As consumers become more comfortable with online shopping, which surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are re-examining the utility of brick-and-mortar stores and pushing boundaries with virtual tools, experiential design, and an emphasis on sustainability. According to George Yashin, cofounder of AR fashion platform ZERO10, “the future of fashion is hybrid, where physical and digital goods are blended into one united experience,” also known as the “phygital.”
Earlier this year, at Crosby Studios in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, the app had its first pop-up “clothing store” with no physical merchandise. Instead, 3D body tracking, cloth simulation, and body segmentation technology allowed users to try on virtual outfits. The potential is vast—brands can use it to drive sales or allow customers to pre-order garments rather than mass producing them. “The greatest thing about AR technology is that it’s already being integrated into our everyday lives, and it will only continue to progress well into the future,” says Yashin.
Likewise, the recently opened Rove Concepts showroom in Vancouver explores the “phygital” realm. Stocked with the company’s products, the store also boasts an Immersive Design Lab powered by XR technology, allowing visitors to go one step further in project planning by designing virtual interiors before making purchases.
For brands with a stronger focus on physical goods there is an emphasis on statement-making experiential design, as seen at Dishao Optical in Shenzhen. Locally based studio Onexn Architects was tasked with creating a modern Zen atmosphere, manifesting in luminous screen walls that give the space an ethereal feel, mingling with Tyvek paper and straw-featured coating to pay homage to Oriental aesthetics.
At London-based MONC, self-described as “the conscious eyewear company,” the brand’s ethos extends from its products (manufactured in small batches using bio-acetate, a fossil fuel-free material) to its storefront. Designed by London studio Nina+Co, the interiors feature cornstarch foam deployed as décor cascading across the ceiling of the shop, as well as display shelves. When it shows wear and tear, it can simply be dissolved in water. “To stand out,” says MONC founder Freddie Elborne, “brands must realize that they have to give more to their customers and know retail is not just for selling products but for storytelling, collaboration, and community.”
This article originally appeared in HD’s December 2022 issue.