Exclusive: Holograms have landed on the NYFW catwalk

Larger-than-life holograms have arrived at NYFW through a partnership between Yahoo, Keds and designer Maisie Wilen. In an exclusive feature for Glossy, we look at how volumetric technology was used to create the catwalk experience of the future.

The fashion industry has been adding AR features to its shoppable content, but it hasn’t explored it at scale for immersive experiences during fashion week. Scale is decidedly what today’s Maisie Wilen’s show will bring, with an immersive, other-worldly showcase bringing technology and fashion together on the runway. The show will feature 28 seven-foot-tall augmented reality hologram models in outfits from the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2022 collection. 

The collection will be shown during NYFW in an exhibition space. Attendees will be surrounded by the holograms, which will feature high fidelity effects as well as 3D elements with depth through shadows and reflections, delivering a 3-dimensional experience. The holograms, along with a GIF lookbook for the collection, will be fully shippable. The AR models can be transported onto a user’s phone, where a buy-now button will then be exhibited next to the virtual item.

While this is not the only digital fashion experience this spring, as the Decentraland Metaverse Fashion Week is starting on March 24, it is decidedly the most immersive. The idea of immersive, theatrical catwalks is something that fashion has been pulling away from since the 2008 financial crisis. The most recent catwalk to feature holograms was that of Alexander McQueen in 2006, when a hologram of Kate Moss appeared in the designer’s 2006 “Widows of Culloden” show in Paris. 

This time, the experience is decidedly more Gen Z-inspired. It’s enabled by Yahoo Immersive, an extended reality (XR) toolset and a multi-format photoshoot with volumetric capture. The Maisie Wilen models will sport alien features inspired by the “Monster High” characters Draculaura, Frankie Stein, Lagoona Blue and Clawdeen Wolf, all with prosthetics and effects to match. 

Asked if she preferred this format to a regular catwalk, designer Maisie Schloss said, “​​I definitely preferred this. It was an opportunity to bring so much fantasy to the show and also to do things that you can’t do in real life. We were able to utilize effects. One girl gets electrocuted, one girl has bubbles coming out of her mouth. The realm of possibility in real life no longer applies.” Schloss is digitally native and designed her collection purely on her computer, and the collection pushes the boundaries of what is possible with technology. Typically, cameras cannot capture certain materials, but Schloss is incorporating a number of textures, including optical illusion prints, mattified sequins and holographic vinyl.

Schloss’s pieces have been worn by Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Cardi B, and she has the support of the inaugural Yeezy incubator grant. She has a firm footing in the Gen-Z space.

Joanna Lambert, president of Yahoo, is continuing the drive for innovation at fashion week with Yahoo’s partnerships in fashion. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve been focusing on expanding our reach and engagement with younger audiences, particularly in the Gen-Z category. One of the things we’ve noticed is that fashion as a category resonates very well with our Gen-Z audience.” The multinational technology company has a global audience of 900 million monthly active users and hopes that, through technology, it can bring the catwalk experience to its users. Consumers will be able to experience the collection wherever they are, starting on Saturday. The 3D assets and WebAR are available using a QR code or a simple shareable link.

The technology used is the highest fidelity and will bring a new level of detail to users at home wanting to see close-ups of the people and the clothes. Nigel Tierney, head of content for Yahoo RYOT Lab, Verizon Media’s internal content innovation company, oversees the creative development, art and marketing departments, and has been working on the project to capture the looks for the Maisie Wilen experience. “One of the core components to this was capturing this at the highest scale and the highest resolution, so we can have assets that are multi-format. This is truly the first pure multi-format production for fashion, where you’re capturing [looks] with 106 fully surrounded 6k cameras, as well as a frontal camera to enhance the visuals. The technology we are using here has never been deployed with multi-format use in mind or to create this density of assets.” 

The high-resolution capture means that you can project imagery as larger-than-life holograms, while also delivering it as AR at home and as traditional video. Other formats, like the GIF shoppable lookbook and social media assets, are also. possible. However, the most impactful representation will certainly be those shown in today’s show. “It’ll be a much more immersive, dark environment space — kind of surrealist, but also with the pop culture elements that the ‘Monster High’ characters provide. We want folks to enter and question what’s real and what isn’t. Unlike a traditional fashion show, where you’re passively sitting down and engaging with the runway as [models] parade by, here, you’ll walk into the space and get to engage with 28 of these holograms all at once,” said Tierney. 

The applications for the technology could have a wider impact on shoppable content and the way catwalks will be considered in the future. As Yahoo rolls out its immersive suite across its channels, it offers a way to create a lasting storytelling experience for brands. “What we’re seeing in the numbers, even from an ad perspective, is triple the engagement over traditional formats. For something as engaging as fashion, we saw that, with previous hologram experiences, there was 3-4 minutes of engagement with the asset, versus your typical 50 seconds,” said Tierney. “We’re just noticing, pivoting and deploying improvements and upgrades to how users actually want to engage with this content.”

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