Virtual and Augmented Reality in the World of Fashion

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are being integrated more and more into everyday life, beginning to break into the fashion industry and retail. In addition, over the course of the past year, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, people have been unable to visit physical stores leading to a surge in ecommerce sales, with companies making their products more readily available.


AR and VR have become leading innovative forces in making the shopping experience more interactive and engaging for customers. The digital experience is a creative way for brands to showcase their products and make the customer's buyer journey smoother.


One billion people worldwide are using AR across all industries, and 32% of consumers are using it while shopping, the key demographic being people between the ages of 16 and 44.


The Difference Between AR and VR

AR and VR both provide unique and exciting ways for customers to browse products, try on clothes and encourage more sales.


AR (Augmented Reality) enhances the real world with digital elements. For example, QR codes can take you to an app that creates interactive content for the world around you. AR has been used in a variety of ways in recent years, including in Google Sky Map and the popular mobile game PokemonGo.


It has been able to add a whole new dimension of interactivity to the world of shopping. Scanning clothes in a store can give you more information about the product and even let you see how an item of clothing would look on you. It is akin to carrying a pocket changing room with you.


AR Try-On is a great and effective way to try out a product before you buy it, all without having to wait in changing rooms. SnapChat and Instagram are social media apps leading the charge. SnapChat premiered AR Try-On in May this year, allowing users to try on clothes and accessories for free. This is in partnership with brands such as Prada and FarFetch who have utilised new technology that responds to the movement of your body. Gucci has also offered AR shopping experiences on the app.


Instagram, meanwhile has entered a partnership with Carlings and Facebook, debuting an AR t-shirt. The white tee can be bought from Carling's store, and when the Instagram filter is activated, the logo on the front becomes a tracking point for your camera, allowing any graphic of your choosing to become super-imposed on the shirt no matter how you move.


VR (Virtual Reality) differs from AR in as much as it creates a whole new world to the one you're living in. It simulates reality and puts you anywhere in the world: a forest, a city, even space. VR is most commonly used for entertainment, particularly in video games, but in recent years, fashion brands have begun to utilise it to showcase their products.


Virtual reality is becoming an exponentially more popular choice for fashion shows since Covid-19 began. In 2020, Balenciaga hosted a VR show for its A/W2021 collection, providing new and innovative ways for guests to enjoy the latest in fashion from the comfort of their homes. Even all the way back in 2017, Samsung VR headsets were used at the New York Fashion Week to transport attendees to an Italian city, with digital mannequins showcasing the collections.


Brands That Use AR and VR

With AR and VR revitalising the fashion industry and changing the way people shop, it only makes sense that more and more brands are taking advantage of the rising trend.



Burberry has made more than one stride into the world of AR shopping. In February 2020, they partnered with Google to bring AR shopping to their Google Search technology. This allows users to experience Burberry products set into the environment around them, helping customers to learn more about the product before purchasing. The tool is currently only available in the UK and the US though there are plans for the AR experience to be released in other countries.


They've also created an AR experience for their SS21 campaign in which users can create their own 3D Pocket Bag sculptures, leading the push for more digital content and enhancing the customer's online fashion journey.



The make-up and fashion brand has added several filters to Instagram, including try-ons for accessories like hats and headbands. One recent addition is a complementary experience promoting their 2020 holiday make-up line with make-up artists recreating the AR firework look in real life.


They also held an event in partnership with Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat, allowing users to digitally try on their new Dior-ID sneakers in a selection of colours.


In 2015, they designed their own virtual reality headset, Dior Eyes, that shows users how models prepare backstage for a fashion show. This gives the public a chance for a closer look at their brand, though the experience is only available in selected showrooms. The Eyes were created in partnership with DigitasLBi Labs using a 3D printer, and they provide an immersive 3-dimensional view of the backstage fashion world with 360-degree vision.



Chanel kicked off their use of AR technology back in 2011, letting users try on the J12 watch on their app without having to go into a physical store. Since then, they have worked with FarFetch to create high tech dressing rooms. Clients choose their looks and accessories, book an appointment and then travel to the boutique to experience the smart mirror at work. It displays their choices and shows customers multiple angles, as well as using a Radio Frequency ID bar to detect new items brought in and subsequently displaying the original item from the runway show.


