Fashion and Virtual Reality: A Perfect Union
With the announcement that HTC just sold 15,000 Vive virtual reality headsets in 10 minutes (at $800 bucks a pop), it has never been more apparent that virtual reality is here to stay. Understandably, when it comes to virtual reality, fashion is typically not the first thing that sweeps into one’s mind. Nevertheless, fashion has always had a mutually advantageous relationship with technology, and in the still nubile world of virtual reality, fashion is hoping to take the ability for consumers to immerse themselves to the next level. Fashion and tech work together like peanut butter and jelly, one is always better when the other is around. When fashion embraces tech wholeheartedly, the finished product is modern, innovative, intelligent, and cutting edge, both in design and function. When tech utilizes fashion, the result is a more desirable, sexy, and in touch product. Together, these two worlds form a harmonious union that works even better with the advent of virtual reality.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is immersive reality, replicating an environment that can simulate for an individual a physical presence in a different world. With sight, touch, hearing, and smell being utilized, virtual reality creates an amazing artificial sensory experience unlike anything humans have ever had the privilege of undergoing in modern technology. The goal of the hardware used in virtual reality (most commonly a VR headset) is to create the illusion of a life size, 3D environment without the borders or boundaries that come when a user simply watches a video on a TV or computer screen. VR allows for a 360 virtual world. Whichever way a user looks, the screen mounted to your headset follows you.
Virtual reality headsets use two distinct feeds which send information to one or two LCD displays (one per eye). The headset features lenses which are placed between a users eyes and the pixels. This is why the devices are often referred to as virtual reality goggles rather than headsets. The lenses in a VR headset focus and reshape the picture shown to each eye to create a stereoscopic 3D image by angling 2D images. This mimics how human eyes can view the world from slightly different perspectives based on the angle. The result is a totally immersive and unique sensory experience.
Companies Leading the Charge in VR Fashion
Dior is reportedly launching it’s own version of a VR headset in the near future. Until then, many fashion houses are relying upon a virtual reality company known as Jaunt to lead them into the future. Jaunt is a company working tirelessly to develop the tools, software, and hardware necessary to enable cinematic virtual reality and to hand that power off to content creators in industries such as fashion, film, and video games. Jaunt believes that one day, it will develop the technology necessary for consumers to not only attend a Paris runway show in their living room, but they will have the technology at hand that will allow consumers to buy clothes directly from that virtual runway. Google is also heavily involved in the virtual reality sector, releasing affordable cardboard headsets that are accessible to anyone who has a fairly decent smartphone at their disposal.
VR on the Runway
Top fashion houses know that the best place for them to experiment with virtual reality is in their runway shows. Not only does it make for an explosive live experience, but the experience can then be felt by those who didn’t attend the show afterwards. In fall of 2014, TopShop headily pioneered virtual reality in fashion by recording it’s runway show with the help of a 3D agency known as Inition. TopShop then made the show experience available at its stand alone stores for three days following the live February show. Tommy Hilfiger followed a similar model at his fall 2015 fashion show. Hilfiger added a virtual reality video of the show to flagship stores in both the US and Europe, nothing that people are no longer just seeking the experience of going to a store, they are looking to be entertained, enthralled, and engaged at all times. Noted designer and fashion savant Rebecca Minkoff took the concept of virtual reality one step farther. Not only did she make a virtual reality recording of her fall 2015 runway show, but she sold a customized Rebecca Minkoff version of the standard Google Cardboard headset. Anyone with a smart phone (which is pretty much everyone these days) was able to insert their phone into the headset and be instantly transported to the front row of a Rebecca Minkoff fashion show.
The Potential of VR in Fashion
Virtual reality is still relatively new and the technology is far from perfect. Tech pioneers are still learning how to best utilize virtual reality and all of the ways in which it can change a users experience in life. Fashion insiders are betting on amazing things in the realm of virtual reality, promising that the options it will bring to fashion will prove limitless. Fashion shows are just the beginning. Virtual reality promises to one day aid brands in creating virtual fashion stores, allowing consumers to buy from a store in the comfort of their own home while wearing a VR headset. Virtual reality will also one day involve 3D avatars (virtual humans) which will help designers to effectively fit clothes to a model without a model even being in the room.
The marriage of virtual reality seems a perfect union that is long overdue. Where will virtual reality end up taking the fashion industry? The answer: anywhere it wants to go.
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