INTERVIEW: The Impact of Virtual & Augmented Reality on Fashion

In the future, fashion will influence the virtual world more than we can even perceive here in 2017.

DigiCapital predicts Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality products will generate $120 billion in revenue by 2020. Much hype surrounds Virtual and Augmented Reality, and it only seems to increase. It has the potential to fundamentally change the way we interact with the world, but where are we now? And how can we apply it before that sleek uber future comes about?

Drawing from our experience exploring these exciting new technologies, we talked with Sultan Barodawala, an artist who works with memory and technology to create immersive experiences and currently works with YouVisit Studios, and Alap Parikh, a new media developer trying to bridge the worlds of art and technology.

We asked both men about what we have learned so far, where the industry stands today and where we believe it will go.

Here’s what they had to say:

What would fashion design for a virtual world look like?

Sultanali: Imagine having the tools to be who ever you want, and that’s not limited by anything.

Alap: if everyone has access to virtual reality, then you could put everybody in anybody’s shoes. It would help people have an open mind when they talk to other people, and communicate to anyone on some level.

How might mixed or virtual reality impact e-commerce?

Alap: When you’re buying something, you imagine wearing it in a certain context. If you could be transported to that environment you have a better idea of what it’s like than trying it on the fitting room.

How do you envision future applications of AR/VR in New York Fashion Week?

Sultanali: Mixed reality in a fashion show can be so cool. Everyone would be wearing glasses in the future, not bulky devices. Do you want to have an ocean? Do you want to have a waterfall? Do you want virtual drapes one thousand meters long coming out of the model walking the runway? If you want to change the model’s size to an enormous model or a tiny tiny model, you can! Anything is possible with augmented or mixed reality.

Hardware like Google Cardboard makes virtual reality more accessible, what potential do you see for mixed reality in fashion?

Alap: I imagine daily wear could go crazy, like work from Kaila Guan. We will be using mixed reality to express ourselves through fashion, so what you wear on the street becomes enhanced through glasses. it could be the anti-consumer capitalist movement. Instead of going into a retail store, people can start with a blank canvas of clothing and then create something really wild, but you can only see it in augmented reality. KG projects, from Kailu Guan at Parsons, is a digital platform creating augmented physical clothing with virtual information. Using image recognition technology to interpret coded screen prints, the app allows fashion designers to create immersive narratives around their collections inside of a 4D world.

Where does a VR/AR novice start?

Sultanali: Want to make a 360 video? Rent a camera, live stitch, and upload. Want to do AR? You need to know the software or hire someone, but again the software will become a lot simpler in coming years.

Alap: Soon every new phone will be VR enabled. Barriers to designing virtual reality are fading. Software is being built for users to just paint or draw the same way they might in real life.

Sultanali: I feel fashion schools should have things like Google Tilt Brush; you can develop things so quickly. Soon you’ll be able to design something in the virtual world and then 3D print in the physical one.

Image: Ray Fontaine