During these uncertain times, a pivot to digitalisation has been a mandatory requirement for all fashion brands, great and small, trying to stave off the effects of COVID-19. While digital has always been considered the future, the pandemic helped the world realise the true extent of what can be achieved virtually.

However, digitalisation alone does not work. In 2020, the birth of digital/hybrid, a.k.a phygital, fashion events became the reality and is still a phenomenon in its infancy. The impact and reach of digital-only was not enough. Beyond the clothes that make their way down the runway, the primary content from fashion shows is often what people wore to the show. And despite valiant efforts, digital fashion weeks just can’t provide this and the engagement numbers were down.

Phygital events are the future. At the height of lockdown, virtual showrooms proved to be an effective way for brands to stay connected with their customer base, and the new playing field meant that lesser-known brands were able to cut through and stand out through the use of tech innovation – see Hanifa’s ‘Pink Label Congo.

Brands supporting new virtual technologies and offering phygital experiences to their customers are shaking up the fashion industry, reimagining the way we consume, and experience fashion. New players and progressive brands are paving the way mixing digital-only products, physical events, and innovations that champion sustainability. FFFACE is one of them.

FFFace x Finch Wear AR Clo

FFFACE is a Ukraine-based team of creators, CGI artists, java-script and Unity engineers, that operates on Eastern/Western Europe, North America and Central Asia regions. Apart from digital products production, FFFACE develops immersive offline activities and products in collaboration with fashion brands and artists.Ukrainian Fashion Week has hosted several AR Fashion Shows powered by FFFACE; Exclusive IRL x AR Collection Showcase | FINCH x Casta Eyewear, IRL Trunk Show | FFFACE x FINCH semi digital clothing collection and AR live stream Fashion Show | CHERESHNIVSKA

Read on for the full interview with FFFACE CEO, Dmitriy Kornilov, and PR Lead and Central Asia Partner, Elmira Mamriyeva, to find out more about FFACE and the future of phygital, IRL X URL, fashion events.

FFFACE CEO, Dmitriy Kornilov, and PR Lead and Central Asia Partner, Elmira Mamriyeva

Dmitriy Kornilov CEO of FFFACE

Can you tell me about FFFACE and its role in the phygital fashion movement?

FFFACE positions itself as an AR communication agency. It means that our mission is to match technological opportunities and communication needs.

Recent changes in our world and society highlighted two important trends – strive for sustainability and social distancing. Our products and expertise perfectly meet these requests. We understand that our experience can help to not only process incoming requests but also to generate new use cases and push the boundaries. 

What do you believe the future of phygital events to be?

I believe we will move more towards game-like experiences, where each of us will be able to be represented at an event both physically and digitally at the same time. Let’s consider networking on an event as an example, some communication elements like actually talking and getting to know each other will be kept on in real life and some, like deciding who to target for networking or that stage of approaching someone to network would be available digitally and the stitching will be seamless and smooth.

What role do you think Covid-19 had in the rise of digital/phygital events, and how much of it was a natural progression for the fashion industry?

Covid catalyzed the process, that already was happening. The Fabricant created and sold digital clothes before the lockdown, brands experimented with VR and semi-digital clothing for a couple of years now. As well as we did two of three our AR fashion shows before the pandemic. The thing is, we don’t generate new experiences and digital formats to adapt to social distancing, we generate them to have Better experiences and new emotions, so it is mostly a natural progression, which was only sped up by the COVID and will develop even more after the pandemic.

Elmira Mamriyeva PR Lead and Central Asia Partner at FFFFACE

In your opinion, does the digitalisation of fashion events, without a physical element, work? And if not, why?

It does for the general audience, but not for the fashion industry insiders, as it turns out. It is just downright boring for them. As a result of my Clubhouse talks with Fashion people, that’s what I call them, i got to the conclusion that events, be that fashion shows or whatever else out there (i am not in fashion so i don’t know), were memorable mostly due to things that accompanied the main happening, emotions, atmosphere, awkward moments, that thrilling rush before the event. But for the general audience like myself all digital formats of communicating fashion works perfectly well with or without physical mediums. So right now the main challenge for tech is to find ways to engage the fashion elite.

What is your opinion on the following quote: 

’’People want to participate in virtual and hybrid events and, therefore, we need to personalise the shared experiences as the demand for individualism is leading the way. There are no constraints in the digital world. What will happen is the digital and live will co-create together’’

The Virtual Report: What Will Events Look Like Post-pandemic?
By Janice Cardinale

Acute affirmation. This is where it’s all moving towards the hybrid. Offline and online communications is today and tomorrow reality of all PR activities for brands. There is no option to stay in one reality with no attempt to go omni channel, we have to balance and make the stitches as seamless as possible. This is the key in building meaningful relationships with an audience as of today

What are the benefits of phytigital events?

Here I would  prefer to speak in marketing terms. I can sum up saying that we get the maximum possible online coverage due to cross channel engagement and even more UGC (User Generated Content) from visitors of an offline event. As a result you get the most out of both realities.

New digitised playing field meant that lesser-known brands have been able to cut through due to use of tech innovation. Do you agree with this?

Well yes, we may observe exactly that, as innovative solutions in fashion more often are coming from smaller brands, startup marketplaces, or some other badass misfits from all over the world and you never know nowadays where the next big thing is coming from. And some of them are very far from traditional fashion as we know it.

Have any specific fashion innovation/ phygital events stood out to you?

Love everything that Holome does. They have been one of the first to break through with all the hologram AR fashion shows. Yet they do 2D holograms, the next step is to give it another dimension. And I love the AR showroom of Machine A, by the Institute of Digital Fashion at London fashion Week. In fact, purely phygital communication mechanics are yet to be discovered and leveraged.

The benefits that social AR phygital show formats give your brand can be summarised as: IRL visitors traffic go to your online channels, engage with your content and generate crazy amounts of UGC for your brand. As a result you get the best out of both realities and the maximum possible online coverage and cross channel engagement. 

So, perhaps going physical is the middle ground. With the digital and real world combined, fashion could change for the better. Most of all, whether virtual or physical, we need to commit to creating experiences that encourage responsible utilisation of resources. 

FFFACE.ME / @ffface.me

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