The Birth of VR Fashion

Buzz about virtual reality is everywhere these days and various business ‘gurus’ have called 2016 ‘The year of Virtual Reality’. However, VR in the fashion industry has been slow to take off. In healthcare, education, architecture and interior design, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are already gaining great popularity. So when is fashion getting its start?

The short answer is – now!

The Oculus Rift got the ball rolling and now VR headset manufacturers are popping up everywhere. The Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR are the leading lot of high-end VR headsets and these products will cost a cool several hundred dollars apiece once available. For the everyman, though, smartphone manufacturers have started providing low cost VR viewers with their products, and the Google Cardboard VR viewer has become almost ubiquitous in the tech fraternity. Slowly, VR is seeping into the lives of the average person, opening up fantastic opportunities in various industries including fashion. Even though VR technology is still evolving and is yet to be perfected, in the past year alone several fashion giants have turned to VR to grab eyeballs and wow their customers.

In 2014, Topshop filmed its fall ’14 runway show in 3D and offered the VR experience to the public. Also in 2014, Elle magazine captured its cover shoot in VR, making it available for Android smartphones and viewable using Google Cardboard. American shoe brand Converse created an app in early 2015 to let its customers view a video of their shoes in virtual action and 7 For All Mankind, a denim brand, showcased its 2015 spring collection in VR. Luxury fashion house Dior released a VR headset of their own centered around make-up and the preparations of models before runway shows. Rebecca Minkoff released a video as well as customized Cardboard viewers to entertain and invite their customers to their 2016 shows. The Cardboard viewers sold out on their website within hours. Celebrities haven’t been shy of virtual reality either. Drew Barrymore’s cover shoot for InStyle magazine was released as a 3D video which made waves. The magazine distributed VR headsets to several of its subscribers specially to enjoy the viewing experience. In late 2015, Tommy Hilfiger brought VR to several of its flagship stores across the US.

So far, fashion brands have ventured into using VR to showcase their fashion shows and selected products using 3D video. More and more brands are venturing into the use of VR for marketing and promotion. But where is VR for fashion headed in 2016? Well, this year marks the advent of VR dressing rooms and shopping experiences that will redefine the way brands interact with their customers and vice-versa. This is the year when in-store engagement is boosted by the use of VR and AR technology, and customers who shop online can try-and-buy using virtual models of themselves. VR in fashion is poised to change shopping from mere transactions to journeys that leave delighted customers with stories to share, all the while building brands’ stories within the immersive environments.

It has never been done before and the possibilities are boundless, the enthusiasm is infectious, and the timing is just right. 2016 is just the beginning for VR fashion.