Editor's pick technology

Hollywood steps in to give LFW a preview of an immersive augmented reality future

The augmented reality screen at steventai's LFW show
The augmented reality screen at steventai’s LFW show

Those with a beady eye will have noticed a certain Blade Runner feel to designer steventai’s London Fashion Week presentation this weekend.

While models posed onstage, a recreation of the scene was depicted on a giant screen behind them in real-time, complete with a wealth of digital augmentation – including a virtual avatar whose look transitioned from one outfit to another before viewers’ eyes, just as in a scene from the film.

It was actually a Star Wars team behind the action however. The “LiveCGX” campaign was a project between London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) and ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division. It included a transformation of the venue itself (it was hosted by the GREAT Britain Campaign at Durbar Court within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to look like a street scene in Macau.

Special visual effects transformed the courtyard space into a bustling scene, complete with neon digital signage, fluttering leaves and more. Meanwhile, a model in a motion capture suit backstage, made the virtual model possible – driving an improvisational series of movements reflected live on the screen amid the other models, thanks to a number of depth-sensing cameras placed around the venue. The team referred to it as a connection between real-time visual effects and human-driven expression.

As with Blade Runner, it also serves as a glimpse into a future where garments could have both physical and digital designs, worn in perfect coordination.

“Immersive technologies are leading us to a new narrative for the fashion industry. Imagine a world where you can augment everything from the clothes that you’re wearing to the environment that surrounds you, in real-time. That is the glimpse into the future that this technology offers us. LiveCGX will force us to redefine what we experience in fashion today, allowing for creative possibilities where we are limited only by our imagination. We are thrilled to bring this experience to life at this incredible venue with the support of the GREAT Britain Campaign,” says Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

The motion capture model backstage at steventai's augmented reality real-time show
The motion capture model backstage at steventai’s augmented reality real-time show

Interestingly for those in attendance, at this point you really had to look hard to understand what was happening with the technology. Drinkwater’s vision longer term is that we would all be able to be truly immersed in the experience by either looking through our smartphones to witness the augmented reality in the space around us, or better yet, by wearing smart glasses to see it.

At this point, he told me, the barrier is the technology just not quite being ready. “Give it six months and we’ll be able to do so much more,” he said. “We’re talking to Apple, we’re waiting for Magic Leap – the smart glasses are coming.”

That promise of the future was palpable, if still delivered in a relatively elementary way at this point. It fits with ILMxLAB’s mission to have people step inside stories, creating amazing worlds through pioneering immersive entertainment.

“What is exciting about this collaboration with steventai and London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency is the opportunity to bring the stories and worlds that have inspired Steven’s designs to life by exploring augmented live performance as a means of sparking intimate and compelling relationships with the people and characters who inhabit those worlds,” says Vicki Dobbs Beck, ILMxLAB’s executive in charge.

Tai himself added that fashion is about storytelling: “It’s about representing a concept, to sell a dream, or just selling an idea that is close to the designer’s heart. Having a digitally augmented presentation this season allows us, and our guests, to achieve and experience things beyond our physical possibilities.”

mobile technology

This new AR experience lets you watch a lifesize catwalk show in your front room

The HoloMe x RIXO London augmented reality hologram experience
The HoloMe x RIXO London augmented reality hologram experience

Augmented reality start-up, HoloMe, has teamed up with young British fashion brand, RIXO London, to create a holographic version of the catwalk show for users to watch at home.

Models wearing pieces from the designer’s latest collection were captured in augmented reality using HoloMe’s software solution, which automatically processes visual inputs for the creation of high quality, life-like holograms.

The project, facilitated via the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, then enables consumers to receive and project the holograms into their own rooms using their smartphones, providing them with their own personal show, on demand.

