Photographs Courtesy of Gucci
With the looming threat of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19, many fashion brands are currently weighing their options to mitigate these circumstances for their January menswear and haute couture shows. The Italian and French governments have granted permission for the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM), respectively, to host in-person fashion shows provided each brand follows their national COVID-19 restrictions and regulations (e.g. social distancing, mask-wearing, updated vaccinations, and reduced capacity). Both the British Fashion Council (BFC) and the Fashion Designers of America (FDMA) have canceled in-person men’s fashion week events that were initially scheduled for January, and yet the women’s fashion week shows are still booked to be in-person. As a result, the decision is ultimately left to the designers and their brands on whether or not they are willing to take the epidemic – as well as monetary – risk of proceeding with in-person events. However, with the unpredictable nature of the Omicron spread, it could be beneficial for the fashion industry to take advantage of their options in virtual fashion, such as try-ons using AR technology and fashion shows through digital universe platforms.
Though initially brushed off as an abstract, improbable future for luxury brands, digital fashion has gained immense popularity over the last few years: Business of Fashion reported that 50 percent of general U.S. consumers are interested in purchasing a digital asset (e.g. clothing, gaming “skins” or avatars, NFTs) within the next 12 months. Consequently, many popular luxury brands are embracing the digital fashion revolution by working with gaming companies to expand the impact of their collections. For example, Gucci’s recent collaboration with Roblox – the Roblox Gucci Garden, which generated approximately 50 million daily active users – showcases the possibilities of fashion moving beyond its traditional perception as physical goods and opting for more accessible, creative opportunities for anyone regardless of their location. The expansion of digital fashion in virtual universes also creates more options for brands to curate more immersive virtual shows for broader audiences, such as the platform Metaverse’s plans to host a virtual fashion week this March. Additionally, with recent developments in augmented reality (AR) technology, customers can choose to try-on products without the need to be physically present in stores and, possibly, at designer fittings.
Despite the relatively unprecedented nature of luxury fashion in the digital world, the current rising infection rate of COVID-19 continues to threaten in-person fashion shows, and in worse case scenarios, these in-person events can endanger public health and result in a tremendous loss of money. Therefore, luxury fashion brands should consider the benefits of displaying their newest collections in virtual universes and accommodating customers’ needs with AR try-ons and digital fashion pieces.