This week’s [retail bytes] explores: Which retailers have embraced (and nailed!) Virtual Reality?

 Time to get VR-ambitious: When the cinema revolution began, all people could think about was how to apply the new medium to all areas of arts – including traditional theatre. We are very much making the same mistake today with Virtual Reality. There are new cameras and new tech… but often they film what would be sufficiently covered by traditional video. During London Fashion Week AW16, Elle 360 had a good shot at exploring if 360 filming would attract more fashionistas to follow a virtual catwalk. The snippets from the live sessions followed Jourdan Dunn walking through the shot to introduce Elle. But apart from a short glimpse of the models, it was mainly footage of young hopefuls queuing for the event. The pilot shot on Samsung Gear 360 was useful to see how well the video will survive embedding online (not very well), but we think it’s time to move onto more ambitious stuff.

VR? Trés chic: A different, more hardware-driven take was led by Dior in 2015, with the brand offering a 360 glimpse at the model prep behind the scenes. The core project aimed to create a VR headset that is truly Dior. Beautifully crafted, the product was called Dior Eyes and it felt very much like the brand’s own as the clunky, geeky, normal Oculus was transformed into a fabulous, elegant and light Dior headset. The content was mainly focused on trade buyers, with details of makeup and close-ups for those who really need to know. Kudos for trying to play the hardware game, not a usual area of expertise for luxury fashion brands.

Lazy buyers rejoice: Tommy Hilfiger has got a VR program that provides a 360 insight into the catwalks. The headset is available in the Moscow and New York stores, for customers who want to witness how the clothes look on the catwalk, who was in the front row and how to style the new pieces. Trade buyers loved it as the high quality of the catwalk details meant less travel for those who couldn’t get the budget for yet another fashion show. Samsung partnered with the brand’s biggest stores, supporting the pilots and providing headset replacements when the inevitable damage (headsets are quite delicate) occurred.

Virtual VS Reality at Balenciaga: Balenciaga offered live streaming in 360 from the AW16 catwalk, ensuring that its Creative Director Demna Gvasalia is recognised as a leader in fashion technology as well as a creative force. The show was available on demand and afterwards, offering a detailed view that was very useful for trade buyers, franchisees and distributors. Many commented that the need to travel to the shows is now being questioned since the actual trade purchases can be done with confidence after watching the VR version.

Lipstick and fragrances going tech: So far most of the VR in fashion has been mostly aimed at businesses and trade buyers. That’s until Charlotte Tilbury appeared on the scene and decided to take VR into a more arty and consumer-oriented direction. The ‘super witch’ of new make-up crazes is now launching a new perfume, Scent Of a Dream. Kate Moss, Charlotte’s friend for over 25 years, is a fan and is lending her beguiling presence to support a new, beautifully choreographed VR piece prepared for the launch. Filmed by Nokia OZO VR camera, an ethereal dance and a walk through Kate’s celestial world would be bewitching in any media, but is much more so in VR. Exciting to see this new exploration and a more arty take on VR – it’s somewhat ironic that it took a lipstick mistress to move the medium beyond basic reporting of catwalks. Impressive.

For a DYI 360 you can source your own add-on from Amazon – a fish-eye lens that does the hard work of stitching together panoramic photos to achieve the 360 look (thanks to Nick Halstead from Cognitive Logic for the tip).

Don’t miss Björk and her VR immersive experience of her most recent album Vulnicura. Kicking off 1st September at Somerset House and running until October, the show offers a glance into Bjork’s inner work life, and if that’s not scary enough, there will be a chance to play around with her new music in a studio setting. No doubt she will push VR yet another step forward. Don’t expect filmed theatre! And thanks to John Horsley for keeping us focused on new summer music!