“Augmented reality is going to change the way that the fashion industry creates, showcases and retails its products. The year ahead will see an explosion in opportunities for this immersive technology to totally redefine what we understand as fashion today. We’re excited to collaborate with HoloMe and RIXO to demonstrate yet another use case for AR in fashion,” said Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, founders of RIXO London, said: “The technology that HoloMe are producing is going to have a profound effect on how we can showcase our collection to our customers. As a young brand, we are thrilled to be involved with this at such an early stage and be so immersed in the development of augmented reality; our e-commerce platform is such a crucial part of our brand and having this addition will bring it to another level we wouldn’t have been able to imagine possible.“

The broader vision for HoloMe is to be able to digitally teleport users anywhere, anytime. Once someone has been filmed as a hologram, they are automatically processed and can be sent to a friend’s smartphone immediately.

Company CEO and founder Janosch Amstutz believes this will alter the way we stay in touch: “We are unboxing the way people communicate with each other digitally. Until now, digital communication has been encased into rectangular screens which causes a disconnect between communicators, we want to open up this to new possibilities.”

Startups technology

This upcoming London “Fashathon” is aiming to develop new fashion-tech

The Fashion Innovation Agency and SetSquared are launching a Fashathon
The Fashion Innovation Agency and SetSquared are launching a Fashathon

The Fashion Innovation Agency, which hit London Fashion Week with another mixed reality initiative this week, is now announcing an upcoming “Fashathon”.

It’s teamed up with SetSquared, a university business incubator, to host a two-day hackathon at the London College of Fashion dedicated to fashion and technology. And it’s calling for creatives, fashion designers, technologists, people with business skills, students and entrepreneurs to join the event, which will give 50 people in total the chance to develop their ideas into investible business solutions. Experts and mentors will be on hand to spark inspiration.

“Possibilities for merging fashion with technology – two pioneering sectors by definition – are endless. There is a never-ending flow of innovations emerging or soon to be discovered. The only question is: what will be next?” SetSquared asked in a blogpost.

Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, said: “We hope this two-day workshop will lead to the discovery of the next big thing. The digital revolution is beginning to force huge change within an industry that is ripe for disruption. Work at the crossroads of fashion, retail and technology is leading to new business models and products that will revolutionise our clothes and how we shop for them in the future.”

He noted technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented and virtual realities, blockchain, internet of things, smart materials and robotics, as of particular interest.

The Fashathon will take place on June 30 and July 1 from 9am to 7pm. The deadline for applications is May 26.


Mixed reality returns to LFW with interactive hologram experience

Sabinna's LFW show was shot for mixed reality
Sabinna’s LFW show was shot for mixed reality

A mixed reality experience hit London Fashion Week once again this season, this time with a level of interaction thrown in. The Fashion Innovation Agency teamed up with designer Sabinna and virtual fitting room app Pictofit, to create a holographic version of her new collection, shown using Microsoft Hololens.

The line was shot on a model using a rig of 64 high-resolution DSLR cameras and calibrated light sources. The result not only lets users explore the garments in detail by walking up to, and around, the holograms wearing the headset, but also switch garments using simple hand movements. The top and bottom of each of the looks can be changed in turn, mixed and matched to allow the viewer to play stylist with the line.

Mixed reality is a step on from augmented reality (as this is often otherwise called) for the fact it appears as though “in” the real world, rather than just on top of it, and as it improves, is all about the interaction you can have with it.

Stefan Hauswiesner, CEO of Pictofit, who created the app for the experience, said: “[Mixed] reality has the power to change how we interact with fashion. From the outfit decision in the morning to buying clothes online, we want to see how we are going to look. We want to be inspired, try different combinations and ask our friends what they think. It’s a social experience and a huge opportunity for [it] to become something we use every day.”

Pictofit is otherwise a tool that allows users to virtually try on outfits (in 2D form) using an avatar that matches their own body shape and size. In this instance the fashion week collection is shown on one specific model, but it’s not too much of a leap to imagine the same experience on a likeness of your hologram self. Rather than just seeing and interacting with the line, that would swiftly turn the initiative into a commercial play.

Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, said: “Introducing interactivity into mixed reality is a new step for the fashion industry and points towards next-generation experiences for consumers and designers. Immersive, transformative, the potential impact on the industry for this technology is huge.”