2021 has also seen them debut their impressive Lipscanner technology. It is comprised of an AI technology that can scan any image and find a corresponding colour from one of the brand's 400 lip products. It encourages experimentation with users able to snap a picture of any colour they like - such as taking a picture of pale pink candy floss - and then the technology will show them a matching colour that they can then digitally try on to see if they like it. The technology takes into account skin tone, age and the shape of your lips.



Online clothing store Asos is no stranger to creating a virtual experience for its users. In June 2019, they launched a 'Virtual Catwalk' feature on their app. Users can point their camera at a flat surface and enjoy the AR experience of seeing a model exhibiting the brand's clothes. This comes with the aim of creating a more intimate shopping experience, making the clothes more appealing to the viewer.


They have also launched an app called 'See My Fit', which gives users the opportunity to see what an item of clothing looks like on different body types. It trialled with 800 products back in January 2020, slowly rolling out more options to keep up customer engagement and protect models from coming into the studio during Covid.


Benefits of AR and VR Shopping

In a Google Consumer Survey carried out in 2019, 66% of people said they were interested in using AR for help while shopping. AR and VR shopping can make customers' lives easier if they cannot get to a store or if they want to fully explore an item before buying, helping them to make more informed decisions.


Layout of Products

A physical brick-and-mortar store can be quite daunting. Its size and layout sometimes mean it can be difficult to find what you're looking for. Some users find products they want on online stores where the layout is simpler and more organised. AR shopping simply adds another dimension onto this meaning it is easier to find items and see if they suit you, making the journey from browsing to buying a lot smoother.


Easier to Try on Clothes

Changing rooms can often lead to long waits. So often, when you're waiting for a room to become available, you find you have to leave because your parking permit is running out or you have to catch a bus or you have to meet someone. AR changing rooms bypass queues altogether. Customers can instantly try on clothes that they like, making their shopping experience more positive and providing further encouragement to make a purchase.


A Personalised and Interactive Experience

Engaging customers is the name of the game. If they aren't attracted to what is being sold and how it's being sold, they are less likely to make a purchase. An interactive AR shopping experience puts the customer front and centre, right in the thick of the action. Any information they need about a product will be right at their fingertips and the apps can suggest products to you based on your search and purchase history. This increases customer satisfaction and confidence in brands, making it more likely for them to buy products and less likely for them to return them.


Improves Brand Awareness

With AR filters and features taking social media by storm, the likelihood of users sharing their AR experience increases tenfold. Their engagement with a brand's product inspires them to share the filters of them wearing AR make-up or clothes, generating interest from their audiences and increasing the awareness the public has of a brand's features and inspiring people to become potential customers.


Supports the Health and Safety of the Customers

Due to Covid-19, it is more important than ever for people to look after their health. AR shopping is a solid solution to lowering the risk of catching an illness. There's no risk of picking up other peoples' germs from clothes as everything is digital, making their lives easier and increasing satisfaction with the service a brand provides.


Future Trends in Virtual Fashion Retail

The continued rise of ecommerce and the consistent developments in technology mean that AR and VR shopping is only going to get bigger and better. Fashion shows are continuing to blend real life with virtual reality; a trend only expected to grow while brands are rolling out more and more features for use on social media such as SnapChat, Instagram and Pinterest.


It creates a more environmentally-friendly industry and makes fashion retail more accessible to the public. AR in retail is set to be worth 12 billion dollars by 2025, with one in three of the Gen Z generation projected to be shopping with Ar by 2025 as well. More than one in three shoppers expect AR retail technology to become more readily available within the year. 44% of Snapchatters are already saying they would prefer to use AR to shop for clothes and accessories over other products.


The future of virtual fashion retail is now. AR and VR have ushered in a rejuvenation of the shopping experience for customers, giving them new ways to look at products and making the prospect of buying more enticing. More and more brands are using the technology in creative and innovative ways, interweaving it seamlessly into their brands and the lives of their customers, creating an interactive experience that is more likely to drum up business and bring the industry further into the future.