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London Fashion Week exhibitors missing a trick

by EN

Traditionally, London Fashion Week has been an all-encompassing immersive experience, however the long line of videos this year, all with disclaimers that they were shot in adherence to Covid-19 regulations, is unlikely to deliver an exciting experience.

EN’s sister publication,  Exhibition World has looked at the likely economic impact of the loss of in-person events at London Fashion Week and other fashion cities around the world, critical to the industry and local economies. While little can replace the buzz and excitement of a major event, I’d like to add to the debate around how we can use best in-class technology to replicate some of the real-world senses we’re used to experiencing at these essential events.

Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality technology has the exciting capability of creating location-based experiences, so that digital content can be added as an enhanced filter onto the physical world in specific locations. Those technologies can act as an experiential addition to travelling, rather than a replacement. A recent case study illustrating that concept is the collaboration between Gucci, North Face and Pokémon Go. Customers were able to collect ‘Gucci Pins’, which are pop-up shops and stores located in specific cities around the world. This concept of digital ‘treasure hunting’ is highly applicable to tradeshows and can act as both utility, like a virtual navigation map, or as novelty, by collecting digital tokens. It is an exciting approach to refreshing and revamping established practices.

While useful still in some settings, video live streaming has been around for more than ten years now. The first ever livestream fashion show was Alexander McQueen’s legendary Plato Atlantis in 2009. It almost broke the internet and ushered in a transformational new concept for fashion weeks as a branding broadcasting event as opposed to means for trade. Since then, the fashion industry hasn’t been keeping up with the evolving technologies in order to take full advantage of the accessibility of immersive experience creation. The use of the 2D video format has outlived its novelty value and now that it is prevalent everywhere following the outbreak of Covid-19, it delivers flat and uninspired results. Event attendees cannot touch, feel or examine a video. Nor can they look at the fabric to check out its composition or how an item is made – critical in the fashion industry. Advances in 3D technologies present an exciting new opportunity for life-like realism of digital objects, that almost feel tactile.

Technology exists today to create an immersive experience. While we’re seeing some brands experimenting with 3D modelling and digital twins of garments, by not exhibiting these technologies in front of the captive fashion week audience, they are missing an opportunity to offer an immersive look at their new lines and showcase their brands craftsmanship. After all, that is any brand’s greatest asset: presenting the mastery behind their product in 3D invites the customer to have a comprehensive look from every angle. This engagement is incremental to building an appreciation for any product as well as an emotional connection. And this, in turn, will stifle the mass-scale discard of unworn garments we have been seeing as a trend for the past few years.

The move to e-commerce the fashion industry has experienced in the last year has meant new cutting-edge technologies such as AR and VR have become ever more important. The major events in the fashion calendar present the ideal opportunity to introduce these technologies to show innovation.

A digital twin of a dress for example can be spun around, examined in high definition down to each stitch or fold in the fabric, like it would in real life. In a year when consumers are also expressing a clear desire to buy from more sustainable brands, creating digital versions of new collections will also reduce waste by removing the need for samples to be sent around the world.

London Fashion Week will once again be a great event – but I hope next year exhibitors will embrace the incredible possibilities the virtual world presents them right now and use it to augment what will (hopefully) be an event we can all attend in person.

Amal Jomaa is head of fashion at SO REAL Digital Twins 

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