Zühlke – Empowering Ideas

Commerce and Consumer Goods

Extended Fashion

Frau mit Kopfhörern und VR Brille
  • The fashion industry and the art world are the most advanced in terms of virtual retail concepts
  • Traditional fashion houses and department stores are also tapping into extended and virtual reality technologies
  • Virtual fashion brands use technologies like NFTs to protect designs
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Emotionality in online shopping, digital boutiques in the metaverse and NFT technology to combat counterfeiting: the fashion industry is undergoing unprecedented radical change. Zühlke partnered with the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) to explore the concept of ‘extended commerce’. The resulting white paper will be published in April. Here is an exclusive preview of an initial chapter on fashion.

Online shopping was booming well before the COVID-19 crisis, but restricted access to retail spaces during the pandemic accelerated the trend even further. The limits of digital shopping experiences have also become apparent, however – at least in terms of their emotionality. That said, there are other trends that have been emerging for a while now. Some industries are starting to realise what other sectors, such as museums and gaming, already know: physical and virtual experiences are increasingly merging, creating a new experiential environment.

The requisite technology is becoming more affordable and accessible. The costs of virtual formats are falling, while the quality and appeal of customer experiences are skyrocketing. At the same time, consumers are expecting more and more from experiences – the same familiar content soon starts to wear thin and lose its impact. Thus, the battle is on to constantly go bigger and better in the experiential industry – an arms race that pushes up the costs of running physical formats and staging shopping experiences. This makes investing in the virtual experience space a more attractive and important prospect for retailers. The realm of possibility for selling and purchasing in the virtual space is constantly growing, with providers and users eager to try something new.

Testing ground for virtual and traditional brands

Joint research undertaken by Zühlke and the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) has shown that the fashion industry and the art world, compared with the other sectors looked at in the study, are the most advanced in terms of virtual retail concepts. These technologies aren’t just being harnessed by fashion brands in the physical world, they are helping independent labels that exist exclusively online to establish themselves, too.

Virtual fashion brands use technologies like NFTs (non-fungible tokens – one-of-a-kind encrypted digital objects) to protect designs, which could be used for outfits in video games, for instance. As with seasonal collections, availability of these digital editions will be limited, so when you buy one, you truly own it.

The more time we spend in virtual worlds, the more we want to show our personalities in these spaces. Fashion has been, and remains, a way for us to express ourselves socially in this respect.

Traditional fashion houses and department stores are also tapping into extended and virtual reality technologies. Chinese shopping mall K11 created a virtual store, and Nike released some of its sneaker models exclusively as NFTs, and they can be worn in online games such as Fortnite. This can be a lucrative move, as demonstrated by the first NFT clothing item from The Fabricant, which sold at auction for USD 10,000. AR apps for virtually trying on clothes from online shops are likely to catch on quickly. Taking body measurements allows the apps to show users even more highly targeted offers and selections. They give customers the chance to try on many more clothes and retailers the opportunity to sell more and have fewer returns to deal with. 

Nadine Stoyanov
Contact person for Switzerland

Nadine Stoyanov

Head of Retail and Consumer Goods

Nadine Stoyanov joined Zühlke in April 2018 following strategic and operational roles in the retail sector in companies ranging from technology start-ups to major enterprises. As Head of Retail & Consumer Goods at Zühlke Switzerland, she is responsible for strategic development and expansion in the retail and consumer goods sectors. Nadine Stoyanov regularly shares her expertise in a variety of thought leadership formats.

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