Virtual Clothing Is Helping Fashion Brands Dress to Impress
Earlier this year, our research and development team MediaMonks Labs partnered with FLUX, our fashion and luxury team, to explore the virtualization of fashion. The report explored digital’s impact on fashion design, production and consumer experiences—one of those being the opportunity to try on digital garments using AR.
Now, the Labs team has completed a prototype that allows people to do just that. Based on full-body tracking, the prototype features an original digital garment designed by Brandi LaCertosa, a Creative at MediaMonks with a background in fashion design. But the immersive experience does more than let people virtually “wear” a garment; it also offers a glimpse into the ways that digital technology can help consumers engage with the meaning and inspiration behind a design through storytelling and interactivity.
Trying on a New Technology
If you’ve ever played around with a face filter on Instagram or Snapchat, then you already have an inkling of how the try-on prototype works—the main difference is that the prototype tracks the whole body, rather than simply tracking the face. So just like how a face filter might let you try on cosmetics, full-body tracking lets you view an entire virtual outfit on your own body.
When the team first began experimenting with the prototype, only 2D tracking was available by Snapchat. Since then, the platform has released 3D body tracking, which recognizes the position and rotation of joints for a more convincing experience.
We used the industry standard tools for design, modeling and output to see how these tools work together.
There are some limits to the technology. The camera’s view must frame the entire body, which is good to get an overall look at an outfit, but can make it tricky to capture the finer details (like buttons on a blouse) that require bringing the device in closer range to see. The technology also doesn’t allow for sizing adjustments, meaning a single virtual garment won’t fit all body types. Grading (fashion-speak for making larger or smaller sizes) a virtual garment follows the same process as a physical one.
The team anticipates demand for 3D content will continue to grow in the fashion industry. Realizing this, they built their approach around the way fashion houses produce physical collections. “We used the industry standard tools for design, modeling and output to see how these tools work together, and what we need to learn for future projects using this production pipeline,” says Geert Eichhorn, Innovation Director.
Designing in a New Dimension
The process of designing an outfit and translating it into digital was a unique collaboration between cutting-edge technology and traditional fashion design. “I wanted this garment to be a heritage piece, something that I would design regardless of it being digital,” says LaCertosa, noting that a fashion brand wouldn’t take the digital aspect into consideration when designing—instead, executing digitally would be our challenge to solve. The team worked with a Marvelous Designer, which allowed the team to work with the same kind of digital patterns that brands are already using in their current design process.
The digital production process emulated the way that a garment comes together physically, with the Labs team translating LaCertosa’s designs into patterns that would join together in a 3D shape. “We weren’t physically together, so I couldn’t make patterns for them,” says LaCertosa. She provided the team with references—“We use very specific terminology in fashion,” she adds—and connected with them over calls to suggest any changes that needed to be made. “It’s the same process you’d have by physically meeting in a factory,” says LaCertosa. “We followed that same production flow, but virtually—and it was quite smooth.”
Just like a physical garment, the 3D one is made from two-dimensional patterns.
This process gave the team the chance to test the new value chain mapped out in their previous report—a fashion cycle transformed by new technologies. “It speaks to how we do things. We have so much expertise across our teams, and it’s about trusting each other and knowing what someone doesn’t have and needs,” says Eichhorn. “There’s an understanding that all these things feed into one another, from design to production to the end-consumer, so it’s natural for the Monks to work together in an integrated way.”
Translating Inspiration into Tactile Experiences
The technology prototyped by Labs is more than just a tool for trying on clothes digitally—it also opens up sophisticated forms of storytelling. The inspiration behind LaCertosa’s design hearkens back to the Greek island of Chios, her family’s homeland. Among the island’s most famous stories is that of the Ottoman invasion of Anavatos, a fortress-like village high up in the mountains. As the Ottomans stormed the village, the women made a drastic sacrifice to avoid falling into a life of slavery: they jumped from the cliffs to their deaths and were regarded as heroes by the locals.
Elements of this story come to life in the details of LaCertosa’s design. Its silhouette takes inspiration from traditional Greek garb worn in the War of Independence, while ruffles climb up the shoulder to evoke ascension (“Anavatos” translates to “ascendable” or “climbable”). Worry beads made from resin produced by the mastic tree, which is most prevalent on the island, become shank buttons adorning the garment.
While it’s not unique for a piece of clothing to tell a tale, such stories are seldom shared with consumers. “Designers love telling their stories and sharing how they pull inspiration,” says LaCertosa. “Now, you have more opportunities to let people get to know the garment and learn more. Even small details incorporated through sound and animation could have a great effect.”
On that note, Guajardo continues to experiment with the prototype by adding different visual effects that make the try-on experience more unique, immersive and emotionally engaging. “I’m fascinated that you can mix different techniques that we use with lenses,” he says. “I’m using particles and segmentation to test different atmospheric effects.”
So, while some may use full-body tracking and 3D technology to show how a garment looks on their body, others might wield virtualization to tell feature-rich, emotionally driven narratives. From production to the consumer experience, digital’s unique ability to convey the inspiration behind a design and immerse people within the world of the brand continues to grow—and the team is keen to see where that takes the industry next.
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