Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Virtual Reality hits New York Fashion Week

It’s that time of the year again when the fashion pack jet off for a month of Fall/Winter shows across the world’s most fashionable cities. With the first stop being New York Fashion Week, I was hoping to have some innovative branding efforts to report on, and was not disappointed when I came across the news that designer Rebecca Minkoff had filmed her Fall 2015 collection in preparation for releasing it later using virtual reality technology.

For those of you who may be unaware of term Virtual Reality (or VR as it’s slowly becoming to be known), it’s probably worth reading this post published by The Verge on this topic. But to give you a brief overview, it pretty much involves the use of ‘goggle’ like devices, which when you put them on, immerses you into a 360-degree, 3D experience. It’s being touted to revolutionise the gaming industry in particular, but also bring about greater efficiencies in other industries including real estate (gone are the days that you need to trudge between one property to the next), education, tourism and pornography (but lets not go there).

Virtual Reality Oculus Rift Device (Source: Inition UK)

Getting back to the topic of VR entering the fashion world, as much as it sounds like a completely new concept, the fashion world has always been ahead of the curve in broadcasting shows and experiences on digital platforms. Burberry was notably one of the first brands to live stream their fashion shows on their website and within their flagship stores around the world. VR therefore seems like a natural extension to these existing efforts, instead allowing fans and customers of the brand to take an actual (well virtual) seat on the front row, and experience the show first hand within their living rooms.

It was only halfway through writing this post did I realise that this wasn’t actually the first time that the fashion world had engaged with VR technology. It turns out that this time last year, high street retailer, Topshop, engaged production company, Inition, to create a VR experience for customers at their flagship store on Oxford Street. The result was a VR booth that allowed customers to virtually attend the Topshop Unique show at London Fashion Week, in between shopping at the retailer’s store.

No only did the venture win Inition the ‘BT Retail Project of the Year 2014’, it also created a lot of press for the brand, and engaged Topshop consumers in a way that had never been done before.

Now that it seems that VR will become a commonplace experience within the fashion industry, I’m excited to see how many brands will embrace this new technology, and whether it will lead to greater change within the industry. After all, if you can attend a show from virtually anywhere, what’s the point of inviting hundreds of members of the press, and holding a show in the first place? Although it’s probably not something we need to concern ourselves with for the time being, it’s still worth noting the power of this new technology, and the opportunities it may present brands in the years to come.

To read more about Topshop’s VR project, visit Inition’s Case Study.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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