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The rise of virtual and augmented reality in fashion

How technology has led the fashion industry through the COVID pandemic and helped the fight against fast fashion

Written by High Life North
Published 20.03.2021

By Brooke Murphy

The global impact of COVID has been hard-hitting for the fashion industry. With sales down and a lack of physical engagement with consumers, fashion and beauty brands have had to become more flexible than ever before.

A study published by Statista, revealed that when COVID cases peaked in Europe, sales of clothing products dropped by 43.5% when compared to the same period in 2019. However, rise in the use of virtual and augmented reality in the fashion sector has been recorded.

According to Dimension Studios – the Gateshead- and London-based volumetric production studio – 53% of people aged 18 to 34 report that they are interested in augmented reality apps to try fashion products before they buy.

High-end brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga are among those who have broken into the virtual world within the last 12 months – with Balenciaga even offering volumetric video, a technique capturing 3D space that can be viewed on 2D platforms.

Beauty brands, including Mac Cosmetics and L’Oreal, have also developed interactive online features, such as virtual ‘try-ons’ to enhance their user experience.

Naomi Roberts, Head of Marketing at Dimension Studios, said: ‘With fashion weeks cancelled and flagship stores out of action during the pandemic, mixed reality technologies have been key to enabling fashion brands to engage fans, stay relevant and conduct sustainable business.’

She added: ‘From virtual influencers to video game fashion shows and digital-only collections, the demand and supply of mixed-reality fashion has never been higher, and the fashion industry is being redefined.

‘At Dimension, we believe that there’s little standing in the way of entertainment experiences that are out of this world. We’re on a path to the metaverse – vast, persistent virtual worlds where fashion brands will live, and we’ll interact with our favourites as virtual beings or avatars.

‘There is enormous creative potential and flexibility for brands to create ongoing stories and bring these to life in new ways online, across any channel. The opportunity for creative, thrilling virtual fashion experiences knows no bounds. If a creative director can dream it, you can bet there’s a way to make it a reality.’

But does virtual and augmented reality doesn’t only allow brands to connect with consumers – a digital wardrobe can also be seen as a sustainable wardrobe.

The Fabricant, a digital fashion house in the Netherlands, said in a recent press release: ‘The Fabricant wastes nothing but data and exploits nothing but imagination.

‘Digital garments vastly reduce fashion’s impact on the planet’s resources and the natural world. When clothing is always digital, never physical, pollution and waste reduction are non-topics.

‘We aim to show the world that clothing doesn’t need to be physical to exist. We believe the digital-only fashion sector will open up new creative avenues beyond the limits of the physical world while promoting sustainability and drastically reducing the negative environmental impacts of the current fashion paradigm.

‘Fashion is one of the last creative industries to embrace technology. It is equally one of the most polluting. We see the opportunity to use technology to make the industry more sustainable.’

And Cathy Hackl, a tech futurist focused on AR, VR and AI, told Forbes: ‘The pandemic is changing not only consumer behaviour but also changing how brands think about their roadmap. It is also bringing about new opportunities for forward-thinking brands to take a peek at the future of fashion.’

Food for thought indeed.

But we want to know what you think about the future of fashion – let us know @high_life_north



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