Patrick McDowell was inspired by the concept of a queer-friendly Catholic church for his recent Helsinki Fashion Week collection. The London designer used an unlimited number of crystals and sourced fabric in the exact Pantone colour he wanted — Taroni silk pink. His venue was also a first: a Vatican City in the clouds. Two days later, London designer Damara Inglês presented an immersive installation that all but defied gravity. Attendees at the event, called The Fabric of Reality, could fly around her “runway” inspired by ocean creatures floating in space.
Both of these shows were entirely digital. While the technology is still nascent, the formats were a chance for designers and technologists to demonstrate the potential appeal of digital and virtual formats.
“So many of the experiences at digital fashion weeks have felt very flat, both in the content itself and the way in which it was viewed,” says Matthew Drinkwater, head of London’s Fashion Innovation Agency, which helped produce The Fabric of Reality. “Creating in virtual reality allowed us to pull the audience through the screen, into an entirely new era of experience and utterly dispel the myth that digital shows can never match the excitement and emotion of a physical one.”
The digital-only collections created for HFW’s Digital Village allowed viewers to pre-order physical garments, or, after the week’s events, claim a limited edition digital garment, which could be “dressed” on the customer’s picture or used in virtual spaces. On Sunday, the platform saw more than 3,000 transactions. Inglês’s presentation was part of a virtual reality fashion event produced by creative agency Ryot (which is owned by Verizon) and the Fashion Innovation Agency, designed for virtual reality headsets, although it can be watched on a computer. It’s too early to tell if the technology will resonate or be broadly adopted, but the opening day was so popular, it crashed the servers hosting it, according to the venue, Museum of Other Realities.
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