Immersive tech is fashion’s latest buzzword

In the past six months, much of how we do things has changed. Whether it is the switch from post-work drinks to virtual cocktail hour or a yoga class in your living room over Zoom, digital media has ruled most of the aspects of our everyday lives. For an industry that thrives on tactility, fashion has, naturally, followed suit. From the runway to how we shop, digital media has come to dominate our interactions with fashion and designers and brands – both niche and established – have pivoted to ensure that business continues, social distancing and travel norms notwithstanding. Below, we take a look at some of the ingenious ways the industry is keeping up with the digital zeitgeist.

The runway

Image courtesy – Africanews

Anifa Mvuemba, founder of fashion label Hanifa, was scheduled to present her first runway collection at New York Fashion Week this year. The onset of the coronavirus and social distancing norms, however, derailed her plans. Hanifa has primarily been a direct-to-consumer e-commerce brand since it’s inception in 2012, a fact that allowed Mvuemba to quickly pivot towards a more digitally inclined approach to showcase her new collection.

Mvuemba’s tryst with technology began three years back when she hired a developer to help her with the design process. Months into the pandemic and a cancelled show later, she had an idea that involved an intricate 3D design and animation software and pieces from her new collection, all of which were inspired by her Congolese heritage. The result was a fourteen minute long live “show” via Hanifa’s Instagram that showcased her collection in three dimension, set against a jet black backdrop. The high-tech show featured no models but the clothing still sashayed down the virtual ramp rendered as if on a human body.

Hanifa is just one of the many brands that has been using technology to adapt to the new normal. Slated for June 12th, London Fashion Week will follow a gender neutral and digital-only approach, live-streaming it’s shows via it’s website offering both industry insiders and potential customers a comprehensive review of the collection by means of interviews, webinars and digital showrooms. Customers will be able to make purchases from the existing collections and buyers will be able to place orders for the next season.

Redefining the in-store experience

Image courtesy – WWD

Predicting a growing demand for personal services that exclude the need for in-person communication, Gucci launched Gucci9 in 2018, a personal shopping service that recreates the in-store experience from it’s 2300 square metre client service hub in Florence via the launch of the video concierge service, Gucci Live that was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is just a part of the luxury brand’s strategies to keep up with consumer demands in the new normal and is already in play in New York, Florence, Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney and Shanghai.

The mission of our Gucci 9 global service centre is to provide our customers around the world with a direct connection to the Gucci community that is a seamless, always accessible, personalised experience. The service is delivered according to the values that define and differentiate our brand today: a human touch powered by technology.

Marco Bizzari, President and CEO of Gucci

While plenty of brands, both big and small, have been quick to pivot to digital-first business models in the wake of the pandemic, Gucci sets itself apart with a service that closely mimics the in-store experience and with one-on-one consultations, allows for a touch of personalisation. Customers can be heard, but not seen, enabling privacy and they can choose to make purchases via the brand’s website or through WhatsApp.

Try before you buy 

Image courtesy – Mashable

On August 7th, Ralph Lauren announced the launch of it’s long-standing partnership with Snapchat for a series of immersive experiences that will potentially alter the way customers have come to view ‘try before you buy’. While the concept in itself is not necessarily new, it is ripe for disruption and in desperate need of a rehaul. Ralph Lauren’s partnership with Snapchat will allow users to dress their ‘bitmoji’ – your personalised digital avatar within the Snapchat app – in a specially designed collection by Ralph Lauren. The pieces will also be shoppable.

Ralph Lauren is excited to embark on this innovative partnership with Snap. With Ralph Lauren’s respected reputation as a global leader within the luxury fashion space and Snap’s undeniable creative prowess and expansive reach to a younger consumer, we feel inspired to explore disruptive ways to tell our brand’s story, drive social commerce and engage with a new generation in an authentic and empowering way.

Alice Delahunt, Ralph Lauren’s chief digital officer

This isn’t the first time Snapchat is partnering with a fashion house. Last year, the tech giant announced it’s association with Gucci to let users virtually try on eight different pairs of shoes. It has also partnered with Dior and Burberry to create immersive experiences for users along with allowing them to virtually try on new collections.

While in-person interactions will remain crucial to how we communicate with fashion, it is interesting to see the creativity that brands and creatives have displayed in the past few months and we are excited to see how it evolves in the days to come.

– Written by Soha Joshi 

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