The Fashion Innovation Agency previously hosted the Martine Jarlgaard London show at London Fashion Week in September 2016. It similarly saw Hololens used to show a mixed reality version of the collection, albeit a non-interactive one. The aim was to reimagine the catwalk show; challenging what it consists of by removing the barrier between the physical location and the audience.

The shift for this season shows how fast the technology is progressing, Drinkwater explained. What comes next is a greater number of cameras so as to remove the still very computer-generated feel of the holograms, and longer-term, more opportunity for creativity, he explained.

mobile Startups technology

Emma J Shipley launches augmented reality app where whimsical scarves come to life

Designer Emma J Shipley with her augmented reality Scarfi app
Designer Emma J Shipley with her augmented reality Scarfi app

British accessories designer Emma J Shipley, known for her colourful graphic illustrations, has launched Scarfi, an app that allows customers to virtually try on and purchase her silk scarves.

Developed in partnership with the London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) and technology company Meshmerise, the augmented reality app asks for access to the user’s smartphone camera, which on selfie mode enables them to try on 10 different print designs, inspired by elements of nature. Meanwhile, whimsical animations bring the designs to life and encourage the user to snap a photo and share on social media.

The app launched at Westfield London this week, where shoppers could otherwise try on, shop and pick up their purchase on the spot through iPads featuring the app alongside a display resembling a vending machine. Visitors to the shopping centre also had exclusive access to the feature scarf from Shipley’s spring/summer 2017 Sirens collection, which debuted on the day.

The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app
The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app

“It’s so exciting to see my designs come to life on the app. I want the customer to feel like they’re really entering the world of my illustrations, and feel like they’re almost becoming part of the story and the narrative that’s happening in the designs,” Shipley comments in the video below.

“The advances in augmented and virtual technologies are blurring the lines between physical and digital. Virtual try-on has the possibility to revolutionise the way consumers experience fashion and for designers create a new platform to showcase their collections,” said Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app installation
The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app installation at Westfield London

The launch follows Westfield’s recent “How we shop now” report, which presents an increasing consumer appetite for new technologies when trialling products. The study shows that 33% of British people would be interested in virtual assistance when trying on clothes, while 41% would like to use new technologies such as virtual reality headsets to see how furnishing looks in their homes. Meanwhile, a recent study by Barclays highlighted a willingness to visit stores that featured technologies such as VR, AR and smart fitting rooms.

The fashion and beauty industries are starting to better equip themselves in order to cater to this growing interest. Recently, beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury opened a store in the same Westfield shopping centre, which deploys a magic mirror as a selling tool. While at a recent #FashMash panel, industry experts predicted a bright future ahead for AR and VR.

Editor's pick film technology

3D-printed robotic arm leads The Force in Star Wars fashion collection


As any Star Wars fan would know, there’s a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker loses his hand during an epic lightsaber battle with Darth Vader, only later to have it replaced by a bionic version courtesy of a medical droid.

That piece of film history, released in 1980 no less, has inspired many a prosthetics company since. This time, it’s Open Bionics, with a 3D-printed arm created as part of a fashion collection called Fashion Finds the Force, which honours the new Star Wars The Force Awakens film, due for release in December.

The prosthetic accompanies a jumpsuit embedded with 10,000 Swarovski crystals created by British fashion designer Claire Barrow, and based on the idea of visually representing the “jump to hyperspace” (lightspeed travel through the Star Wars universe in the Millennium Falcon spacecraft). In order to match, the arm has 24 LED lights that can be programmed to light up in different patterns and colours.

Rather than just aesthetically fitting the theme, however, it is also fully functional. Head over to Forbes to read the full story.

Editor's pick technology

Is this the first example of truly ‘beautiful’ wearable tech?

Richard Nicoll's SS15 optic dress

Rather than thinking about devices, the wearable tech talk of London Fashion Week has been about the introduction of a light-up dress in partnership with Disney at Richard Nicoll’s show yesterday.

Let me pre-empt your response by saying that’s the kind of wearable tech I would usually roll my eyes at too – a tick the box PR stunt that solely appeals to the likes of Katy Perry or Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. It was inspired by Tinkerbell too, I hear you cry? Hear me out by reading my full story over on