The fashion industry is having a major identity crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified and accelerated the need for a radical reset in how fashion works, from curbing the excesses of planet-destroying fast fashion to recognising the need for greater inclusivity and access to this rarified world.
The way fashion is presented is also problematic: the relentless pace and vast expense of industry showcasing had many insiders heralding the end of the traditional fashion show long before the pandemic.
It was the physical impossibility of travelling and staging shows the past several months that forced more immediate change. This is something the fashion industry has been slow to adopt in the past, London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) head, Matthew Drinkwater, told us in an interview in June 2020.
The Fabric of Reality, a first-of-its-kind VR experience from Verizon’s award-winning in-house creative studio, RYOT, in partnership with the Museum of Other Realities, Kaleidoscope and the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, UAL, shows us a world of possibility when it comes to showcasing fashion using immersive technologies.
It harnesses the immense potential of 5G to make the virtual experience come to life in an interactive, hyper-realistic way. Best of all, it brings the immediacy that viewers want for a right here, right now appeal - and it’s available to watch as a 2D stream, so anyone can enjoy it.
“The trends and insights we’re seeing is that these types of experiences must offer a shared experience with a strong narrative that’s both immersive and live,” Sam Field, Head of Creative Tech EMEA, RYOT Studio, says.
“With Social VR, users consume it as if they were there, with 100% of their attention, interacting with one another in real time, and therefore they remember it as an experience, rather than something they saw or watched.”
The Fabric of Reality first premiered on July 29th, and illustrates that a fashion show doesn’t need to happen in person to be a spectacle of epic proportions - nor does there need to be compromise when it comes to creativity, energy and producing mind-blowing garments made to be seen on a screen. The Fabric of Reality proves that just the opposite is the case, as the show powerfully resonates on an emotional level, too, addressing significant themes from sustainability to mental health.
The Fabric of Reality brings together cutting-edge, emerging fashion designers Damara, Sabinna and Charli Cohen with VR artists Sutu, VRHUMAN, Ana Duncan and Joy for a virtual fashion show where each garment tells a story and any viewer with internet access is invited to take part.
The designers and artists each bring extremely different concepts and issues to light through their storyworlds: Damara and Sutu created Symbiotic Wear, which explores the tension between the biological body and its virtual avatar. Viewers can fly around the space, a stunning multicoloured landscape that lies somewhere between a magical underwater universe and a futuristic bubble.
In A Stitch in Time, Sabinna and VRHUMAN explore the connections between our past and our future using crystals and soundscapes, allowing the viewer to exit into a post-pandemic naturescape that reinterprets Sabinna’s grandmother’s handcraft embroideries from three decades ago as virtual landscapes. Viewers can pin flowers onto their avatars or have fun checking out their reflections in VR mirrors.
Charli Cohen, Ana Duncan and Joy’s storyworld centres on mental health and the masks we all wear. Entitled Embrace Your MEH Days, it features Sanrio character Gudetama, as both a DJ on a soundstage and in their bedroom unable to get out of bed. Viewers can pin messages of positivity and support to the bedroom wall.
Watching the show, it’s clear that the opportunities are unlimited when it comes to harnessing the visual power of fashion in the virtual sphere: it can be used as a tool to educate and explore, to engage viewers in shared experiences and show them they’re not alone.
“The Fabric of Reality allowed users to interact within the exhibition, building in layers of shared interactivity, like drinks that changed your size (tiny to large) and the ability to fly through the story worlds,” says Field.
In addition, the show included virtual camera operators, virtual ushers, virtual hosts and a virtual Q&A.
The Fabric of Reality can also pave the way for inspiring unbridled creativity in other artists and designers who can start to experiment with 3D design without any of the limitations that physical fashion imposes.
It also opens up the exciting possibilities of what can start to happen if designers showcase, create and sell in 3D and the lasting impact that can have on sustainability in the industry, as well as a democratisation of an industry that’s notorious for leaving people out rather than inviting them in.
The immersive fashion show streams in 2D so anyone with a screen and internet connection can access it. Just head to here to watch the experience in full. If you have a VR headset, the show will live on the Museum of Other Realities until July 2021.
Curious to know how The Fabric of Reality was put together? Check out the video below, which features Mark Melling (Head of RYOT / 5G Lead EMEA), Sam Field, Senior Director of Studios Geoffrey Goodwin and Creative Technology Strategist Joscelyn Wilson, discussing how the concept came about and what helped to make its inception possible: VR experts RYOT collaborating with leaders in the fields of XR and fashion, as well as a new 5G lab in London in Verizon’s Mid City Place offices.
Watch, enjoy, prepare to have your mind blown, and remember - this is just the beginning.
“Over the next few years this technology will be simplified and scaled with connectivity like 5G so the key learnings from projects like this are going to shape the future of immersive experiences and how they scale beyond VR,” Field says.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.