Around January 2013, that is eons ago in fashion history, designer Marga Weimans launched during Amsterdam Fashion Week a collection entitled "Body Archive" in which she analysed the interaction with non-material virtual technology, questioning the reality.
To make her point she included in her collection designs made with a special fabric that could be read via tablet devices or smartphones with a special app and that allowed people to explore an augmented reality universe in which three-dimensional geometrical figures literally erupted from a dress.
Fast-forward to our days and to be more precise to last Tuesday when Anrealage opened Paris Fashion Week with an augmented reality collection.
Kunihiko Morinaga has so far got us used to the most original presentations and technologies, playing with reflections, light reactive fabrics, shadows and visual static from analog video and television.
Entitled "Silence" the S/S 17 collection is dedicated to our collective mania to experience real life through screens. To pay homage to it (and maybe criticize it as well…) Morinaga decided to give voice to his designs via augmented reality, as announced also by his cryptic show invitation.
The collection revolved around Morinaga's favourite combination of colours - black and white - and on ample silhouettes including trapezoidal shift dresses, cocooning capes that can be adapted by the wearer, ample skirts, wide trousers, and tops with trench coat detailing, donned by models wearing a black and white mask/helmet headpiece, a crossover between a VR visor and the 1968 metal armadillo-like headdresses by Getulio Alviani.
Black segments were printed on the fabric or they were turned into three-dimensional black blocks, plasticky dashes and underscores appliqued on a cape to form a morse code tapestry.
At times the designs were enveloped and wrapped in stiff wide black bands, crossing out logos and slogans, but when they were scanned by iPads installed in front of them, they revealed hidden messages or sounds (by Ichiro Yamaguchi of Sakanaction), including the words "Noise", "Silence", "High" and "Low".
Photo prints of landscapes, forests, oceans and flowers were instead activated by sounds. The magic was possible thanks to "augmented reality receptors" integrated into the clothes.
Morinaga also announced the release of a special AR app called "Anrealage_AR3", developed with AR expert Tom Kawada (available for free for iPhones after October 3).
The collection is also tied to a line of sneakers produced in collaboration with Asics that includes four designs, two of them with AR functionality, so that by holding a smartphone in front of the upper, consumers will unveil Anrealage's logo or they will activate Sakanaction's sounds. Besides, taking a picture of the shoes with a flash will trigger a special reflective or lenticular pattern.
Arealage's Parisian presentation seemed to reference the release of the much-anticipated PlayStation VR, the virtual reality gaming head-mounted display produced by Sony and scheduled to launch on October 13th (following the launches of rivals HTC Vive and Oculus Rift earlier on this year).
Anrealage actually has a further connection with PlayStation: the designer created the staff uniform for the PlayStation booth at the latest "Tokyo Game Show 2016".
In trademark PlayStation blue and white and in Anrealage's beloved retroreflective materials, the uniform glowed with an abstract pattern representing the controller button symbols when exposed to camera flashes (you will get a chance to see again the uniforms as they will be reused at other PlayStation promotional events in the future).
Commercially speaking, Morinaga's choice to bet on augmented reality for the next season is a very sensible one, considering also the interest that consumers have developed in the last few months for VR headsets.
Besides, fabric-wise augmented reality may end up opening up an entire world of new possibilities and we may even start conceiving textiles as portals characterized by "decor-active" patterns spelling out messages or embodying the DNA of a fashion house or a brand.
Well, in a way, consumers who will be keen on exploring the augmented reality dimension will behave a bit like archaeologists, yet, rather than digging in an excavation site and through history, they will be extracting digital information from the fabric.
The components of Haute Couture - precious and luxurious materials - often eclipse a designer's fantasy, but in cases such as Anrealage's S/S 17 collection, materials become a dynamic excuse to step into another world. Welcome to the age of the hyper-fabrics.