The exhibition "Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion" debuted at London's Design Museum. It is unlike many other fashion shows in that it celebrates the 30th anniversary of NewGen, the British Fashion Council's fashion talent incubator that has helped over 300 designers throughout the years.
The Design Museum not only showcases designers' first steps into fashion and curates 100 innovative looks on display, but it also pioneers a "see now, try now" initiative by allowing visitors to try on nine of those looks - virtually, of course, with the help of augmented reality.
Snapchat built a backstage space with augmented reality vanity mirrors as part of the show. Beyond, an Amsterdam-based creative tech firm, collaborated with Snapchat to create nine classic fashion looks that visitors may try on while sitting in front of the mirrors.
“We are dedicated to delivering an immersive and interactive experience for consumers, empowering them to virtually try on apparel, preview and acquire items in 3D worlds and AR environments, and discover groundbreaking fashion designs,” said Beyond founder and creative director David Robustelli in an interview with FashionUnited before the exhibition.
Which dress visitors can try on?
Among the highlights of the event are Marjan Pejoski's swan gown, which was controversially worn by Icelandic singer Björk at the 2001 Oscars, Harry Styles' Steven Stokey Daley outfit from his 'Golden' video, and Sam Smith's inflatable latex suit by Harri from this year's Brit Awards. Visitors may also view Christopher Kane's breakthrough neon collection, Russell Sage's repurposed Union Jack jacket, which Kate Moss wore for Vogue and a massive Molly Goddard blue ruffle. Lee Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Charles Jeffrey, Christopher Raeburn, Erdem, Henry Holland, Kim Jones, J.W. Anderson, Mary Katrantzou, Molly Goddard, Roksanda, Simone Rocha, Stuart Vevers, Priya Ahluwalia, Saul Nash, Grace Wales Bonner, and Bianca Saunders are among the NewGen alumni featured in the exhibition.
In a backstage section, the exhibition has recreated the moment just before a fashion show, complete with dress models, hair and make-up, and accessories. AR-enhanced mirrors let visitors experiment with make-up and headwear looks from nine actual runway creations.
Among the nine looks that visitors can choose from are creations by Charles Jeffrey’s SS18 collection, Chet Lo SS23, Gareth Pugh SS07, Henry Holland AW08, Liam Hodges, Louise Gray’s collection for Topshop from 2012, Marques’Almeida’s SS15, Matthew Williamson SS98 and Richard Quinn AW18.
How does it work?
Creative tech studio Beyond works with 3D and augmented reality technologies and has done targeted campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, and other brands. As part of a Virgil Abloh tribute, the studio created a version of Louis Vuitton's sold-out fortune cookie bag that people could explore in 3D. “Interactive experiences work realise a higher form of engagement,” says Robustelli.
In terms of the future, the creative director is positive that digital experiences are here to stay for the fashion industry: “They will be an add-on, between identities. There will be different identities — social, physical, and virtual ones. These identities will merge more and more and we will be dressing avatars as we would dress ourselves in real life.”
For brands who want to start out with digital experiences and AR, Robustelli strongly advises collaborating with studios and agencies that have experience. “It is impossible to enter the field without experience,” he emphasises. It is also important to find the right balance between doing too much and too little: “Brands may want to throw in everything but you don’t want to oversell yourself,” he cautions. At the same time, one should not underdo it either but understand the limitations of the technology.
However, brands are well advised to invest in this area: “In the future, consumers are probably more likely to enter a virtual space than an actual store,” believes Robustelli.
Those who would like to get a sneak preview of what AR is capable of can do so at The Design Museum’s exhibition “Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion”, which will be on display until 11th February 2024.
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