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Virtual Reality Hits NYFW

This season, designers at New York Fashion Week will offer fans the opportunity to view live runway shows in VR, adding a new layer to the consumer experience.
Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Limei Hoang

NEW YORK, United States – Several designers at New York Fashion Week are enhancing the consumer experience they offer fans of their brands with realtime virtual reality (VR) experiences.

Members of the public will be able to view 13 shows — including Prabal Gurung, Misha Collection, Supima and Band of Outsiders — in VR, through an app, a virtual reality headset and a Samsung smartphone. Viewers will also be able to watch the same 13 shows in 2D on the official NYFW website and the designers' own websites.

In a separate announcement, designer Rebecca Minkoff revealed that she would debut her latest collection with a livestream VR experience, and offer her fans the ability to virtually shop a look straight off the catwalk using an app.

The news that designers in New York will offer live VR experiences to fans, which was made by NYFW official technology partner Intel and live event virtual reality firm Voke, is the latest development in a fashion week system that is opening up to consumers.

In recent years, the internet and social media have radically transformed fashion week from a closed event for buyers, press and other industry insiders to a consumer marketing spectacle that is increasingly linked to retail sales with the advent of 'see now, buy now' strategies. Many designers including Burberry, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger have announced plans to adopt 'see now, buy now' and capitalise on the consumer buzz generated by fashion shows.

Demand was higher than expected,  Voke co-founder and CEO Sankar Jayaram told BoF, saying he expected only one or two designers would be interested.

“It’s a ground breaking opportunity for fashion,” he added. “By providing the capability, you have opened up a market of tens of thousands of people who can now have a front row seat. That’s an enormous increase in the visibility for the designer to be able to now say they can have 10,000 people sitting in the front row simultaneously.”

For fashion brands, which depend on selling not only products but also a dream, VR holds particular promise and a number of companies have been experimenting with the technology. The North Face and 7 For All Mankind have both created VR-enabled films, while Dior and Tommy Hilfiger have installed headsets in stores, which transport headset-wearing shoppers in pre-recorded catwalk shows.

Still, most of these initiatives trade heavily on the sheer novelty of the technology to generate positive PR, rather than the power of the content itself.

Looking forward, Jayaram sees further opportunities to add more capabilities to the experience, like being able to pull up information about products as well as create additional content. “Once you have this story-telling medium, where you can put a person in the front seat, there will some very interesting experiences that will come up in the story telling."

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The State of Fashion: Technology