Coco Chanel believed that “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”. It’s a view firmly echoed by Jonathan Chippindale (Holition CEO), as he considers innovation in fashion and retail and discusses the ground-breaking projects he and his colleagues have been working on. Fashion and technology have always worked hand-in-hand but there is renewed energy as fashion brands and designers collaborate with technologists to explore how the Internet of Things, 3D, AR, VR, smart materials and wearable technologies can be harnessed to create desirable new products and open new markets.
"Technology has to be beautiful to work" he stresses "it’s not just about creating beautiful and realistic apps - it’s about ensuring the end user fully engages with the product. We are driven by the human to technology experience or 'digital anthropology', to craft beautiful digital retail experiences which seamlessly integrate design with emerging technology".
It is often said that luxury brands should adopt digital technology to create new aesthetics where the smart tech enhances the form rather than just offering functionality. Smartwatches and fitness trackers have led the consumer take up of wearables to date but demand has been mixed. Combining aesthetics with technology was one of the reasons why the Apple Watch launch was delayed and, even though it has generated a billion dollars in revenue, sales have not perhaps been as high as was hoped. New, high end
products are coming to market now such as smart rings which allow users to change the colour of the stone to match their outfit or smart materials which change colour to match the wearer’s mood.
Chippindale feels that the wearables trend may have swung too far towards the selfie generation, with applications simply telling us ever more about ourselves, how we are feeling and how we are performing rather than communicating something more interesting or useful. He is keen to elevate thinking about the
potential of wearables away from fitness, wellbeing and ‘being all about me me me…’ and warns that ‘there is a danger that wearables in fashion will start to die out, particularly if brands just continue to pursue gimmicky neon-signs and LED dresses. Wearables must be more than an adjunct or enhancement to an existing product.’
Technology has to be beautiful to work, it’s not just about creating beautiful and realistic apps - it’s about ensuring the end user fully engages with the product.
Cosmetics is a good example where innovative technology can enhance the trying on makeup experience. Holition developed and created ‘FACE by Holition’ in 2015, an immersive virtual cosmetic experience which enables people to try out different looks and styles using their smartphones or tablets. This gives cosmetics retailers a great opportunity to directly engage with their customers by offering ‘a try before
you buy’ option. Chippindale says ‘we’re fortunate to have a a team of female developers who, particularly in this case, understand makeup, such as skin tone, face shapes, eyes and lip contours. Most important was to create a beautiful seamless app which people could trust and engage with’.
Chippindale adds ‘we were very excited to be invited to create virtual looks for “Warpaint”, an exhibition which coincided with the V&A’s much acclaimed exhibition: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. At the V+A visitors were able to ‘try on’ a virtual feathered look straight from one of McQueen’s infamous catwalk shows’.
Holition has since customised its FACE app for a number of beauty clients including Cover Girl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. The clever thing about Cover Girl’s BeautyU is its ability to identify and read the user’s facial features and characteristics, including skin tone, at a highspeed rate, and offer recommendations - a bit like having your own beauty consultant; The recently launched Rimmel GetTheLook app is the first-ever real-time 3D make-up simulation application that enables consumers to try out other people’s make-up styles making it possible to point a phone or tablet at a friend’s made-up face then virtually try on the same look using colour-matched cosmetics by Rimmel.
Holition adapted its FACE technology to develop ‘Nails by Holition’ resulting in the world’s first ever virtual nail colour for Sally Hansen’s ManiMatch™ with realistic visualisation of nails integrating real-time light reflection. Just hold a smart phone over the hand and voilà, the selected nail colour appears on the fingernails.
HOLITION'S FASHION TECH PRODUCTS
Holition is evolving all the time – it began as a company creating 3D virtual reality applications allowing customers to ‘try on’ luxury goods such as diamonds, jewellery and watches and then, by exploring the
boundaries of the technology, they were able to extend this to clothing, shoes and makeup. Holition is a company always looking to see where to go with their ideas and creativity. Although their client base is luxury fashion and beauty focused, they also like looking at future innovation ideas outside of that niche
and its endless possibilities.
Chippindale says ‘our collaboration with alchemist, Lauren Bowker and her exploration house, T H E U N S E E N was really interesting as it provoked thinking around colour changing apparel sensitive to the human mind - this is still ongoing as the potential to extend this to other accessories is enormous’.
Holition is currently working with artist and designer, Professor Helen Storey MBE RDI on a unique installation that brings statistics and fashion together to explore one of the world’s
most pressing issues - human displacement. For Holition it’s about finding new ways to look at data which allows people to get a sense of their surroundings as well as highlighting complex issues from around the world. The dress has just been on exhibition at London’s Science Museum’.