THE NO-CONTACT BUZZ
Forbes India|October 23, 2020
THE NO-CONTACT BUZZ
Indian companies are helping high-end brands reimagine boundaries as the pandemic hits the luxury sector, which has traditionally placed a premium on physical experiences
PANKTI MEHTA KADAKIA

From October 21 to 25, instead of celebrities, air kisses and paparazzi flashes, the Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) will immerse its audience into a 3D world, where anyone, anywhere can get a taste of the front-row experience— without stepping out of their homes (or pyjamas). What’s more, they can pick an outfit straight off the virtual runway and add it to their cart for purchase.

Welcome to luxury 2.0, or 2020, if you will. An industry that has long focussed on building one-on-one relationships with customers, through high-end staff service or touch-and-feel retail experiences, has been shaken to its roots by the Covid-19 pandemic. At a time when the greatest luxury, perhaps, is to eliminate all in-person interactions and physical touchpoints, brands have been forced to reinvent the wheel and all the glossy engines with it.

“To be honest, the industry needed an overhaul anyway,” says Jaspreet Chandok, head of lifestyle businesses, IMG Reliance, which manages LFW. “The designer wear industry has not yet reached its full potential. The pandemic has forced people to become more agile, think out of the box, and adopt new-age communication formats. After the Darwinian shake-out expected, we believe that businesses built on a sound foundation will flourish.”

Preparations at LFW are in full swing to offer a ‘seamless’ digital experience. According to Chandok, it has made a significant investment in two major areas: Digital architecture and content enhancement, which involves various vantage points for the viewer and CG (computer-generated) environments.

“The first part is an investment for the future as the platform and virtual showroom will become part of our core, even when we return to a physical event,” Chandok says. “The second part showcases to the industry what technology can actually do. The format has provided the team the opportunity to expand their skillsets.”

Two companies that LFW has engaged to get this ambitious plan off the ground include Tagglabs, a 10-year-old Gurugrambased startup focussed on new media and technology innovations for marketing; and Geometry Encompass, a 14-year-old experiential marketing agency that reimagines retail, under the WPP group aegis.

Tagglabs is helping LFW create a digital live experience, which it says is “much more than a live stream”. The agency will help construct a fantasy 3D world, where viewers can interact with and discover products in a host of ways. Geometry Encompass, meanwhile, is working on converting green-screen stage shows to immersive technology, adding real-time compositing and motion tracking. This means viewers can select different angles and vantage points from which to watch the show, and interact with products while the show is on.

“Experiences are no longer bound to just real or virtual. Today, tech can enable people to have rich experiences in completely virtual settings,” says Ranjit Raina, chief executive officer, Geometry Encompass. “Luxury fashion is no different— with the right tech integrations, the virtual experience can be just as exclusive. Imagine a world where you can interact with a product and discover it in ways that may not be possible in the real world, all while being attended upon by your own personal artificial intelligence (AI) concierge service.”

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October 23, 2020