Fashionable Avatars

When you think of Burberry, do you think of prim and proper English models wearing plaid coats or do you think of beautiful exotic scantily clad holographic models walking on a virtual runway in the middle of Beijing? Probably the former, but the truth is actually the latter (or perhaps both).

Burberry made a splash last year when it streamed its fashion show in Fall 2010 in 3D over the Web. The reviews were mixed but the effort was applauded widely. Then, it made an even more techno-spectacular splash when it opened its new store in Beijing, with celebrities, fanfare and a holographic models walking on a virtual runway, at times bursting into raindrops and snowflakes (see video below). It was official: Burberry had digital in its DNA.

Every luxury brand has since been playing catch-up with the endlessly digitally blessed Burberry. Ralph Lauren famously followed with a “4D Fashion Light Show” at their Madison Avenue store in November last year (see below). This year’s Fashion Week in New York (starting Sep 8) promises also more 3D catwalks.  According to the New York Times, Designer Norma Kamali has created a 3D short film and lookbook that can be viewed on her website from Sep 15 onwards.

The only way to one-up a 3D model is to have an interactive one. Nicola Formichetti, creative director of Mugler, has created Zombie Boy, a dark creature from the night with tattoos on his cranium. “I’ve been working with a digital pattern cutter,” he said. “How crazy is that?” the designer told the New York Times. Zombie’s walk will be displayed on a seven-foot tall screen and the angle and speed can be manipulated by viewers using an iPad (apparently, no glasses will be required).

There is no doubt that we’re headed towards a world of avatars. Their presence will be felt most deeply and intimately as companions who reside on our mobile phones. But also as fashion icons that wear the most exquisite clothes, and perhaps throw the very life-like tantrums of the bold and the beautiful. 

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