping cart.
Myer’s products, prices and availability are updated in real time.
“[That’s] a first for VR experiences globally,” said eBay Senior Director Retail Innovation Steve Brennen. “This particular type of code has not been written before.”
The store also adapts to users’ choices, showing them more options based on past interests.
In the Future
While VR puts viewers in a situation separate from their current environment, augmented reality blends digital elements with existing reality. In the case of N O R M A L S’ AR-powered “future fiction” project, APPAREL, that digital element is a new outfit reflecting a user’s social media activity.
After the APPAREL app is linked to a user’s Twitter profile, its data-mining algorithm looks at factors such as recurring keywords, frequency of posting and number of followers. Those variables determine the look of that user’s digital garb, which can be viewed on a digital model online, on a printable AR target or on a physical APPAREL cape at an interactive installation.
According to the N O R M A L S team, the user’s data is turned into 3D garments that “represent an aspect of one’s personality or a personal interest, with a ‘web twist.’” And the resulting fashions are likely to turn heads.
“If you tweet a lot about animals or pets, your APPAREL will grow hair, while if you tweet a lot about sports, you will grow huge polygonal muscles,” explained the N O R M A L S team, referring to the “web twist.” “In a sense, you end up wearing your own avatar, the ‘you on steroids’ that may not exist beyond social networking platforms.”
When asked what’s next, Brennen said to prepare for the perfect fit.
“We are looking forward to a time where a shopper will scan their measurements and share them with a retailer so that a totally accurate representation of themselves will exist within the virtual store,” he said.
That time may be closer than many realize. The MemoMi MemoryMirror, powered by an Intel Core i7 processor, helps shoppers track and remember all the items they tried on. It stores 360-degree images of each item. The shopper can then use the smart mirror to help reassess previous outfits without having to put it on a second or third time.
The smart mirror is one of many new smart shopping devices popping up in stores across the country. Customers can digitally scan their bodies using Intel RealSense technology and create a custom Brooks Brothers shirt. Those looking for shoes at Nordstrom have the opportunity to use the store’s precise foot scanning solution to find the perfect pair.
This new technology goes to show that even if the little black headset is giving the little black dress some heated competition, every fashionista knows it’s still all about the right shoes.