Trend alert: Is this the future of window shopping?
Fashion is now more inclusive than ever and technology is a prime driver. Creative director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing, is using the brand's new Milan store as an interactive shop window featuring live mannequins, volunteer shoppers, all strapped into Oculus virtual reality (VR) headsets.
The headsets, he says, create “a metaphorical journey through his creative process in a way that is designed to trigger the feelings he experiences during the genesis of his collections: everything from risk and doubt to elation”. Rousteing's idea is to get customers to enter his brain and discover his feelings through the VR headsets.
Balmain is the second luxury brand (after Gucci) to use technology to enhance the shopping experience. Gucci launched their interactive window displays in stores around the world earlier this year. The brand collaborated with Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal, using mannequins 'interacting' with his digital illustrations to create the sense of a gallery-inspired tableau instead of conventional in-store windows.
In many Gucci stores, people can use VR headsets while shopping, which attempts to further immerse potential customers in the creative origins of their retail experience.
Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, Gucci’s interactive experience is not yet available in South Africa.
No doubt tech will have an increasing impact on fashion, and Balmain and Gucci are leading the way in using the kind of immersive experiences to enhance shopping experiences. As to whether these applications offer real value or are just marketing gimmicks, only time will tell.