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Design Museum discovers AR and lets visitors try on the looks they see

By Simone Preuss


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‘Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion’ exhibition. Credits: Design Museum by Andy Stagg

On Saturday, 16th September 2023, the exhibition “Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion” opened at the Design Museum in London. Apart from celebrating the 30th anniversary of NewGen, the British Fashion Council’s fashion talent incubator, which has supported more than 300 designers during those years, it is unlike many other fashion exhibitions.

The Design Museum not only showcases designer’s first steps into fashion and curated 100 innovative looks on display, but in what could be called a “see now, try now” initiative, the museum breaks new ground by letting visitors try on nine of those looks - virtually of course, with the help of augmented reality.

Credits: A visitor choosing her look, complete with eye patch. Credits: Beyond

As part of the exhibition, Snapchat created a backstage room with augmented reality vanity mirrors. In collaboration with Snapchat, Amsterdam-based creative tech studio Beyond created nine iconic fashion looks that visitors can explore while sitting in front of the mirrors.

“We are dedicated to delivering an immersive and interactive experience for consumers, empowering them to virtually try on apparel, preview and acquire items in 3D worlds and AR environments, and discover groundbreaking fashion designs,” said Beyond founder and creative director David Robustelli in an interview with FashionUnited before the exhibition.

Which looks can visitors try on?

Among the highlights of the show are Marjan Pejoski’s swan dress controversially worn by Icelandic singer Björk at the 2001 Oscars, Harry Styles’ Steven Stokey Daley outfit from his video for ‘Golden’ and Sam Smith's inflatable latex suit by Harri from this year’s Brit Awards.

Visitors also get to see the revolutionary neon collection from Christopher Kane’s debut catwalk collection, the upcycled Union Jack jacket by Russell Sage that was worn by Kate Moss for Vogue, and a vast Molly Goddard blue ruffle.

Among the NewGen alumni featured in the exhibition are Lee Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Charles Jeffrey, Christopher Raeburn, Erdem, Henry Holland, Kim Jones, J.W. Anderson, Mary Katrantzou, Molly Goddard, Roksanda, Simone Rocha, Stuart Vevers, Priya Ahluwalia, Saul Nash, Grace Wales Bonner and Bianca Saunders.

Credits: Backstage area with smart mirrors. Credit: Beyond

In a backstage section, the exhibition has recreated the moment just before a fashion show, complete with dress models, hair and make-up and accessories. AR-enhanced mirrors let visitors experiment with make-up and headwear looks from nine actual runway creations.

Among the nine looks that visitors can choose from are creations by Charles Jeffrey’s SS18 collection, Chet Lo SS23, Gareth Pugh SS07, Henry Holland AW08, Liam Hodges, Louise Gray’s collection for Topshop from 2012, Marques’Almeida’s SS15, Matthew Williamson SS98 and Richard Quinn AW18.

How does it work?

Creative tech studio Beyond works with 3D and augmented reality technologies and has done targeted campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and other brands. As part of a Virgil Abloh tribute, the studio created a version of Louis Vuittons sold-out fortune cookie bag that people could explore in 3D. “Interactive experiences work realise a higher form of engagement,” says Robustelli.

In terms of the future, the creative director is positive that digital experiences are here to stay for the fashion industry: “They will be an add-on, between identities. There will be different identities — social, physical and virtual ones. These identities will merge more and more and we will be dressing avatars as we would dress ourselves in real life.”

Credits: Visitors in the backstage area play around with the AR mirrors. Credit: Beyond

For brands who want to start out with digital experiences and AR, Robustelli strongly advises to collaborate with studios and agencies that have experience. “It is impossible to enter the field without experience,” he emphasises. It is also important to find the right balance between doing too much and too little: “Brands may want to throw in everything but you don’t want to oversell yourself,” he cautions. At the same time, one should not underdo it either but understand the limitations of the technology.

However, brands are well advised to invest in this area: “In the future, consumers are probably more likely to enter a virtual space than an actual store,” believes Robustelli.

Those who would like to get a sneak preview of what AR is capable of can do so at The Design Museum’s exhibition “Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion”, which will be on display until 11th February 2024.

Augmented Reality
British Fashion Council
Design Museum