Fashion and virtual reality can be two seemingly inaccessible, and rather unrelated, industries, but Google’s Julia Hamilton Trost sits at the intersection of the tech giant’s efforts to introduce both to a wide audience.
Trost, 34, works in business development and content partnerships at Google VR, leading on fashion and VR, and she was behind the recent collaboration between Google’s new Daydream View headset and Rag & Bone, which created a virtual reality video before and during New York Fashion Week.
The six-minute documentary was paid for by Google and produced by VR firm Two Bit Circus and appeared on the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s YouTube channel as a 360-degree video.
While it is viewable to all, it’s one of the first projects to come out since Google introduced its $79 VR headset, the Daydream View, in November, which is the first VR headset made with fabric. For now, the headset requires a Daydream-ready phone, which only includes a Motorola Z or Google’s Pixel, but as more creators and viewers gravitate to VR-powered experiences, Google hopes to be first in line.
Virtual reality content such as the Rag & Bone project allow viewers to experience content that previously wasn’t accessible to most people, Trost said, whether that’s being in the workshop or at the casting call, or seeing what the office looks like.
Google’s new headset is also fashion-world friendly in that its fabric construction was made to feel natural — “more like a wearable and less like a piece of tech on your head,” she said.
While VR is still a nascent concept to most fashion followers, Trost sees a range of immediate applications in the space. Besides the obvious behind-the-scenes immersion, it invites innovations such as virtual fitting rooms, in which a user can see a virtual version of themselves trying on clothes by uploading their measurements, she said.
She also sees applications to help designers create and view three-dimensional designs with a program, or they can use a video tutorial for training purposes. And then there’s the usage in marketing; VR headsets have been referred to as “empathy machines,” due to their uncanny ability to transport a viewer into a realistic-enough seeming environment.
VR happens to tap into that ultimate marketing characteristic du jour: authenticity, which helps to build loyalty among customers.
“The more a potential customer gets to understand your brand, the more they will be a loyal fan,” she said, after watching the Rag & Bone piece.
Although Trost sees opportunities in a range of industries, “the unique thing about fashion is that fashion can be a mystery, and the behind-the-scenes aspect is not easy to come by,” she said. “I see VR unlocking a lot of doors that, for whatever reason, might be constrained in some way.”
Before beginning a decade-long career in various roles at Google, Trost worked for media companies such as The Atlantic and at “Larry King Live” on CNN.
Media and storytelling have always been passions, and she came to Google to be on the digital media side, working with tech brands to tell marketing stories through platforms such as Google-owned YouTube.
Virtual reality reached her radar when Google came out with its Cardboard device, and she immediately identified it as a new medium for storytelling and worked to understand the space.
“You can be teleported, and I saw the promise of this that Google has,” she said, “that this tech had so much potential, and how do we get in the hands of other people who are not tech adopters?”
Going forward, she sees the way to drive people to adopt VR is to focus on content.
“That’s one of my main missions for 2017, to bring great content to brands and fashion houses that people are really excited about,” she said.
To that end, she is talking to retailers and fashion brands, creators and filmmakers who know how to tell good story, building on what was done with Rag & Bone.
“I’m watching content to understand what works better, and iterating and testing and learning,” she said. “I think we all learned something from the first one.”