google's new app lets you browse vintage chanel in vr
You can also take a tour of The Met’s conservation department or watch an animated film about the history of Ferragamo heels.
Last night, Google showed off the new global fashion collection that's now available on its Google Arts and Culture app. Created in collaboration with The Met and other prominent fashion institutions from around the world, the innovative project features over 30,000 fashion pieces, 150 exhibitions, and offers a host of 360° VR experiences. You could throw on the Google Daydream (Google's VR headset that works in tandem with your smartphone) and learn about how the corset has provided inspiration to Vivienne Westwood. Or enter a renaissance room for the illustrated history of high heels — leading up to the launch of Salvatore Ferragamo. Are these branded experiences? Without a doubt. But they allow anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection to view fashion in a new, exciting way. And perhaps it's the relative novelty of VR technology, or the magical feeling that we are only seeing the beginning of how VR can infiltrate our lives, but the experiences were smile-inducing.
Fashion has taken a serious interest in VR. Luxury brands like Moschino and Burberry have employed the technology to help make their runway shows more democratic experiences — VR viewers being able to watch the events in real-time. Last year, River Island, Google, and the British Fashion Council collaborated to create what they called "the world's first fashion film," in which River Island promoted its new Jean-Pierre Braganza capsule collection. And that's the thing — VR offers brands a new way to interact with potential consumers. As long as the fast-developing technology maintains its novelty and cutting-edge chicness, it's practically guaranteed that more and more brands will turn to it.
Perhaps the strongest sign fashion is figuring out how to use VR was Anna Wintour's attendance at last night's event (one can't help but wonder the ideas and plans she bounced back and forth with the people responsible for the app).
Google Arts and Culture is not just for the fashion elite, however. Insistent that everyone participates in fashion, the app mixes the high with the low. YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen created a series of videos diving into the history of everyday clothes like hoodies and ripped jeans.
During the event, guests were able to take an exclusive tour of the Commes Des Garçons Art of the In-Between exhibition. Maybe The Met and Google allowed this to illuminate the glaring differences between IRL exhibitions and VR ones. As Andrew Bolton remarked during his opening address, due to the fragility of clothes you can only get so close to them, and there are only so many perspectives available. In a museum, viewers are always at a remove from the pieces. But with VR, there is a sense of intimacy and closeness. Thanks to the gullibility of the visual cortex, the corsets, hats, and dresses of the app's database can feel like they're mere inches from you. VR not only allows all of us to take part in fashion, it also enables us to get closer to it.
Google Arts and Culture is now available on iOS and Android.
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Photography BFA for Google