One of my favourite films is Spike Jonze’s ‘HER’. In the science fiction romance, Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with Samantha — an artificial intelligence (AI) virtual assistant voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The movie came out in 2013, when the effect of AI on reality, specifically intimacy, was speculative. The arrival of Apple’s Vision Pro puts much of that speculation on its way to becoming fact.
Apple’s mixed-reality headset launched last week with hundreds of new apps created for the device. While I can’t say how it’s going to affect escapades on Tinder, Bumble or Hinge; in fashion, we’re already seeing a few brands testing out the virtual world this technology is likely to bring into the mainstream.
Among said apps are shopping experiences from the likes of US apparel store J Crew and global luxury e-commerce platform Mytheresa. Per Vogue Business reporting: “Mytheresa’s experience invites viewers to shop in virtual Capri beachside or Paris at night settings, complete with the sound of lapping waves and seagulls or a photorealistic 3D Eiffel Tower (they can also elect a less immersive experience and leave the background transparent to see their own surroundings).
Visitors can then select “Shop the Edit” to scroll through pieces that have been curated for the environment, directing their actions via eye and hand controls.”
With your Apple Vision goggles on, you can select an item to see product details displayed in front of you, view additional images and add items to your wishlist. You can then use Apple Pay to make the purchase.
Mytheresa created their Apple Vision store with tech company Obsess, which has worked with many other luxury brands on stores one can access via computer or smartphone. But this is a giant leap, and a moment Obsess’s founder, Neha Singh, says they’ve been waiting for. “The quality and interaction you are able to get is unprecedented in terms of resolution and how you can see products realistically in larger-than-life scale and be completely immersed in a brand environment. It’s definitely the closest, or the next best thing, to seeing a product in person in a store.”
My imagination is already running wild with the potential to try out looks on a virtual version of myself, placed in a setting where I intend to wear said look. No more sending selfies to friends to ask how I look before I step out the door for a date or whatever other social event. Neat!
Beyond shopping and styling, however, the platform is also likely to transform the entire fashion value chain. A US company known as Swatchbook is now offering its material sourcing services via Apple Vision. Designers can use the app to source fabrics and test them out on designs. This solves several issues designers face when sourcing materials they are considering for a collection.
I imagine future fashion weeks can be more democratised, with virtual shows in 3D, where viewers can see garments up close.
At a price tag of $3,499.00 (a little less than R67,000 at the current exchange rate), Apple’s Vision Pro and the world of possibilities it offers might be a little out of reach for most of us. But it is safe to assume that future variations of the tech — from Apple and other tech companies — might bring that price down as mainstream demand grows.
As a former content editor for an e-commerce site, charged with using content to entice potential customers, my greatest obstacle was the trust deficit that exists in the marketplace when it comes to selling luxury African fashion. It’s a relatively new industry, justifiably people are worried about the quality of the garments. No matter how great the content is, if they can’t touch and feel the fabric, and look at the stitching on a particular item, it becomes very tricky to convince them to shell out $500 on a jacket, for example.
From where I sit, Apple’s Vision Pro can go a long way to alleviate at least some of these concerns. Yes, market penetration for Apple’s Vision might not be great on the continent in the short to medium term, economics considered. However, investing in such tools would put the African fashion industry in great stead to continue to compete internationally (I should note that a disproportionately large number of sales at my former employer came from the US).