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24th April 2020

Are virtual runways the next step for the fashion industry?

Are catwalks from the comfort of your bedroom the next way to consume fashion?
Are virtual runways the next step for the fashion industry?
Image: Tim Savage @ Pexels

The coronavirus outbreak has caused a mass cancellation of events worldwide and the fashion industry hasn’t been immune to this. Although February’s Fashion Week shows were only marginally impacted, it’s looking less and less likely that the June shows will go ahead. In light of this, is it time that the industry changes their methods and transition to virtual catwalks?

Picture this: you’re sat in the comfort of your own home but, somehow, a complete fashion show is happening around you. The fashion industry is no longer reserved for the elite and wealthy as you can place yourself in the middle of it all, getting a 360-degree view of each item. It would revolutionise our relationship with runways, and surprisingly this isn’t out of reach.

This wouldn’t be the first time that fashion shows have gone digital – runways have been broadcast through Instagram since Misha Nonoo’s experimental movement in 2015. Since then, many designers have created Instagram-specific content to share their creations to a wider audience.

We would also have the power of technology on our side: there have been many technological advancements over the past 5 years that would allow a lot more than simply a cameraman stood at the end of the runway recording everything.

The next step up from this is 3D designs that have been pioneered by companies including VF and PVH Corp, which allow people to interact with models and gain a detailed view of each creation through their phone screens. Although this would allow a greater level of individuality and interaction, there is a risk of losing the magical quality of experiencing a fashion show first-hand.

Using virtual reality would conquer all of these problems – it eliminates the need for people to congregate in large groups and they can instead experience the spectacle of the runway without having to move, as they would be placed in the middle of it. Not only would this allow the fashion industry to continue operating amidst the global pandemic, but it would perhaps enhance the individual’s experience by allowing them a detailed look at each piece. Gone will be the days of envying those blessed people on the front row!

It would also benefit emerging brands who may not have the budget or resources to create a full-scale fashion show, enabling the fashion world to become more diverse.

Although it has taken a backseat due to the current conditions, the environmental implications to this would also be astronomical. The extensive resources that go into creating a show result in a huge carbon footprint, which virtual technologies would massively reduce, not to mention the carbon emissions released by the extensive travel required during fashion weeks.

Virtual reality may already be possible to allow optimum viewing experiences of catwalk shows, but in the future, the experience could be more than simply visual. Mary Fellowes from Milk Studios discussed how haptic technologies could be incorporated into the experience over time, allowing experiences like swatching fabrics to be possible.

Although the transition to digital shows is currently only considered as a last resort by some right now due to COVID-19, there’s no denying that it could be beneficial for the fashion industry and completely revolutionise how we experience runways in the future.

Daisy Bradbury

Daisy Bradbury

Fashion Editor

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