Augmented and virtual reality is giving the fashion world a new look. From Dior to IKEA, brands are looking for innovative ways to revolutionize consumer experiences with AR/VR — and according to industry experts, this is one trend that is here to stay.

“I don’t think there is any sector or industry that will be untouched by AR,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a recent interview with Vogue. Since Apple released ARKit, the wildly popular augmented reality design platform, brands have been flocking to AR to reimagine retail. 

It shouldn’t be surprising that fashion is one of the first industries to embrace the innovative technology. Both fashion and tech move at a notoriously fast pace. This has made integration a bit of a moving target in the past, but as average consumers prove to be more comfortable viewing the world through a digital lens, the leap to AR/VR feels less like a sci-fi movie than it did a decade ago. 

Retailers are taking advantage of this cultural shift to create AR apps, virtual reality mirrors and simulated shopping — technology that lets consumers try out products up close and virtual. Similarly, designers are rushing to find new ways to blur the lines between clothes and technology.  

“Over time, I think [these features] will be as fundamental as having a website,” said Cook. 

This could mean serious revenue growth for the brands that take on AR/VR. One study reports that the market size for AR/VR will to hit over 94 billion dollars by 2023, making it even more important to get in on the ground floor now.

If you are working or wanting to make it in the fashion industry, this is the technology that will set you apart. Here are a few of the most exciting ways that the revolution is already happening.

On the Runway 

Virtual reality is giving people around the world a front row seat to formerly exclusive fashion events. VR made a debut appearance in 2014 when Topshop chose five lucky fans to experience a “virtual runway” in their Oxford Circus flagship store. The participants wore Oculus Rift headsets to watch Topshop’s catwalk show live in 360 virtual reality to celebrate London Fashion Week. 

The event sparked a surge in VR technology on the runway. Most recently, Samsung sponsored the first “all digital fashion event” for New York Fashion Week in 2017. Samsung teamed up with FTL Moda to create “Dreaming of Italy,” an immersive fashion show experience that was shot and filmed in Milan in digital and 360-digital. Viewers got a closeup look at the runway as well as a backstage pass to view the designer’s collection. 

Fashion Magazines

It’s no secret that print magazines have been fighting to stay alive in the wake of the Internet. While some see this as a struggle, others see it as an opportunity to take a few risks, including incorporating augmented reality.

In 2017, W Magazine turned an average cover story with Katy Perry into an augmented experience featuring an interactive 3D cover and layers of virtual content. The popular fashion magazine partnered with The Mill, a visual effects company, to reimagine magazine reading. Together they created an app called “Beyond the Page” which let readers experience the AR content right through their phones.

In-Store Shopping 

photo by upwork

Retailers have already begun to implement AR technology in-store as a way to draw in more customers. For the brick and mortar stores that have survived the surge of online shopping, this is a smart move as 61 percent of customers prefer to shop in stores that offer AR technology.

Neiman Marcus has become an unexpected leader with their Innovation Lab, creating products like the “Memory Mirror” and the “Fling Wall.” Their team has been focused on smart mirror technology which offers different color options for the clothes you’re trying on and records how you look in 360 degrees. 

At-Home Shopping 

For those who prefer shopping from their couch, there are even more AR options. Gap has spearheaded a movement with their “Dressing Room” app, which lets shoppers test out outfits right on their phone. By creating a virtual mannequin with their personal measurements, customers get to better visualize the clothes and purchase directly from the app. 

When it comes to dressing up your home, brands like Anthropologie and IKEA are making it easier for customers to decorate with confidence. The IKEA Place app lets shoppers virtually test out IKEA furniture at home. Similarly, Anthropologie lets you customize furniture and decoration as part of the shopping experience. Both were designed on the ARKit, opening the door for even more brands to add AR technology to their retail experience. 

Consider this… 

Like fashion itself, AR/VR technology is all about transformation. It helps people see their world and themselves in new ways. For those wanting to be part of that transformation, there has never been a better time to learn fundamental skills in AR/VR. 

Columbia Online is proud to offer a 3-course AR/VR Professional Certificate designed to give students a competitive edge with skills you can immediately apply to a career in fashion, entertainment, technology and more. Courses include Developing Augmented and Virtual Reality Apps, Sound Design and Music for Immersive Media and Producing AR/VR Experiences. Stay tuned for even more course offerings in the fashion and retail space!