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Retailers must digitise fashion for the Covid era

Opinion

Published by:

14 July 2020

Author: Bruno Antunes Luis

Image: Satisfy Running exploration by Polygon Dynamics

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Bruno Antunes Luis, co-founder of Gaspard + Bruno, on how hyper-real digital solutions offer untapped ways to experience and interact with products virtually

While augmented reality (AR) has been around for a while now, it’s still not been embraced as a strong pillar in most digital solutions in the retail market. And many believe the technology is still looking for a concrete problem to solve. But now more than ever, we have to invent ways to let people experience garments, weight, and textures beyond physical touch.

In the UK, 39% of consumers have used augmented reality to test or view a product they’re considering (source: DMA). Until now, however, this kind of activation has been a low-hanging fruit brands have not taken full advantage of. As Covid-19 forced stores to close, retailers have had to explore new options to enable shoppers to gauge the physics of a product digitally. Virtual try-on solutions such as Wannaby offer a mass market mobile AR platform so that consumers can try on shoes, jewellery and apparel before making a purchase. These improve brand image and help to bring e-commerce to life.

For the fashion industry, the narrative around the product is also one of the most important aspects to communicate. The desire to translate emotion through realist and personal cloth simulation is what pushed us to create Polygon Dynamics on those principles. As a creative company, our take on AR and digital visualisation is perhaps a partial vision on this large topic, but a very pragmatic one. The fashion industry is by far the sector that approaches us the most to help them cope with the current crisis.

Polygon Dynamics by Gaspard + Bruno
‘Retailers must embrace AR so that consumers can try on shoes, jewellery and apparel before making a purchase’

Fashion weeks have provided key opportunities for designers and brands to secure orders from retailers around the world. Without them, the fashion sector needs an alternative model for presenting garments, underlining a possible changing paradigm for both consumers and buyers. Several advanced solutions are ready to go live – from AR-enabled product pages that give users a clear idea of sizing and texture, to proper physics applied to cloth simulation.

For traditional physical retailers switching to this digital paradigm, having schematics and patterns for creating 3D models of their products is not important. Most of those assets are already in-house or can be transformed from 2D images to 3D fairly easily. And once this is implemented as part of the design process at a brand level, it has the benefit of making personalisation scalable. Platforme, which is setting a new standard for made-to-order production, is maybe the most serious player in this domain.

Applications of AR still need to be fuelled by innovation in order to become something most of us will use on a daily basis though. Combining and connecting diverse skills from concept to implementation, aesthetic to engineering, this will mean sometimes welcoming sectors like gaming as part of the solution. And an important evolution of those foundations is right around the corner with breakthroughs such as MediaPipe from Google and Apple’s roll out of Lidar cameras across its product lines.

In a nutshell, AR is simply following the same curve as many previous technologies. Just as it adapted with the emergence of the internet and social media, the fashion industry will shift again using AR as a new tool to transmit culture and emotion.

Bruno Antunes Luis is the managing partner of Gaspard + Bruno, a creative company based between London and Lisbon.

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