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  • 2 Mar 2015

Google Cardboard: Virtual Reality for the masses at Fashion Week

Though London Fashion Week came to a close last week, the inspiration left in its wake will continue to create a buzz in the fashion and retail community. If one thing was for certain, it was that retailers used technology in new and innovative ways to engage both attendees and fashion week followers with their brands.

Earlier this year, we were impressed and inspired by the Virtual Reality technology on show at the NRF Expo in New York, and predicted its value and benefits to retailers in the near future. At LFW, it seems as if other retailers had the same thinking.

Introducing – Google Cardboard (spoiler: it’s about as “high-tech” as it looks!)

River Island Google cardboard headset


LFW AW15 saw River Island as the first fashion brand to use Google Cardboard and a new creative approach to fashion film to launch their new Design Forum product collection through Virtual Reality technology.

The virtual reality film collaboration, Virtual RI, created with Google Cardboard and luxury designer Jean Pierre Braganza, seamlessly connects an aesthetic and immersive 360 Virtual Reality experience directly with River Island’s e-commerce platform. This is a new way of engaging the consumer with the aesthetic vision behind the product before the purchase.

The film also contains an interactive element: when playing the VR experience, the consumer guides a kingfisher (a key print from the collection) through a mechanical maze to locate a woman dressed in the style of the collection. Once she is found, the consumer can “share” their kingfisher over social media to promote the experience to their friends.



Launching the virtual reality fashion film, River Island wanted to allow consumers the same access to their vision that only the press and celebrities usually experience at LFW.

It is perhaps the first LFW innovation that is directly relevant to the everyday consumer by using universal technology: an app, a smartphone, and a cardboard headset. Google Cardboard technology allows the user to experience the virtual world through their smartphone, simply by downloading the app, and inserting their phone into a VR style cardboard headset as a makeshift “viewer”.

VR Google cardboard viewer

This is the first time that the smartphone sitting in your pocket has been unlocked in such a way to open up what feels like an exclusive aesthetic experience to a much wider audience. The accessibility of Virtual RI enhances the excitement of the Jean Pierre Braganza collection by bringing the consumer into fashion week: the technology has challenged the insider/outsider concept that the “exclusivity” of LFW usually provokes.

River Island is further widening the reach of the VR experience post-fashion week by promoting it with customer purchases. Consumers buying from the Jean Pierre Braganza collection receive a complimentary Google Cardboard headset and app download with any purchase, allowing them to experience the creative vision that they have bought into.

It’s when technology becomes both simple and cheap that people adopt it and innovate with it. Interactive multiplatform content is a new area for fashion brands to be experiencing, and Google Cardboard is a great way to open fun and engaging experiences to the masses of consumers following your brand.



The focus of fashion week was definitely upon offering an instantly shoppable experience whilst publicising latest collections. For example, Topshop set up a big data partnership with Twitter to display live #LFW trends on giant interactive billboards with shoppable Topshop items of the same description.

It’s no different for Virtual RI, as the option to shop the collection is integrated into the fashion film. In fact, the e-commerce experience provides a seamless driver: the consumer becomes emotionally engaged with the collection during the VR augmented reality, then is compelled straight to the point of sale.

RI VR technology

Creativity > commerce > social

This is a new way of using technology to promote the aesthetic before the product, something that retailers have struggled to do apart from innovative window dressing.



Consumers who follow fashion and/or technology are characteristically early adopters of new things and always looking for the next best thing, making the overlap between sectors a very natural marriage. If lessons can be learned from Google Cardboard, it’s that the processing power already in our pocket – smartphones – needs harnessing to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Virtual RI shows that more experimentation in fashion technology is definitely needed to engage the omnichannel shopper in ever new and innovative ways. But perhaps in the world of fashion, a plain cardboard headset is not fashionable enough to really catch on as a retail technology trend.


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