This past weekend, I tried social VR for the first time. Although I’ve covered virtual reality startups, events, and even film festivals before, for the most part, I’ve avoided being in VR for a long time (partly because it overwhelmed me, and partly because it made me sick ????). So you can imagine my mix of angst and excitement when I strapped on an Oculus Quest headset to take part in a much-anticipated fashion summit. I’m in the process of putting together a more nuanced video on this first-of-it’s kind experience, but let me share some brief details for those who have been asking ….
What? A Virtual Reality Fashion Summit
Hosted by lablaco, the Circular Fashion Summit (CFS) took place 100% in virtual reality. Attendees from all over the world entered a shared virtual environment where we could interact, exchange, and network.
How? Virtual Reality
There has been a lot of noise as of late around “virtual” events—whether they be meetings, conferences, or even runway shows. While COVID has prompted us to reimagine the ways we can connect via the internet, it must be said that live video or zoom is not “virtual” in the same sense as virtual reality. Virtual reality enables your digital self to enter a new space entirely rather than just interface with it. For example, when you step inside, you can choose how you appear to others since you are represented as an avatar in the virtual space. This is what my avatar looked like:
The summit took place on a platform called AltspaceVR. Altspace is a leading player in the virtual events space, offering businesses, educators, and event organizers a plug-and-play solution for bringing VR experiences to life. Once inside Altspace, you could search for events on a letterboard. Admittedly, there were some hiccups here, as I wasn’t able to find the CFS event. I floated around in cyberspace for a bit until I sorted it out with the organizers. Once the event was open to me, I was able to teleport to the CFS entrance, which was a large black rectangle floating in the sky above Paris.
Where? The Grand Palais
Once you teleported through the entrance, you were placed inside the Grand Palais, a re-creation of the historic exhibition hall in Paris. There you could explore the space, network, and take in a number of panel talks and presentations. I had the opportunity to interview Matthew Drinkwater of the London College of Fashion, someone whose career I’ve admired from afar for years but never had the chance to meet in person.
The Circular Fashion Summit took place this past weekend (October 3rd-4th). In concert with the venue, the event was held in Central Time, which meant waking up at 5 a.m. ET both days to take part. It’s no mistake that CFS was held during Paris Fashion Week, as one of the goals of the summit is to align itself with the four major fashion weeks around the world. Panel talks and presentations took place throughout the day with breaks for resting your eyes and charging your device. You can view the full list of speakers and summit program here.
Last but certainly not least, there’s the why of it all. Why attend a conference in virtual reality in the first place? The short answer is to promote sustainability within the fashion industry, but there’s a lot more to it than that. While sentiments of sustainability have been thrown around a lot lately, CFS is the real deal. They are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030. In addition to pushing the boundaries of how a fashion conference can be delivered, CFS also set forth some ambitious goals for measuring impact. The goals of this year’s summit focused on streamlining design processes and prolonging the life of a single item of clothing.
Stay tuned for more! Thank you, CFS, for hosting me, and a BIG THANKS to VR Vision for letting me borrow an Oculus headset to attend the event.