Picture a world in which you can follow the creative process of your favourite brand, access the backstage, the shows, and even try on pieces. Now imagine you can do all this from your sofa at home.
No, we’re not daydreaming at Porto Fashion Makers. Only a little overexcited with the world of possibilities that new technologies - such as virtual reality - have opened up for fashion.
But let us break this down for you.
© Future Fashion, Westefield
There is no easy way to explain virtual reality to someone who has never tried it - you put this strange device on your face and automatically find yourself entering a new, exciting reality, one where anything is possible.
It all started in 2012, when the prototype for the Oculus Rift headset was developed, after having raised 2,4 million dollars in Kickstarter, a funding platform. The device was presented as ‘the first totally immersive headset for videogames’, but it soon took on other features.
We cannot, however, refer to this technology as totally innovative. Its origins go back to inventions such as Morton Heilig’s Sensorama (1950) or, more recently, Sega’s VR glasses (1993) and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy (1995). The difference is that now, faster processors, sharper monitors and more precise tracking sensors, allow for their constant enhancement.
Still in need of help understanding the process? Virtual reality offers a feeling of immersion in a three-dimensional world, by means of a computer, console or smartphone and a headset that holds the device in front of your eyes. The more complete the device being used, the greater the user’s ‘sense of being’. Besides the Oculus Rift, you can currently also find the Samsung Gear VR, the HTC Vive, the Sony PlayStation VR, the Google Cardboard, the Microsoft HoloLens and the Meta 2 in the market.
Pioneer in adopting technology, Topshop launched a competition, in 2014, allowing six winners to watch, in real time, the brand’s show in the London Fashion Week. The ‘experiment’ took place in its Oxford Street shop, using the Oculus Rift device.
Tommy Hilfiger followed suit, and the following year, it used the Samsung Gear VR to ‘transport’ a group of guests from 5th Avenue to the runway. The same happened at Rebecca Minkoff, right after launching a fashionista version of the Google Cardboard. The summer of that very year, Dior launched Dior Eyes.
© Ida Klamborn
These first experiences were limited to just a few consumers, but predictions are that access will quickly be democratized. This February, over the course of Stockholm Fashion Week, Swedish designer Ida Klamborn made it happen. Three robots sat in the event’s first row, filmed and broadcasted the collection’s presentation live to all Google Cardboard users.
Despite the interest of the fashion industry in making use of virtual reality being, clearly, on the rise, this ‘relationship’ is not yet relevant in the national industry. Even at an international scale, its use is embrionary, as many of the possibilities lie beyond fashion shows. If, on the one hand, the technology is far from being perfect, on the other hand, brands are still learning how to explore RV to improve consumers’ experience.
© Desfile Jason Wu na NYFW
In the near future brands are expected to create exclusive services and contents for this media, such as interactive events that allow for a full lifelike experience, virtual shops that allow consumers to shop anywhere or 3D avatars for whom virtual wardrobes can be created.
In the unpredictable coming together of the forces of fashion and virtual reality, the difficulty lies only in knowing where to draw the line.