Fashion is usually thought of as inherently physical. While augmented reality advocates can typically see applications everywhere, it can take some creativity to meld AR and fashion. Fortunately, there’s a lot of creativity to go around and fashion is one of the fastest moving frontiers in extended reality.

Here are six trends and use cases for augmented reality in the fashion industry:

1. Virtual Try-On 

Image via Warby Parker

No matter how practical a dresser, we shop with our eyes first. We see something we like and the next question is whether we like the way it looks on us.

As shopping moved online, this element of the experience became complicated. It became easier than ever to find interesting clothing items, but this came at the expense of being able to reliably visualize that item as it would appear on us.

While AR try-on goes back further than the last two years, interest and implementation skyrocketed during the pandemic when many retailers closed their physical doors. However, AR try-on is anything but a pandemic relic to be discarded as we leave restrictions behind. What was a necessity is now just good business.

AR try-on tools allow customers to see how different styles, colors, and items look on their person, leading to higher purchase volumes. For example, retailer Tenth Street Hats increased its conversion rate by 52% and increased its revenue per user by 41.8% for those shoppers who used their try-on app. 

Virtual try-on also leads to decreased returns, which are often the result of the product not looking like the consumer expected. AR allows consumers to make an educated purchase by providing product details in AR, including fabric type and size. 

Decreasing returns saves customers time, saves your company money, and ultimately reduces carbon emissions from shipping. For example, Shopify reports a 40 percent decrease in returns from 3D visualization. 

These tools are already very popular within the accessories industry, as facial recognition is very advanced. Further, most accessories are relatively easy to render compared to fabrics. For example, glasses retailer Warby Parker and footwear retailer Steve Madden both use AR try-on, for items that don’t bend or move much.

Necessary technologies like rendering and modeling of fabrics and textures that can be realistically modeled to a human form are still catching up. While the market for “digital-first” clothing is heating up with some fashion retailers only making digital apparel, non-accessory AR try-on accounted for less than 10% of use cases last year.

2. Sizing 

Image via MTailor

Clothing items not fitting right can lead to returns too – 41% of shoppers return items due to the wrong size or fit. Additionally, customers often over-purchase to try to find the right fit and end up returning the majority of their order in this pursuit. 

One way to help alleviate online ordering fit issues is using augmented reality to measure or approximate body shape and size and match the customer with fitting options. The more confident a customer feels in sizing, the less over-purchasing and returns they are likely to complete. But, how does AR sizing work?

We tend to think of AR as simply the display of digital content over our view of our physical surroundings. In order to reliably display that content, AR applications also need to understand the world in which they function. 

Smart devices build AR experiences using precise measurements of the physical world – including people. For example, MTailor uses a phone camera to generate a point cloud model of a user’s body for accurate measurements. There are two ways to capture body measurements using your smart device: LiDAR and using phone sensor measurements. 

LiDAR uses a pulsed laser to create a “depth map.” LiDAR is the faster, easier, more accurate way to create depth maps and measurements. The downside is that it’s only available on high-end products from select manufacturers.

Alternatively, using phone sensors like the gyroscope, accelerometer, and proximity sensors allows us to measure body parts. The downside to this method is that it is less convenient and less accurate than LiDAR. However, it is on more widely available devices, so more customers can use it.

The main caveat in using augmented reality for sizing is that brands hoping to use this technology need to have accurate size charts. While the technology can get smarter overtime with user input, the initial results will rely on information from the brand.

3. Product Visualization 

Khaite SP/SU ’21 augmented reality experience by ROSE

AR allows consumers to bring products into their living rooms. With life-like 3D renderings and textures, customers can examine products in detail before purchasing. Using AR in this way helps close the gap between seeing an item online and in-person. 

After adopting “try before you buy” product visualization, Macy’s noted that their products return rates had decreased to <2 percent for VR-assisted furniture purchases – stunning, since the average furniture industry return rate is 5% – 7 %. Further, Shopify has seen stores where 3D models viewed in augmented reality have increased conversion rates by up to 250%. 

4. Augmented Reality Fashion Shows 

AR fashion shows provide the opportunity for designers to showcase designs with a twist on their traditional medium. Augmented reality can bring the fashion show directly into the customer’s environment, enabling collections to be shared with a wider audience than just those that can make it to an in-person fashion show.

Additionally, these shows can be streamed live and augmented in real time. Augmented reality shows also allow designers to add creative elements that might not be able to exist in a physical environment, like gravity defying accents. Real time tap-to-purchase capability is another added benefit of utilizing augmented reality.

It’s exciting that AR fashion shows can be elevated creatively, but there’s power in doing the opposite. ROSE has worked twice with luxury fashion brand Khaite bringing AR models not on a runway but in the viewer’s own home, workplace, neighborhood – places where the customer might actually wear their purchases.

5. Virtual Stores + Branded Portals 

Image Via brandknewmag

In our first use case, we talked about the shopping experience. While buyers may want or need something different sometimes, there’s also something familiar, practical, and enjoyable about the traditional shopping experience. 

AR can help with that too by bringing the store environment into a customer’s home to provide a fully branded retail experience that represents the purest expression of the brand. These experiences can be full stores or limited collections. 

Customers can explore the digital version of physical stores by tapping to walk through the space, or learn more about each product and purchase directly with the application. Each product in the AR store can be linked to a product page on the brand’s website, allowing a direct path to purchase. 

Just one example is the virtual store American Eagle opened in Snapchat, leading to over 41M impressions, 26,000 purchases, and over $1M in revenue. While there are a growing number of platforms getting into the immersive retail space, Snapchat is already a widely used tool with parent company Snap continually increasing its retail integrations.

With mobile mapping technology improving quickly, there will be new opportunities to transform a customer’s home into an AR store or showroom. This technology will be able to understand the layout of the room it’s scanning and place objects accordingly, creating an accurate and unique experience for each customer. 

6. Product Drops 

Treat your brand’s fans to a unique experience by releasing your new products via an AR experience. This gives fans a chance to see the product first in AR, paired with an experience that compliments the product. 

Using unique codes, you can limit the number of users and which users are able to get into the first experience, making your product drop exclusive until it goes live to the masses. Allowing customers to take photos of your product in AR before it hits shelves allows the demand to increase, increasing sales. 

Additionally, you can gather pre-orders this way, with fans getting to experience the product they will be getting in AR and then being allowed to place an advance order. This allows brands to better plan for their purchase order sizes, decreasing fashion waste. 

In 2018, Adidas wanted to make sure they took their latest apparel launch into their own hands. ROSE helped create a social media driven unboxing experience using AR that allowed everyone to “unbox” Adidas’ latest silhouette virtually and interact with it on social media.

Fashion Is Not Just Physical Anymore

We closed on an example that’s arguably a little dated. That’s not just because of how good an example it is, it’s also proof that XR fashion retail is not just a pandemic fad. It was here before, it’s only gotten more popular, and it’s only getting better.

While this article mostly talked about AR enabled retail in the physical fashion industry, it only scratched the surface of other industries like digital-first fashion – in AR and for VR avatars. This is definitely an iceberg industry that only gets bigger the deeper down you look.