The global pandemic has presented the creative industries with a great series of unique challenges. For creative professionals around the UK and beyond, such challenges led to most of the industry envisioning new, innovative creative solutions, especially in the realm of live events (which, alongside production, were hit the hardest by the pandemic crisis).
One particularly inspiring project in that realm was Fabric of Reality, an entirely immersive fashion show linking designers and VR/AR artists under one unique flag. To bring it to life, Verizon Media's award-winning immersive production house RYOT Studio partnered with the Fashion Innovation Agency of the London College of Fashion, UAL and Kaleidoscope, devising innovative ways to let participants experience the wonders of fashion in augmented reality.
Today we are getting Behind the Idea following a chat with Sam Field, Director of Creative Technology, RYOT Studio at Verizon Media, to learn more about this exciting campaign below.
What was the brief?
This was an immersive marketing experience to showcase RYOT Studio x Verizon Media’s capabilities as a storytelling and creative tech production partner. We saw the events and especially the fashion industry under pressure to transform during a pandemic, to embrace new digital, immersive technology and finding new ways to reach audiences who couldn’t visit in-person events to see collections as they would normally have done. Coupled with cries for more accessibility, sustainability, diversity and an end to an obsession with fast fashion, we saw an opportunity to try something new. With digital fashion seeing a growth spurt in the fight against waste in textiles, and the new opportunities that immersive, interactive digital experiences can bring - especially as we look to the future of real-time connectivity with 5G - Fabric of Reality was born.
How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?
We quickly agreed this was not about recreating a runway show, it had to be about giving an immersive feeling to a live event that people were familiar with, like front row access, networking and a sense of ‘being there’.
The project was born in April 2020, in the height of the pandemic, so with that backdrop we knew that a virtual, socially distanced experience was the only way forward, so we initially set about shortlisting partners we felt could help deliver specific parts of the process.
We shortlisted multiple virtual events platforms and decided on the social-VR art platform, The Museum of Other Realities. In addition, we worked with Kaleidoscope, who are an XR art collective - the idea here was about letting creativity lead and technology enable. We also worked with our friends at The Fashion Innovation Agency, part of London College of Fashion, who work with leading designers who are already exploring new and exciting ways to move fashion forwards, to help us bring the idea to life.
Once we had outlined our ambition to those parties, the brainstorming process was very fluid, with lots of listening and lots of creative sessions to refine the most important elements.
Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?
The Fabric of Reality was the first of its kind and a new era of fashion show, which told the unheard stories behind the collections of three emerging designers. It was split into three components: an exhibition hosted in The Museum of Other Realities, a live fashion event, hosted in virtual reality and a live stream amplified to a global audience.
It was a fully immersive experience that sought to demonstrate what fashion shows could look like in the future. Created in partnership with Kaleidoscope, the Museum of Other Realities (MOR) and the Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) at London College of Fashion, UAL, Fabric of Reality aimed to take audiences on a journey to explore the story and narrative behind each designer's collection.
Among the designers were urban activewear designer Charli Cohen, conscious lifestyle brand Sabinna, and virtual fashion designer, Damara Ingles. They were paired with some of the world’s leading XR designers Anand Duncan, John Orion Young, VRHuman and XR art royalty, Sutu.
The brief was broad - focus on the stories and inspiration behind the collections. The only restrictions would be to create one larger-than-life sculptural garment and one story world that would allow fashion lovers to step into the mind of the designer and understand their narrative.
Attendees to the live, virtual reality event were able to sip virtual drinks, which enabled them to change the size of their virtual avatar - becoming tiny or huge, and therefore being able to view the content from different perspectives. They could interact with each other, meet the artists and designers, and virtually try on garments. In some of the designer's story worlds, guests could even fly around the virtual space.
For those without VR headsets, we also had our broadcast crew shoot the event live using VR headsets as virtual cameras, which our studio team vision-mixed and streamed to a global audience across our network of websites and social channels. Anyone, anywhere could experience the event, which was an important factor for us when thinking about ways to heighten the accessibility of the fashion world through digital means with the technology and connectivity we have today. In the future, virtual reality and augmented reality headsets will be much smaller as 5G will enable real-time connectivity without the need for large computers within the devices themselves - so experiences like this will be able to be much more commonplace and open to huge audiences globally. Fabric of Reality was a glimpse of that future.
One of the things that really excited us was the idea of delivering the true virtualisation of an event from scratch, and one that goes beyond the boundaries of the physical world.
Firstly, we were able to replicate what we’d hoped to achieve in an actual physical event - 150 VIPs attended in VR from the comfort of their homes. But here's where it gets interesting - an additional 1.8M live streamed the event in real-time or shortly after, generating in total 4.6M event streams and 7M video views, half of which came from Asia. It was a global event, drawing in audiences interested in both technology and fashion, and then merging the two worlds to create something incredible.
Supporting the activation with a wider paid media, editorial and PR campaign generated excitement before the event and led to more than 80 articles around the world across key Fashion and Tech publications, including Forbes, Vogue Business, Stuff China and Elle Brazil.
Above all, this project was a learning exercise, so we ran a research study alongside the event, polling thousands in attendance. What we were able to learn from this study should be of interest to anyone in the fashion space, or anyone in retail or marketing for that matter.
By immersing the audience in the stories that the designers wanted to tell, 90% of those attending said it made them understand the designer better. For 84%, it made them respect the designers more, and 77% made them feel closer to the designer. Creating a community around fashion and technology in this way helped us to create meaningful connections between the designers and consumers, helping to enrich their understanding and perspective of the fashion world.
And one of the key outtakes for us: 78% said that knowing this narrative and story added positive value to the garments - which, as marketers, should be the goal of what we do day in and day out - telling the stories of our brands so that they resonate positively with our customers.
What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?
From the initial kick-off to the activation going live, it was an extremely tight eight weeks, which in itself was a challenge! Lots of the production was heavily reliant on the creativity and talent of the designer/artist collaborations, which is why it was so important to work with such trusted partners.
A major challenge was the initial lack of access to our London studio - where we have state-of-the-art XR technology like volumetric capture, XR Stage and motion capture - due to lockdown, so we had to make plans for an entirely remote shoot for the live-stream and an in-studio shoot. Luckily restrictions eased somewhat, and we were able to have a small bubble of studio crew shoot and stream the event from within XR Studio in Holborn.
The biggest challenge on the day itself was managing the 150 guests in VR, with our team acting as ushers in the event, funnelling guests from group to group so as not to max out the server power allocated to the game engine. In order for this to truly scale, we needed to think about every touchpoint. For example, how it would play out in VR, editorial, video and optimised for WebAR to bring the experience to audiences across multiple screens and touchpoints at a global scale.
What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?
The thing that probably resonated most was something a Forbes journalist in attendance said was the moment the penny dropped for them. We were in the event, in VR, chatting with some of the designers and in walked a guest who rushed over to one of the artists raving about his work and how she’d always wanted to meet him. The journalist said at that moment they forgot they were in VR and felt like being at a party and bumping into someone she knew. Because social VR can do that. You remember it as something you did, not something you watched or read or listened to. It was an experience, and everyone I’ve spoken to that attended the event says they remember it as something they did - they were ‘there’, and that’s really special.
What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?
The main message was that during periods of change, it’s important to take stock of how and why we do things a certain way. What lessons can we learn and how can we do things differently, and even better. The Fabric of Reality was filled with messages around sustainability, democratisation, representation and mental health because we allowed the designers to tell the stories that mattered to them, while we focussed on the best way to amplify them in the most immersive way possible. We took the story and found the best ways for technology to help bring it to life. Fashion has a transformative power, as does technology, and over the course of the past year and a half, we have seen that power in full force. This collaboration can be a force for change in both industries, highlighting the revolutionary capabilities of technologies powered by 5G and showcasing the immense talent of all those involved - from the XR artists to the designers themselves.
What is one unique aspect of the campaign?
Almost everything. This has never been done before in this way - but I think what makes it stand out is how many touch points were catered for: VR, editorial, video, WebAR, SocialAR and more. The accessibility aspect of the campaign also stands out - helping to bring the fashion world to new audiences on a mass scale when the industry has traditionally been one associated with exclusive events and networks. What’s more, fashion and technology are aspects that people interact with on a daily basis and have universal appeal - so the fact that; this partnership brought both industries together and to new levels of innovation is also a real highlight.
How long did it take from inception to delivery?
12 weeks, with 8 weeks production.
What do you hope it achieves for the brand?
This is a showcase of what’s possible when you combine storytelling and technology. It has already helped us increase the number of clients we work with in this space across many different industries. In addition to this, we have already worked with three of the designers / artists again and have an exciting evolution of this project going live later in 2021. This sort of activation highlights some really great opportunities for brands who are looking to play in this space and reach their audiences in new and engaging ways. For those brands, it’s important to ensure they’re working with a trusted and expert studio, like our London-based RYOT Studio, and allow the process to be as organic and creative as possible to land the best results.
Credit list for the campaign?
- Yahoo Ryot Lab @ Verizon Media
- Joscelyn Wilson - Creative Technology Strategist
- Yasmin Al-Naama - Senior Project Manager
- Sam Field - Director of Creative Technology
- Geoffrey Goodwin - Senior Director of Studios
- Roy Rodenhaueser - Creative Technologist
- Emma Smith - Senior Designer
- Carl Griffin - Deputy Head of Studios
- The Museum of Other Realities
- The Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion
- Charli Cohen
- Sabinna Rachimova
- Damara Inglês
- XR Artists:
- Sutu Campbell
- John Orion Young (JOY)
- VR Human
- Anand Duncan