Why Designers Are Using Virtual, Augmented Reality at Fashion Week

Augmented reality and virtual reality have long been one of the biggest technology opportunities in fashion, and it looks like the spring ’17 shows mark the season designers embraced VR en masse.

London Fashion Week designers kicked off events using the technology in their shows. At Malone Souliers’ Sept. 18 presentation, the design team incorporated a green screen on the catwalk. The setup allowed guests to walk the runway and be filmed with a pretaped front row featuring designer Mary-Alice Malone and her managing director Roy Luwolt looking on.

Similarly, retailer Lyst tapped an augmented reality audience with a new installation for London Fashion Week. Visitors to the setup could point a tablet at several nude models and virtually dress them. The interactive display was meant to show the power of AR when it comes to picking out clothes at home.

“Fashion as an industry has been flirting with VR, but it hasn’t dived in yet,” Henry Stuart, co-founder and CEO of virtual-reality production company Visualize, told FN earlier this year. “There are such great applications for it: You can immerse someone in a beautiful world filled with these incredible aspirational things. In advertising, you can’t get a more captive audience than with virtual reality.”

Besides being a cool branding experience, virtual reality has major potential for streamlining shopping and allowing people to truly make purchasing decisions online.

Rebecca Minkoff has long been a fan of VR and tested out the technology a few seasons ago. For her Sept. 10 show at New York Fashion Week, Minkoff took her see-now, buy-now collection not just literally to the streets of Soho, but also streamed the show as a virtual reality video. The designer added an augmented reality element to the store allowing women to virtually “try on” the collection online and in store after it had literally walked the runway.

“Our goal was really to strip away the stigma of the industry and give our consumers the ability to come and watch in person or see it live in VR 360. We’ve been breaking the rules our customer, and she likes it,” said Minkoff, the creative director and co-founder of her namesake label.

At New York Fashion Week, Prabal Gurung and Band of Outsiders were among several labels selected to partner with Intel (NYFW’s official technology partner) to create shows that could be streamed with virtual reality app by VR production firm Voke and Samsung headset.

The moves mark a major shift for brands that are looking to help ease the pain points of shopping online (such as deciding whether the silhouette of the shoes or dress you’re eyeing actually works for you and harnessing see-now, buy-now) and also helping to better engage shoppers who can’t make it to the glamorous events like fashion week.

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