We are fashion or VR Fashion?
See that dress she’s wearing – beautiful isn’t it? Getting it there is quite the process – perfecting clothing takes iterations, that makes a lot of sense. What we often overlook, however, is how many resources are used to perfect that dress, or any article of clothing for that matter. Dozens of samples are used and then just tossed away. But what if there was some way for designers to virtualize their designs, still have them in 3D with accurate textures and colors, and virtually (literally) eliminate the waste generated by sampling? That’s exactly what Voor is doing.
Voor is a virtual fashion company aimed at redesigning the fashion industry to be truly sustainable. They do so by virtualizing designs and creating virtual showrooms for fashion brands, which cuts time, cost and waste.
Founder Tracy Wong is a true veteran of the fashion industry, she has worked in it for over ten years, first as a designer, then in merchandising and product development. Eventually, she worked in the Empire State for a four billion dollar transnational corporation, handling enough samples to fill a whole apartment (and not just a tiny NYC one). Raised with strong family values of not being wasteful, however, she was tired of seeing how much material was laying around, never to be used again. Coincidentally, around that time, one of her close friends became Senior Vice President for a VR company. So Tracy thought, “can VR help solve fashion’s main problem?”
Sustainability has recently become a big topic in the fashion industry (I previously wrote about Altress which makes custom dresses, made-to order to reduce waste), however most companies focus on reducing waste on the consumer side. Tracy mentioned that many companies have fallen to “green-washing” their efforts as a marketing tool without really doing much to really help the environment. After all, “to achieve true sustainability is not to produce anything, but then how do you have a business?” She emphasized that for true sustainability, businesses should be focusing on streamlining processes and reducing waste wherever possible, which in hand will also reduce the time and costs associated with those wastes.
Coming from the design and production side as opposed to the retail side gave Tracy the perspective to focus on pre-consumer as, “there are at least 14 stages of sampling, sometimes multiple of those.” She realized how much waste is truly generated even before consumers come into the picture, and despite at one point getting frustrated by the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry, she decided to stay in and see what she could do to change things.
When speaking with Tracy about the NYC fashion scene which many consider to be one of the main style epicenters, it was interesting to hear that being a fashion company located there actually proved somewhat disadvantageous. “To be quite honest, New York Fashion is very traditional – New Yorkers have this mindset where if something is working, why change it?” When pitching Voor, it was difficult to make people see the need for virtual fashion, as nobody anticipated a global pandemic would strike, making it impossible to go shopping or even designing in person. Tracy talked about how changing people’s mindset has probably been the biggest challenge, as is common for those doing something new or innovative, but, after COVID hit, “people’s mindsets basically changed overnight.”
Tracy believes that LA and the West Coast have, “big and upcoming fashion scenes,” because the people there tend to be more receptive to innovation, and also have a greater focus on sustainability. It’s interesting how this parallels with the general opinion of California being the innovator with NYC trailing behind due to mindset (although as we’ve seen so far through this blog there’s a lot of awesome stuff happening in the city).
In any case, as time goes on, people less and less feel the need to actually go and try their clothing on with the ease of online ordering. One click, and you can have a new outfit at your doorstep within days without even getting up from bed. And now with amazing companies like Voor, designers will be able to pivot to digitally design and showcase their collections, and through this, be truly sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Currently, Voor focuses on creating digital spaces for fashion companies to use as a marketing tool, and “think away from the physical world to bring out their brand DNA.” One cool feature to look forward to is a multiplayer collaborative environment, where you can put on the Oculus and be in the same virtual showroom as your friends or fellow designers. If VR becomes widespread, this could definitely be the replacement for going to the mall with your friends – I guess we’ll lose the fun of figuring out whose parents are driving who.
TLDR: Voor is a fashion virtualization company that allows stores and brands to digitize their styles for anyone to experience without leaving the house. Founded by fashion expert Tracy Wong, Voor aims to transform and redesign the whole fashion industry to be synchronous, agile and truly sustainable.
My biggest take-aways from speaking with Tracy, including tips for aspiring start-up founders:
|1. Make swift decisions.
Tracy strongly believes that you should, “decide on one thing and beat it to the ground.” Making a decision and sticking with it will help you go farther.
|2. