Virtual and augmented reality technology is bringing back the days of bespoke and handcrafted design. More and more shops have closed their physical stores and turned to online platforms to satisfy customer’s convenience demands. This leaves a promising blank canvas for designers such as Allison Crank to utilise virtual reality technology and add another dimension to the shopping and design experience.

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Reality Theatre Mall | © Allison Crank

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Falcon virtual reality device by WeMakeVR | Photo by Chang W. Lee | © The New York Times

Venturing into the new era of fashion and e-commerce, British designer Allison Crank created the Reality Theatre Mall which allows customers to walk into a virtual shopping world and commission bespoke, personal items. It also provides a social element which has been largely ignored in e-commerce.

Reality Theatre Mall by Allison Crank

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Reality Theatre Mall | © Allison Crank

Individuals wear an Oculus Rift headset to envision the virtual space and use a game controller to navigate through it. Customers encounter and interact with virtual people, animals and floating neon signs as they traverse. A step beyond physical shopping, the Reality Theatre Mall sets the stage for the shopper to become the actor: free to immerse themselves completely and influence the surrounding environment.

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Reality Theatre Mall | © Allison Crank

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Reality Theatre Mall | © Allison Crank

Crank’s creation offers a preview of the strong impact virtual reality will have on the way fashion and design is created and bought. Instead of shopping for what designers assume people want, customers have a much larger and more active role in creating and designing their own items. Virtual reality restructures the relationship between designer and customer, where designers will become “directors that will sell their knowledge, expertise and taste…facilitating the creation of a new object” (WT VOX, 2016).

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Reality Theatre Mall | © Allison Crank

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Tommy Hilfiger model wearing a WeMakeVR headset | Photo by Chang W. Lee | © The New York Times

Even high fashion brands such as Dior, Rebecca Minkoff and Tommy Hilfiger are getting in on this new technology. Individuals can now watch Tommy Hilfiger’s Fall 2015 runway show in certain stores around the world. The Samsung GearVR headset lets shoppers sit in the front row of the runway and backstage with models, all with a 360 degree, three-dimensional view. Despite wearing a large VR headset, viewers realistically feel as if they are at the event themselves.

Written by Alice Pearce

Edited by Sonia Wan

References
WT VOX (2016). VIRTUAL REALITY MALL LETS CONSUMERS SHOP ALONGSIDE DIGITAL GIRAFFES AND ZEBRAS. [Online] Available at: https://wtvox.com/virtual-reality/virtual-reality-mall/[Accessed 02/11/2016]

Forbes (2015). HANDS-ON WITH TOMMY HILFIGER’S IN-STORE VIRTUAL REALITY CATWALK EXPERIENCE. [Online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelarthur/2015/10/25/hands-on-with-tommy-hilfigers-in-store-virtual-reality-catwalk-experience/#2b3f39fc128a [Accessed 02/11/2016]

The New York Times (2015). TOMMY HILFIGER INTRODUCES VIRTUAL REALITY HEADSETS FOR SHOPPERS. [Online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/21/business/tommy-hilfiger-introduces-virtual-reality-headsets-for-shoppers.html?_r=