Through in-depth analysis, research and trend forecasting methodology,
I created a trend publication exploring virtual fit technology and augmented reality; exploring its impacts on the future fashion industry.
Virtual fit technology is an innovative methodology for the design and custom of clothing for a specific body type by using simulation of a virtual body and environment.
This digital or online equivalent to in-store changing rooms enables shoppers to try on clothing, check sizes/style/fit of fashion items and view recommendations personalised to their custom measurements.
Emerging around 2005 and widely used/reported since 2010, virtual fit technology is being used by a growing number of prominent fashion retailers both in-store and on their websites.
The system uses laser scanned 3D body data and digital imaged of the entire garment, including front and back. These images are modelled to reflect tension among the clothing particles to create drape and fall alongside how tight or loose a garment fits, as real clothing would have.
Friction and gravity effects are equally considered during the fitting process. For example, when trousers or skirts are fitted, a virtual belt is added to introduce the motion of suspension and gravity.
With the UK online fashion industry expected to reach around £28.8m by 2022 and clothing sales accountable for a quarter of fashion sales.
The physical store is still prominently used by consumers as a browsing channel before purchasing. However, with the use of virtual fit technology and its accurate digital perception of clothing on the body prior to purchase, could reduce consumer uncertainty and reduce returns - which in addition would decrease packaging waste and distribution damage - and strengthen the effectiveness of online retail.
Virtual Fit Technology and Augmented Reality : The Science Behind it..... 5-10
Covid-19 and Virtual Technology.....11-16
Taking Virtual Clothing Beyond Novelty.....17-18
The Role of Recovery.....18-30
The Benefits of Virtual Technology.....31-38
The Drawbacks of Virtual Technology.....39-44
The Next Frontier.....45-54
During the difficult economic climate of Covid-19, the fashion industry had a -43.5% in retail during the second quarter of 2020. The rise of in-store experiences conducted remotely has been a major feature across retail, as in-store footfall remains low or none throughout Covid-19, these types of digital innovations will continue to be crucial to the performance of fashion retailers. The launches of new products without face-to-face interactions and samples has led brands to rely on the innovations of yesterday for the future of tomorrow.
The pandemic has made trying on clothing and shopping complicated. Decisions made when purchasing a garment either online or in store entirely depends on the information provided by the clothing seller, either via tag or online item description. With fitting issues being the reason for 40% of returns, the physical fashion retail industry has been hit hard. Contactless stores and closed fitting rooms has meant shoppers are left to guess the style and fit of garments before purchasing, a crucial factor for purchasing within the decision process. A reduction of tactile factors during browsing has allowed a shift in focus, with consumer buying habits changing and in turn has left retail industry struggling.
Now that Covid-19 has changed the dynamics within our previous shopping environments and shoppers have heightened concerns around safety and distancing, it’s given virtual technology a real platform to stand out on.
In-store, technology using augmented reality visualisation which uses overlaying of garments on an avatar, is emerging with a promise to enhance in-store convenience and consumer experience.
Using this method, the real and digital expectations of a garment can be compared and through an involved virtual experience, consumer engagement and loyalty can be built in-store.
Virtual fit technology and augmented reality could take a leading role in the recovery of the industry and allow brands and retail spaces to make a serious claw back on business and customer engagement.
image source: Business Wire
image source: GETTY Images
image source: ANDRIY ONUFRIYENKO and GETTY Images
Virtual fit technology and augmented reality visualisation - which relates to the overlaying of a garment over an avatar - is emerging with a promise to enhance in-store convenience and consumer experience. Using this method, the real and digital expectations of a garment can be compared and through an involved virtual experience, consumer engagement and loyalty can be built in-store.
video source: designboom
Over the next decade it's ultimately consumer adaptation that will drive the potential success for virtual and augmented reality for the fashion industry. Many brands have already taken the plunge and experimentation has begun.
- Asos has trialled an experimental augmented reality feature on its website called 'Virtual Catwalk', with an aim to offer its customers the ability to view products in real life from the comfort of their screens. Developed with HoloMe, customers simply point a smartphone camera at a flat surface and click 'AR' to view models walking wearing their selected garments.
- John Lewis has launched 'Visualise Your Space', a feature allowing you to visualise products in your own home before purchasing. Adding personalised dimensions, doors and windows, customers can create a virtual example of their room viewed via an iPad or as a 3D room via a VR headset, allowing customers to walk around the room.
- Puma launches 'LQD Cell Origin Air' , a trainer entirely covered in QR codes, enabling customers to unlock an array of augmented reality experiences once scanned. Puma's first line of shoes using LQD Cell Technology which provides extra cushioning from hexagonal, compact and malleable Profoam cells.
video: @pumasportstyle - Instagram
- L'Oreal's virtual reality business 'ModiFace' is providing technology to Amazon, allowing their customers to try on different virtual lipstick shades before buying. This technology has also recently been used by Lancome, Maybelline, NYX and Urban Decay.
- Macy's are using augmented reality within their beauty department and fragrance stalls. Customers can virtually try over 1000 products, including face, lip and eye products. The interactive displays also allow customers to navigate new fragrances and sort into favourite scent families.
- Amazon has developed a 'Virtual Dressing Room' app for consumers before they purchase selected products. The fitting room also acts as a personal stylist, proving features such as 'shop more like this' or find more products that will go with previously bought items or items already owned, found from users photos. By utilising a users photos to design an augmented image of the user with the products, allows the consumer to swipe left or right, enabling the app to grow in knowledge and reliability.
- Burberry installed AR mirrors within their flagship stores allowing and encouraging consumers to pose and take photos with iconic Burberry ribbons and garments.
video source: L'Oreal
In 2019, Nike rolled out new innovative app 'Nike Fit', enabling customers with scanning technology to assist with finding the perfect fit.
The app will also provide personalised shopping experiences and products based on fit.
image source: NIKE NEWS
- Brings in more customers : virtual fashion shows, allowing brands to increase brand awareness and presence, potentially resulting in higher sales / customer interaction and emotional connections created.
- Reducing costs : with the ability to create new worlds, dimensions and elements within a physical store, brands can push and adapt their boundaries of creation and innovation, without the cost in materials and labour of physical worlds.
- Reducing returns : accurate virtual fit technology can potentially reduce returns by 36%, Yael Vizel, the CEO and founder of Zeekit states - "Shoppers who virtually try on clothing are five times more likely to purchase the item and they're also are more likely to keep what they buy."
- Fascinating audiences and drive virality : rich and dynamic experiences from a brand may drive customers to explore the brand and all aspects of its collections in greater detail or share it, increasing reach.
- Gathering data and increasing customer engagement : by identifying elements that engage users and removing ones that don’t work as well, in result improving a brands customer participation and therefore efficiency.
- Developing clothing collections with minimal waste, professionally and efficiently
- Accurate sizing charts with less pressure and worry about returns due to wrong sizing – consistent and improved fitting
- Innovation within the product development process – pushing the industry forward in both skill and design
- Last minute production corrections assure error free bulk production
- Errors in fit and drape can be prevented and corrected digitally
- Better and greater precision in numeric and alpha grading and sizing
video source: Absolut
Credit: @hanifaofficial via Instagram
A key hurdle for the wider adoption of virtual and augmented reality technologies are the need for customers to enter their key body dimensions into the site or to create a virtual avatar, the user needs to enter accurate data for the technology to work and recommend accurate items.
- Issues over data privacy : it's claimed that testing a lipstick by webcam leaves a trail of personal and biometric data and valuable real-time insights into a consumers’ wants and lifestyles. Retailers can use the users entered information for targeted marketing as they look for more effective ways to reach consumers. Users are being made aware that they need to check for apps that record their reflections when trying on products, as a recording could give away a geolocation tag, combined with a shopper’s browsers history which could potentially show an intimate window into a shopper’s lifestyle and habits.
-Virtual fit technologies and augmented reality experiences do seem to be more successful with visual products – such as make up or jewellery-, as people trying on shoes still can’t feel the way they feel when they walk which is imperative to purchasing decisions.
The pandemic has forced the entire industry to rethink the traditional ways of building collections, including the adoption of digital processes that take designs from concept to production. Virtualising products will continue to become one of the industry’s key building blocks, with consumers of tomorrow wanting to interact, manipulate, and virtually try on products before they buy.While there’s space for both physical and digital fashion to get people’s attention, it’s definitely time to reconsider traditional approaches.
With sustainability becoming an industry focus and pressure, elements such as virtual samples can mean less pollution through lack of factory production, less destroyed stock, and landfill drops at the end of their product cycle.
The past, especially via cinematic visuals, has shown us odd adaptations of what the future could look like. From self tying trainers in Back To The Future II to Clueless's virtual wardrobe and outfit selection. The possibility through innovation is endless and the previous projections of the future have shown that anything could be possible. But have these technologies been developed and are they being used by a mass audience, no longer seen as innovation but just the norm? ..... The answer would probably be no.
Yes, the fashion industry has dabbled with virtual fit technology and reality in the past, but will it lead the industry at the forefront of business innovation and creation? Or has Covid-19 unveiled a new aspect for the industry, for the brands to maximise potential or will it leave the scene once the world returns back to normal?
video source: @hanifaofficial - Instagram
GIF source: RTE
GIF source: GIPHY
image source: ELECTRIC RUNWAY
Looking towards the future and because of this previous year, it's shown that serious innovation of technologies that have been adapted and built can be brought into the worlds leading industries and work to fill a gap left by the contactless factors Covid has brought. It can work and it can be successful, but is the world ready for it?
The year 2030 seems so far away, but in truth, it isn't. In over 10 years from now we'll say goodbye to the 2020's and be living in the 2030's. I believe the present technological advancements that have been built and come into light for the first real time will take time to adapt and build and won't be in mass use by 2030. The use of a smart phone and laptops took 20 years to grow and reach the point they're now, so why will this be any different? With humans achieving such huge leaps in technological advancements, as a population we might want to slow down a bit and adjust to the new life and the amount of technology within it. It's the relationship between the industry leaders who're driven by money and profit and the customer - if they want to consume more technology and live in an increasing technological world, even more than now. The only problem is, profit can only be made when the customers are engaging, and the question is - will they?