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Commentary: Sustainable fashion is a farce without virtual try-ons

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The industry needs to make the feature a standard option for all products, but it is not ready to get us on the digital catwalk right now.

Accomplishing this goal requires more than creating an AR mobile app. Brands must prioritise the digitisation of their products. This process has historically been expensive and technically complex. Many brands do not have 3D models of their products readily available, and those that do seldom see those models leave the hands of the internal design teams, meaning they cannot be used for virtual try-ons.

This barrier is compounded by the technical difficulties unique to cloth modeling and simulation for virtual fitting. A popular example can be found in video games. Developers continue to face computational difficulties in realistically simulating fabrics on characters.

This becomes doubly difficult outside of game environments (for example, AR), which require real-time calculations of the user’s physical body, as well as other factors such as rendering light onto the simulated clothing so that it drapes and moves on the body as intended.

Even recent solutions, such as Shopify’s mobile app enabling brands to scan and create 3D models of their inventory, fail to accurately replicate clothing on a user’s body.

While the digitisation of apparel remains in its infancy, fashion brands can funnel investment toward their R&D teams and focus on turning their physical inventory virtual. Such “phygital” goods can then be fed into AR apps that enable consumers to evaluate product fit more accurately.

Limiting carbon emissions is only one byproduct; reducing millions in return processing costs while adding value to the customer are the others.

Some half-measures already exist. Companies like Google and Nike allow you to see how items will look on pre-rendered models of varied sizes and skin tones. However, if we want an effective and scalable solution, we should focus on making virtual try-on smartphone apps a standard feature of fashion e-commerce.

If brands heed this call, next year may see us return to stuffing stockings instead of cardboard boxes, letting Santa breathe a little easier as he makes his rounds.

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