Fashion’s next big trend: Augmented Reality

It’s sustainable, innovative and generates spend. No wonder AR is set to revolutionise how we consume […]

If you’re up to date on the latest trends, then you know digital fashion has skyrocketed in popularity over recent years. We’ve seen digital fashion showcases, notably Balenciaga’s FW21 collection. Presented in the form of a video game map, the ‘player’ travels through a futuristic virtual world, exploring the collection.

Elsewhere, Meta introduced its very own digital fashion marketplace in 2022 called Avatars Store. Partnered with an array of designer brands, the store’s users can dress their avatars in Balenciaga, Thom Brown, and Prada clothing from previous collections.

But in the vast world of digital fashion, there is a trend that could stand to change the way we consume even more radically: AR, or Augmented Reality.

It has already gained considerable momentum in the fashion industry where brands have used it to create virtual environments that fuse the digital world with the physical seamlessly through immersive experiences and artificial landscapes. AR can embody multiple forms, from virtual try-ons to entire digital worlds, events, and experiences.

According to WGSN, products with AR experiences have a higher conversion rate of 94%, and 52% of US and UK Gen Z consumers are comfortable spending $10 monthly on digital fashion. The message? Users are much more likely to interact with products and experiences that have AR elements integrated. 

While brands are leveraging this technology, we are yet to see it reach its full potential. The AR and VR market is expected to have grown 50% by 2028 according to Statista. And it could not be coming at a better time. This is how AR will revolutionise the fashion industry:

It’s breaking barriers for emerging designers

The fashion industry is an infamously hard space to access, especially for emerging designers. Mouhannad Al-Sayegh is the owner of Flair Fashion, an alternative marketplace that is seeking to democratise the fashion industry and reinvent the way we shop luxury. 

Flair uses AR as a tool to creatively spotlight designer’s clothes, telling the story of the brand through front-end showcasing, and providing business support behind the scenes.

When asked about the biggest benefit of AR, without any hesitation, Al-Sayegh stated, “It’s the storytelling; the only reason we buy fashion is because there’s a story behind it.” He highlights the issue of design students losing access to vital resources when they graduate, which impacted on their ability to use technology to market their designs. This is what inspired him to start Flair Fashion. He says: “There are a lot of innovations happening for emerging designers, but they don’t have the infrastructure for them to be able to showcase their VR or AR projects when they have graduated.” 

AR gives designers who may otherwise struggle to find success in such a competitive industry the opportunity to connect with an audience and build brand loyalty via AR experiences.

Furthering the sustainability effort

You might be shocked to hear that returns of unwanted clothing have a considerable impact on the environment. Not only does the additional shipping cause further carbon emissions, but more often than not, your returned clothes don’t end up back on the shelves. Some 75% of returns ended up in landfill in the UK alone in 2022, according to the British Fashion Council. 

AR can work to prevent this by creating virtual try-on experiences that allow consumers to try on clothes before making a purchase. Flair Fashion has also further optimised this process by showing 3D images of its designers’ clothing, which allow for real-time viewing in AR where you can zoom-in on garments to see the texture and detail in real-time. This ‘try before you buy’ tactic minimises the likelihood of returns and means you can make more investments in statement pieces you know you are going to love rather than buying and returning excessive amounts of clothing.

3D Image Scanned Using Photogrammetry

It also helps designers by streamlining the design process. Through AR, designers can create virtual prototypes of their work, providing realistic demonstrations of their final vision. This virtual editing allows for less physical prototype creation and reduces waste.

Innovating the consumer experience

We have seen that AR experiences sky-rocket conversion rates, and there is a reason for this. Computer Science student and software engineer Adam Starkie says: “AR is undoubtedly a rapidly emerging field, since its practicality and its exciting potential combined mean that it has become more prevalent across multiple industries. A big example of successful AR usage was at the Coachella music festival last year, where attendees could explore the virtual world while still being present in the real world, making it an exciting alternative to Virtual Reality.” 

With the vast majority of shopping now being done online, it is harder for consumers engage in the shopping experience or to feel any connection to the brands that they are shopping from. AR is changing the game in this aspect by captivating audiences with interactive experiences. Especially in fashion, consumers want to buy from brands they feel they can connect with and wear clothes that have a message behind them. Style is unique to each person and is an expression of individuality and through AR, brands can connect directly with their consumers, resonate, and build brand identity.

By revolutionising the way we view images from 2D to 3D, Starkie says that AR “allows the public to connect more deeply with what they see online”.

He adds: “This is certainly a positive force in improving the user experience. As more recent phones are developed with LiDAR scanners, AR scans will become more accessible to the public, and I believe we will see a heightened sense of connection, both with what we view online and with each other.”

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