The London College of Fashion is on a mission to make traditional fashion designers rethink their hesitation to embrace emerging technology, starting with showing them the benefits of virtual and augmented reality.
In its latest partnership, the LCF’s Fashion Innovation Agency teamed up with designer Sabinna Rachimova and the virtual fitting room application Pictofit to create a holographic presentation of her eponymous line during London Fashion Week.
Matthew Drinkwater — head of the FIA, which was formed in 2013 as part of an effort to integrate technology teachings into the LCF’s curriculum — said the college takes case studies from efforts like the Sabinna partnership and shares them with teachers and administrators to help inform future classes.
“We look at emerging technologies, and find any way we can integrate them into a traditional designer’s model and accelerate the pace of change [in an industry] which has been resistant to change,” Drinkwater said.
The effort is the latest attempt at staging a virtual reality fashion show, much like Japanese brand Anrealage at Paris Fashion Week last September. During that show, runway models wore pieces with what appeared to be QR codes, which revealed a full look using augmented reality technology.
Sabinna’s latest collection was shot on a real-life model using 64 cameras and calibrated light sources that were able to capture a 360-degree look at both the model and the items, and then translate them to a 3D holographic platform. To get a unique look at the line, participants at LFW could view the both model and the collection in virtual reality while wearing Microsoft HoloLens.
Like brands, fashion schools in both London and the states have been sluggish to adapt to changes in the industry, only recently adding courses that touch on 3D printing or incorporate VR and AR. For example, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City has started to diversify its teachings through collaborations with 3D body scanning companies.
Burak Cakmak, dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design, told Glossy last year that its curriculum has continued to dramatically evolve to catch up to the times, which isn’t always easy. “We consistently reevaluate our current offerings in the classroom — not only to meet transforming needs, but also to set the standard for what design education should look like on a global scale,” he said.
Though London-based brands like Burberry have started experimenting with offerings like chatbots, by and large, British brands have yet to dabble in offerings like virtual and augmented reality. Given London Fashion Week’s reputation for being more experimental than its sister cities, Drinkwater and his team see an opportunity to capitalize.
LCF has the added benefit of being located near London’s fashionable East End, he said, which has helped forge partnerships between technology firms and emerging fashion companies based simply on proximity. “We’re just nudging those two sectors a little bit closer together,” he said. “There’s enormous interest in seeing it happen.”
While newer designers like Sabinna are more receptive to taking risks and trialling new forms of technology, Drinkwater said established and traditional designers are still hesitant to push boundaries. He said FIA’s hope is that London Fashion Week activations will encourage other designers to follow suit. “To be frank, if they don’t begin to adopt and begin experimenting with new technologies, they’ll be behind anyway.”
In addition to augmented reality fittings, the FIA has also previously teamed with the brand Martine Jarlgaard London and technology company DoubleMe during London Fashion Week in September 2016 to debut a virtual reality fashion show. The FIA set up a headset installation at London’s W Hotel to stream the show to passersby. The FIA has also supported ventures like wearables, including a tech-powered belt with the ability to charge a variety of mobile devices.
“Augmented reality has the power to change how we interact with fashion,” Stefan Hauswiesner, CEO of Pitofit, said in a statement. “From the outfit decision in the morning to buying clothes online, we want to see how we are going to look. We want to be inspired, try different combinations and ask our friends what they think.”