The Apple Vision Pro headset, which debuted at the Apple Conference on June 5, is bringing an injection of innovation into the field of wearables. The field had stalled with clunky headsets and glasses from companies like Meta and Snap. But fashion industry experts are hopeful about the new iteration’s possible applications, starting with its initial release in 2024 and into the future.
The headset, a ski goggle contraption going for $3,499, is being positioned as the most immersive approach to mixed reality experiences. The presentation at the Apple Conference was notably focused on its capabilities to facilitate productivity and connection, with demonstrations showing multiple open virtual windows and easy controls operated through hand gestures.
“Apple never once mentioned the terms AR, VR or the metaverse during the presentation. It instead used ‘spatial computing,’ to reset the conversation on their own terms,” said Camilla McFarland, vp of operations at web3 platform Mojito. The metaverse and immersive reality have become difficult terms to explain, with some negative connotations stemming from Meta’s lackluster metaverse launch. McFarland has worked with Prada, Sotheby’s and Givenchy on their expansion into web3 and immersive experiences. “Terms aside, it’s still about enabling a more digitally immersive future for consumers. For brands, it will be even more important now for brands to have a digitally immersive experience and a digital product strategy.”
Along with the headset announcement, Apple debuted an AI-assisted avatar creator tool. The tool will allow for photo-realistic avatars — something that Meta has not adopted, in favor of more cartoon-like avatars. “The Vision Pro opens up the idea of being able to create your own avatar and also create your own look, mixing and matching items from different designers on a body that resembles you accurately,” said Zoe Scaman, founder of strategy studio Bodacious, which has worked with Nike and Amazon Fashion on fandom and entertainment projects.
The presentation also focused on possibilities around brand experiences. As an initial partnership, Apple has linked with Disney to bring the company’s films, series and other Disney+ products to life through immersive content. Examples included seeing Mickey Mouse jump around the living room or step into the world of “Star Wars,” from the comfort of one’s own home. Although there were no direct references to fashion, the partnership showcases how fashion brands could work with Apple to leverage their IP to create more immersive experiences.
“The modern luxury shopper expects every interaction with the brand IP to be an experience that goes way beyond a commercial transaction,” said Blake Lezenski, investor and program director on the Outlier Ventures side of the Farfetch web3 accelerator program Dream Assembly Base Camp. From Gucci Garden in Roblox and Burberry’s mobile shark game to the industry’s multiple explorations of Decentraland through Metaverse Fashion Week, brands are not afraid to use their IP to go beyond products and create meaningful experiences for their customers.
“With volumetric video through the Vision headset, you can imagine a very different catwalk experience in your own home,” said Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency. The agency recently completed an AI-generated catwalk project with volumetric capture, a technique that uses multiple cameras and sensors and could play well with headsets. “From a designer or a brand perspective, you can have any environment grow more immersively around you.”
More direct applications could also affect e-commerce, as the experience has grown static with the same scroll site format. Brands could be more immersive through the headset and virtual shopping platforms like Obsess.
“When you want to browse through a clothing catalog online and identify specific items of interest for you, you’ll be able to bring them up, rotate them and interact with them through photorealistic 3D renderings, ultimately purchasing them through the headset,” said Simon Windsor, founder of Dimension Studios, regarding the potential for fashion. Dimension Studios has worked on Eva Herzigova’s avatar, as well as volumetric projects for Nike and Balenciaga.
Web3 brands like the Institute of Digital Fashion and The Fabricant are already experimenting with Unity, the real-time 3D development platform that Apple has integrated into the headset.
Megan Kaspar, managing director at web3 investment firm First Light and founding member of Red DAO, the first decentralized autonomous fashion organization, said she wants to leverage the headset to help the next generation of fashion designers. “At Red DAO, we plan to hold an application process for digital fashion designers who are interested in building with this tool and [playing] in AR,” she said. “We’ll hold an application process, and then buy five devices and give them to five digital fashion designers, and support them in the creation process of using these tools. Using this technology and spatial computing, they’ll be able to harness the digital environment and create really awesome pieces.”
But with the price point set so high, the most obvious applications would be in the luxury sector.
“From the conversations with luxury brands, they’re thinking about it more like a product tool, not a consumer tool,” said Kaspar. She is currently working with Louis Vuitton on their Trunks NFT project, with each “phygital” NFT trunk going for $39,000.
She added, “I was with a very prominent luxury goods maison, and they kind of joked about ordering them for their employees so everyone can use those instead of their desktops.” With Apple setting the price point so high and touting the benefits of people relying solely on the headset, some experts expect the Macbook to prove Vision Pro’s main competitor. Compared to a flat screen, the headset would allow for a more seamless way to manage immersive projects.
Kaspar said luxury brands are thinking about the headset as a tool that can use be used internally to enhance efficiencies around both workflow and product creation for physical goods. For example, digital environments can be used to test and create a product before a physical sample is ever produced, reducing costs and material use. Luxury brands have increasingly embraced technology to best leverage data and the blockchain, and enhance their supply chains.
The headset could also be used to reach VIP clients through private concierge and clientele services. “Companies like LVMH and Kering are going to be building personal concierges for the Vision headset that can potentially go across all of their brands,” Scaman predicted. “This would also bring the personal shopper experience into the comfort of homes.”
Applications in luxury retail could build out in IRL what Gucci has done with Gucci Garden, for example. “[Eventually] I could go and see the latest Gucci store in Milan, walk through the store and get that experience firsthand,” said Scaman. “I can have a look through clothing racks or potentially play a couple of games and go on a personalized, digital Gucci adventure. The headset allows designers to take their stores and bring them to life in their own spaces, instead of on outside platforms like Roblox.”