Megamall chain Westfield is out to prove it's more than just a temple to consumerism with the launch of Future Fashion, a live experiential campaign allowing shoppers to experience the new season trends in a more abstract way.

Created by London-based production company and emerging technology specialists Inition (who were also behind Topshop's pioneering virtual reality show at London Fashion Week 2014), the installation features personal 'fashion avatars', VR and gesture-tracking technology alongside a series of stop-motion and hyper-lapse fashion films showcasing the looks.

Ahead of the Stratford City launch today, we spoke to Inition's lead creative Alex Lambert on the challenges of combining tech, textiles and trends.


As part of the project, shoppers can create their own 'fashion avatar' to interact with the three main fashion trends. How was that achieved?

The video wall concept used a combination of both depth-sensing and skeletal tracking in order to represent users in a number of styles.  This was achieved using the Kinect 2 and really highlighted its ability to function in a relatively chaotic daylight environment allowing us to track between 4-6 people or different people simultaneously. 

We wrote custom code focussed on what kind of interactions users would instinctively perform in front of the screen, such as walking, jumping, clapping and waving their arms.  We then linked different visual reactions to these gestures dependent on which trend wall the user was interacting with.


Can you tell us more about the virtual reality aspect of the project?

The VR was bleeding-edge in terms of the technology being presented to the public, as we wanted to push the limits of previous public facing installations we have produced.  The idea was to let the users intuitively interact with 3 virtual fashion worlds.  In Westfield, we would be presenting the experience to a wider range of people than VR is usually catered for.  As such, we thought the best way to achieve this would be allowing the users to interact using nothing but their hands. 

The Leap Motion mounted on the front of the Oculus Rift allowed users to see their hands in the virtual space, negating a common complaint of VR; that users feel disembodied.  In addition to this, users could ‘fly’ around the 3 fashion worlds simply by stretching out their hands, while clapping their hands would allow them to change to a different trend-inspired world. 


What were the biggest challenges?

The first challenge was how open it was, especially as trends are a very abstract concept: we were essentially given a blank slate to create something cool with whichever technologies we thought were appropriate.

Little research has been done on [the use of] Leap Motion in VR so this provided the greatest technical challenge.  We thought it was a risk worth taking as it would allow a new level of immersion, rather than relying on something such as a joypad or mouse which would detach the user from the virtual world.  A lot of time was put into creating a control method which allowed users to fly or sit and be taken on a predefined path. 


Future Fashion is at Westfield Stratford City from Thursday 2-Sunday 6 April.