sustainability, fashion, fashion week, Paris, Milan, New York, VR

In an announcement released Thursday, Circular Fashion Summit creator Lablaco revealed that Unity Technologies will be powering its October VR event during Paris Fashion Week.

As WWD previously reported, AltspaceVR by Microsoft and Oculus were already on board. But the addition of Unity brings an extra dimension to the proceedings.

In its day job, Unity makes game engines that drive popular titles such as “Assassin’s Creed: Identity,” “Temple Run,” “Escape From Tarkov” and “Arizona Sunshine.” It’s a giant in that world, providing technology used by game developers, VR creators and filmmakers.

CFS2020 is Unity’s first fashion event and at a minimum its involvement suggests that summit attendees won’t have to suffer through a lackluster experience.

“The program has been in development for months, and brings together the right sponsors, technology partners and experts to showcase the impact that technology and sustainability can have on the retail and fashion industry,” Lorenzo Albrighi, co-chief executive officer and founder of Lablaco, told WWD. “For many attendees, this will be their first experience with VR and a taste of the impact the technology can have in creating more sustainable practices.”

The virtual gathering was developed with Unity’s real-time 3-D technology, and it will be hosted inside AltspaceVR, Microsoft’s social VR platform. Attendees will use Oculus headsets — which will be included in the 1,999 euro cost of tickets — to access the summit, network with other VR users and take part in special events year-round.

This is the second installment of CFS. Last September, the inaugural edition featured speakers from Kering Group, Adidas and IBM, and was attended by luxury brands such as Chanel, Hermès and Balenciaga. This year, representatives from Nike, H&M and others from across fashion organizations and tech companies will speak, and Fashion Week leaders from Shanghai, Paris, London, Milan and New York are expected to convene for the first time in VR.

Unilever is planning an exclusive announcement committing to making measurable actions. AltspaceVR, Oculus and Unity will bring the technology, while Comfort by Unilever and Unity have signed on as corporate sponsors.

The event is billed as the first VR fashion summit, and may be a golden opportunity to speak to key fashion figures in a language they understand — by visually engaging, inspiring and enthralling them.

“XR [mixed reality] technologies help to bring our imaginations to life and better teach our experiences to others,” said Timoni West, director of product and XR tools at Unity. “We are honored to help anchor the Circular Fashion Summit in a way where the conference experience is made with Unity, and simultaneously attendees are able to feel the impacts that XR can have on their business interactions.”

Sustainability may be the primary focus, but Lablaco and its technology partners also see CFS2020 as a chance for attendees to “test drive” VR for real-world applications. So far, apparel companies have yet to take full advantage of it beyond the occasional experiments. But if fashion leaders decide to dig more into virtual environments, it would be a fascinating side effect. 

The time may be ripe for it. E-commerce momentum in the pandemic period is running high, as is demand for new tech-fueled experiences. And the efficiencies VR could enable could ensure its place in a sustainable operation.

“VR redefined how we interact with content outside of the two-dimensional borders of our monitors. This new perspective changed the game in how we conceptualize designs for attire,” said Giovanni Nakpil, art director at Oculus VR. “The potential for what could be is so exciting and unknown. My imagination goes wild when I think of designers being able to display their work on a virtual mannequin — a mannequin that can strike a pose. Or being able to dynamically swap out patterns and materials with the flick of a wrist.

“Ensuring this technology is used for good is a necessary responsibility, and I’m grateful for CFS’ commitment to help spearhead this cause,” he said.

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