Topshop's Virtual Reality

Live streaming shows is nothing new.  We almost expect it now.  I get angry commenters on Instagram demanding why there isn’t a stream of a show.   How do you go one step better and move things forward so that the consumer gets even closer to the show action?  You’d be wondering whether there are enough of these rabid fashion fans out there that even want to immerse themselves into fahsion week.  But the Topshop Unique show consistently ranks in the top five most-talked-about (in terms of social media coverage according to Editd) shows of London Fashion Week, and that conversation is largely to do with the high level of brand recognition that Topshop universally has.   It is a show that warrants new fandangled technology and every season it seems Topshop has been trialling different platforms and partners to create a new buzz.  One season, it was Google and their HD cameras strapped on to Cara Delevigne for viewers to customise outfits as they were going down the runway.  Last season it was Chirp sending out backstage images and tidbits to consumers – perhaps not as successful namely because the platform was too new.  This time round, Topshop Unique partnered up with the London-based 3D agency Inition to experience the show through their own virtual front-row seat and people could experience this at the Oxford Circus store.  Far out!  Jamiroquai was on to something back in the day.  Eager to get a gist of what this virtual reality thing was all about, I put a call out via Twitter for four blog readers to go and suss it out whilst I sat down and saw the real reality of the show.

First though, let’s give a round of applause to Topshop, British Fashion Council and Tate for finding what I think is Topshop’s most successful fashion week venue yet.  You can’t get bigger than the cavernous and iconic Turbine Hall, but its size didn’t dwarf the designers that showed in that space.  In fact, it elevated many of them as the sound boomed around the room and the lights and the rectangular long windows of the building combined to create an almost otherworldly glow on the models.  What was special about the Turbine Hall, wasn’t just the scale but the fact that anybody walking along the walkway that overlooks the Turbine Hall could watch the shows going on down below.  I love the idea of people just stumbling upon a fashion show (anybody who made it on that walkway care to comment on the experience?).  I wonder if it hampered or enhanced the experience of normal gallery visitors.  As an extra thoughtful bit of partnership between the Tate and Topshop, we got tickets to the Richard Hamilton exhibition thrown into the goody bag – way better than random lippies and nail varnishes in my book.

And secondly, before we come to the virtual reality/insanity part, let’s talk collection.  Tough school uniform vibes have been running riot at many shows this season.  It felt even more appropriate though for Topshop Unique to send out a gang of Craft slash St Trinian’s girls.  They wore oversized blazers and jackets belted up over layers of sweaters and skirts that contrast masculine and heavy duty wools, shearling and faux fraggle furs with delicate and filmy lace and sheer tulle.  As the show gradiated from petrol blue to slate grey to tan to pale yellow, the school uniform references gave way to bad ass mufty outfits with tattoo embroidered tulle tops, patchwork fur coats and python trenches kicked some oomph into what was a largely muted collection.  As with most Topshop Unique shows though, once they break down and filter down on to the shop floor, the collection takes on a “There’s something for everyone” approach.  I’ll be keeping my eye out for the butter yellow leather shirt and the layered lace and sheer skirts.

IMG_9967

IMG_9979

IMG_0001

IMG_0007

IMG_0011

IMG_0014

IMG_0022

IMG_0028

IMG_0030

IMG_0033

IMG_0036

IMG_0040

IMG_0047

IMG_0074

IMG_0051

IMG_0053

IMG_0066

IMG_0069

IMG_0076

IMG_0088

IMG_0101

IMG_0092

IMG_0096

IMG_0102

A few miles away, whilst I was at the show, Topshop was recreating the show atmosphere so that selected participants could experience a 360 degree virtual world through specially designed headsets.  The footage they watched was a mixture of the live feed from the runway, what was going on backstage, the VIP arrivals and other animated features.  It was supposed to be “rich and hyper-real” as Topshop carries on its remit to give the customer an entertaining experience.  Thanks to Elizabeth Pascka, Rebecca Martin, Holly Chapman and Amanda Bailey, who either had a go at the headsets or watched the footage on screens in-store at Topshop Oxford Circus, they gave their honest reviews of the whole affair.  The general consensus is a positive one as  Topshop are praised for opening up their shows for those who don’t get invited to the show but also risk losing the tactile touch of the clothes themselves as Holly and Amanda pointed out.  It begged the question of whether Topshop were trying too hard to contain itself within an untouchable virtual realm for the sake of a buzzy tech-based headline, and thus lose sight of what the customer is really after – the clothes.  There’s one solution to that of course – a few selected pieces from the show are currently available to be bought immediately.   If only, more of the looks were available.  That experience of instant gratification should be a physical one as opposed to a transient digital one.    

Elizabeth Pascka of Lizzie’s World:
“My arrival at Topshop’s Flagship store on London’s Oxford Street was greeted by a buzz of fashionistas, press and bewildered on-lookers amazed by the Topshop Unique show.  I was excited like a kid in a candy shop to activate the show; being constrained to only seeing the fashion show and hearing the actual hubbub surrounding me made my brain unconsciously feel like I was at the show.

The show was similar to the film Inception with the vivid surroundings of the show, even having my virtual “neighbour” sitting next to me, who had been taking pictures on her iPhone.  I felt slightly envious on occasions, as I too wanted to take pictures but realistically could not.  There were often animated pink rose petals which fell from the ceiling as a reminder that even though it seemed like l was at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, it was in fact virtual.

The experience afforded by Topshop gave me an insight into the ever evolving world of fashion; I loved the virtual show, being part of something exclusive and innovative. It was a positive encounter with technology and fashion; I look forward to observing future pioneering works in fashion.”

Rebecca Martin, writer at British Mode Magazine:
“As Sir Philip Green took his seat between Anna Wintour and eternally loyal Topshop ambassador Kate Moss, the electric atmosphere within the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall was also being felt several miles away at Topshop’s flagship Oxford Circus store. In a determined stride towards the future of fashion,Topshop enlisted London based 3D design agency Inition to create a 360 degree virtual reality; a bold move which brought the crowds of Oxford Street to a standstill at 3pm on Sunday 16th February.

State of the art headsets transported observers directly to the front row, their anticipations for the impending show shared by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Poppy Delevingne and Lottie Moss. As the show began, it became impossible to avoid becoming completely immersed.  Live streaming to the store created a unique opportunity to share in the first impressions of a collection to covet, and virtual eyes followed as shades of blue combined with dove grey, in a master class of layering.  As the shows attendees applauded a finale set to Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World’, so too did those who had shared in the show in the virtual sense.

The Topshop Unique show is one of the most eagerly anticipated on the London Fashion Week schedule, bringing with it expectations of an incomparable atmosphere.  Through the use of virtual reality streaming, the atmosphere permeated far beyond the walls of the Tate Modern, resonating with all of those who watched outside the store.  With the added bonus of backstage access, and a multi-faceted media approach, Topshop Unique may well have instigated a huge progression in the future of live shows, and the way they are shared by those perhaps not quite fortunate enough to have received an invite.”

Holly Chapman:
“Both aspiring F-row goers and the simply curious were drawn into the crowd at the window of the Topshop oxford street store to experience their virtual reality catwalk.  Once you put the futuristic headset on you could not get any closer the Unique show; sat in the front row you can even see your neighbours snap up each look on their phones as the models come past you one by one.  I found myself raising my phone to join in, and then remembered I was actually sat in the Flagship’s window.  For the atmosphere of really being in the Tate it was great, but you do miss out on the detail in the clothing you would see in a normal live stream, however with the headsets you lose the restriction of only seeing where the camera
is pointing.  Topshop model Georgia Taylor said ‘I think it’s really exciting to be part of something that I hope will steer the future of fashion for everyone.  Technology like fashion is developing and changing and I’m excited to see what could happen in just the next few years’.  They should be praised for taking this step in allowing young people to experience the fashion industry in this way, making it no longer just for fashion’s most superior.”

Amanda Bailey of Pins and Needles:
“Who needs a ticket to LFW these days when the technology means that you can experience it all from the comfort of your own home… Or Oxford Street!  I arrived early so I could get a feel for the event and I was impressed and intrigued by the scene before me as I was expecting a relatively simple set up, but the reality was very conceptual and took the word “virtual” to a whole other level.  Just after 3pm four girls filed into the window, took their places on the “fake FROW” and placed the headset/goggles on and the screens powered into action displaying what was being streamed into the goggles.  It was a mixture of backstage photos and live feed from the catwalk show, but sadly you couldn’t really see the show and the clothing very well.  I loved the concept, and the very forward thinking idea of it all, but something simpler or a clearer stream would have made the experience more enjoyable for me, and made me feel more like I was at the show.”

ts_amandabailey1

ts_amandabailey2 Photos by Amanda Bailey

ts_hollychapman1

ts_hollychapman2 Photos by Holly Chapman

ts_rebeccamartin1

ts_rebeccamartin2 Photos by Rebecca Martin

20 Replies to “Topshop's Virtual Reality”

  1. Seriously, people get mad at you for not livestreaming? Are they aware exactly how expensive it is to livestream a show?!

    I agree with you..this was one of Topshop’s most consistent runway collections. Thematically cohesive while not sacrificing the complexity of the design.

    XxMO
    madame-ostrich.com

  2. Thank you for doing this post as I requested! A very interesting and accurate write-up, and I was especially interested in the ‘virtual reality’ part as I didn’t know happened. Great Work x

  3. This is a really cool collaboration! It may be significant to point out that Topshop didn’t develop the virtual reality headset themselves. The one in the pictures is the Oculus Rift, which actually has a huge following in video games..
    http://www.oculusvr.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *