New App Gives Glimpse of Fashion’s AR Future

By Anna Zwettler and Leon Woudstra

February 24, 2022. Last night, Italian brand Bottega Veneta launched its first augmented reality app. This marks a next step in how fashion brands are integrating augmented and virtual reality tools. 

The luxury fashion house is known for its unconventional marketing strategy. Under its former creative director, Daniel Lee, the brand already deleted all its social media, as reported by Vogue. Now, in anticipation of the inaugural collection by its new creative director, Matthieu Blazy, Bottega Veneta launched an app. The app allows people to see snippets of Blazy’s creative ideology by turning on their cameras and holding their phone against a green surface. Green is Bottega Veneta’s signature color.

Other than anticipating and promoting the new collection that will be shown at the Milan Fashion Week starting upcoming Sunday, the app has no clear function. “I am not surprised. [Bottega Veneta’s] product is unclear in and of itself,” says Demi Janna Erich, a student at the TMO Fashion Business School in Doorn, The Netherlands. 

“It is difficult to get a hold of their bags, their collections are announced very suddenly. They employ minimal marketing and have a very distinct way of going about it. This makes [the app launch] very suitable to their product,” she continues. 

The adaptation of the fashion industry to the digital realm, however, has been slower than others. According to Giancarlo Pazzanese, senior lecturer in Business & Fashion Design at the Amsterdam Fashion Academy, the fashion industry was too caught up in meeting its seasonal deadlines for new collections for a long time. He is enthusiastic about seeing more digital technologies being introduced, now. “Covid was the big moment where lots of companies had to [digitalize]. And now there’s no way back, I think,” he says. 

During the pandemic, Pazzanese himself experimented with augmented reality technology through a six-piece collection, which he calls ‘dis_placed’. The entire workflow, from design to webshop, was completed digitally without physical materials. 

A piece from Pazzanese’s digital capsule collection

Besides Covid, there are other reasons for fashion brands to introduce digital technologies, according to Demi Janna. “There are probably some brands that choose to implement augmented reality out of sustainability concerns. However, I think that when we consider the big brands where there are so many investors and other stakeholders, that for them the main motivation to use this technology is that it speeds up the process of introducing new products,” she says. 

Still, sustainability concerns do play a key role in adapting to the digital realm. During the designing stage, these technologies get rid of the need to immediately start using fabrics, says Pazzanese. Designers, he says, can “visualize garments even before trying any material. So, whether you do it just for fun or not, it’s sustainable because you don’t waste material.”

Demi Janna explains that augmented and virtual reality technology can solve some pressing issues within the fashion industry. It is particularly bound to make the production process faster and cheaper. 

“In a normal production process, you need to go back to product designs about six to seven times. This means that you would essentially need to fly back and forth [between your design hub and the factory] at least seven times. This takes up a lot of time, you have to deal with different cultures. In this case, these technologies would really help,” she says.

In the age of online meetings, augmented reality has slowly become a more common sight in fashion. “I have been seeing it in Zoom meetings and webinars, for example, where speakers use jewelry or head pieces, or actually earrings that are digital,” says Pazzanese. “Just like Snapchat’s dog ears and those filters.”

The process of designing an augmented reality garment

A promising innovation is what Pazzanese calls “phigital” clothing: “I think that is where brands want to go. It is this combination of the physicality of a garment with a digital layer that loads [on top of] it. So, you can wear a jacket or a piece of garment. But when you put like a phone or a device in front of it, you activate an extra layer or accessories or headpiece,” he explains. 

A recent development that has sparked Demi Janna’s interest is the introduction of digital collections by brands. She mentions the collection Nike designed in 2020 for the Bitmoji characters, available on Snapchat. In late 2021, Nike announced that it is slowly shifting its focus toward designing virtual clothing, filing seven trademark applications.

For now, there is still a need to educate the public about the potential of augmented reality in fashion, says Pazzanese. “With every trend, you know, at the beginning, there’s like a small population that are like the leaders, the ones that are trailblazing the trend. I think that’s where we are now,” he says. “We need to inform and show people that you can also try sneakers at home, and then buy them.” 

Demi Janna is determined to implement AR into her own career in the fashion industry. “I do really think that this is the future of fashion,” she concludes.

Banner: Bibi Pace on

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