At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the worlds of fashion and virtual reality have much in common, except for Cher Horowitz’s (still awesome) closet. But over the past several years, fashion publications and brands, alike, have been adapting VR technologies across every environment, including couture shows and retail showrooms. The fashion landscape is quickly evolving. With the help of bloggers and social media platforms, fashion fans from around the world - including those who may not even be able to afford designer duds - can explore collections from the confines of their own home. Today, smartphones are the most important fashion accessory. For an industry steeped in exclusivity, virtual technology is breaking down all barriers between the high fashion crowd and the masses.
Designers know that most of their customers will never score a highly coveted ticket to their seasonal collections. While the intrigue that swirled around Fashion Week used to be enough to entice customers, designers today know that they have to offer more unique and personalized interactions.The past several fashion seasons have seen more brands lifting the veil on their collections through social media content promotion, but even social media falls short on delivering truly transportive experiences. With more access to brands and choices, brand loyalty is a thing of the past. If brands don’t cater to customers’ content demands, they risk losing them altogether.
This past season, several designers brought their collections from the runways to the stores through VR. As Topshop was showing its 2016 collection to the top fashion editors and bloggers in London, it’s customers were also experiencing the runway show from the brand’s flagship Oxford store. Equipped with VR sets, Topshop customers were able to see the presentation unfold in real-time; virtual reality gave them up-close access to the models and designs and subsequently, made them feel as connected to the brand as the editors who were physically at the presentation. Rebecca Minkoff also experimented with VR at her S/S 2017 showing, and additionally enabling fans to virtually shop the collection immediately using an app. And there is potential for designers to continue expanding the horizons of live fashion events through VR. A recent Verge article expounded on the probable ways in which the fashion community can leverage Oculus Avatars to enable audiences to put a version of themselves in the same outfits they’re seeing models strut down the runway. Fashion, especially high-fashion, is about selling dreams, and what better way to achieve this than by tapping VR technology to make audiences the stars of their own sartorial dreams?
The potential for VR is not limited to the high-end catwalks; in fact, VR is already revolutionizing the in-store experience. Retail is changing. Thanks to the internet, consumers are shopping differently. They’re browsing blogs and Instagram for fashion inspiration, ordering outfits online - in two decades, the experience of buying clothes has gone from a mostly physical, in-person act to an increasingly virtual one. Designers and retailers know that in order to survive the ultra-competitive sartorial landscape, they can’t lag behind their customers - rather, they have to lead them into new territories. Virtual reality is opening up the possibilities of how brands can connect with and sell to consumers. It used to be that consumers had to physically touch and try on a garment to understand it’s fit - not anymore. Thanks to VR and 360 views technology, shoppers have a fairly sound insight into a product’s quality and fit just from viewing it through a screen.
Shoe brand Toms has introduced VR into its retail spaces as a means of expanding on the Toms Shoes story. Visitors can watch 360 VR videos of children in Peru receiving new shoes. The VR angle transports potential buyers and makes them feel as though they’re a part of the experience, which subsequently encourages them to take part in the Toms’ mission with a purchase. It also has pushed other purposes like having a home that's green and mentoring others in impoverished locations
Experiential retail, with VR at the center, is changing the way designers and brands think about physical spaces and customer touch points. Today’s retailers know that stores cannot compete with the ease of online shopping; but they also know that consumers are still hungry for fashion and retail experiences. By creating more engaging spaces, with VR features, brands can encourage users to see how the brand and its product can be incorporate into their lifestyles. VR is enabling retailers to take the shopping experience beyond the physical product.