Oculus Rift: Your Front Row Fashion Week TicketFebruary 12, 2014
by Olivia Solon
To celebrate London Fashion Week, retailer Topshop is collaborating with 3D agency Inition to allow fans of the brand to experience a virtual front-row seat at a fashion show.
This year, the Autumn/Winter 2014 show for Topshop's Unique range will take place in the Tate Modern's cavernous Turbine Hall. While seats at the live show are reserved for sartorial VIPs, Topshop fans will be able to experience what it's like to be on the front row of the show thanks to a virtual reality experience developed by Inition, that incorporates Oculus Rift, live streamed HD footage, 360-degree photography, tweets and animations.
Fans will be able to put on one of five Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets placed in the window of Topshop's flagship store in Oxford Circus in order to experience the show.
Inition's brief was to amplify and engage a wider audience in the Topshop show. Inition's Andy Millns told Wired.co.uk that the approach from Topshop perfectly coincided with the development of virtual reality technology such as the Oculus Rift "which is now capable of giving incredibly immersive experiences and a great sense of presence".
The live show will be filmed by two HD cameras positioned in the Turbine Hall: one extra wide angle lensed camera on the front row of the audience, and another backstage. These will be streamed live via fibre to the virtual reality headsets in the Topshop store.
Those wearing the headsets -- incorporating headphones and the Oculus Rift -- will be able to see the live catwalk unfold if they look straight ahead on one virtual screen as well as the celebrities they are sitting "next to", thanks to an 180-degree wide angle on the stream. If they look behind them at a second virtual screen they'll get a view into the backstage area, where models will be having their hair and makeup done. If the wearer happens to look up, they will ascend into a higher level, where they will be able to see the rafters and a number of 360-degree images of, for example, celebrity selfies. All around the virtual screens and other elements, the environment has been designed to look like the Turbine Hall, with concrete and large girders.
On top of the live stream will be built a number of animated elements that reflect the theme of decay that characterises the Autumn/Winter collection. So there will be leaves, flowers and crows that fly around on top of the space. Tweets using a specific hashtag will emerge in the virtual world as petals dropped by the virtual crows.
Those wearing the headsets will also be able to trigger certain events by looking at objects placed in the virtual world. For example, staring at a virtual switch on one of the screens will cause the switch to be turned on and reveal a time-lapse of the catwalk setup.
"With this project, there are a quite a few things we haven't done before. Bringing in and distributing two full HD video signals into the live virtual environment, for example," Millns said.
Because it's such a new creative medium, it means that the very language involved around the creative process is not established. "People understand what it means to create and develop a video, but not necessarily this," he added. "So that's been a steep learning curve."
Topshop's marketing director Sheena Sauvaire explained that the biggest challenge was "ensuring the the end result not only explored the abilities of telepresence but that it made sense for Topshop".
"We are always focussed on the customer and their experience whether that be in store or online, and this installation needed to excite and entice our digitally-savvy customer whilst also working within a retail environment," she said.
The 15-minute live show -- which takes place on Sunday 16 February at 3pm -- will be streamed initially to five competition winners. After that, the experience will be offered up on-demand to visitors to the store for three days.
For the last few years, Topshop has worked with a technology partner during London Fashion Week. In 2012, it worked with Facebook to allow people to customise the clothes and accessories from the collection as they appeared on the catwalk, while in 2013, it worked with Google+.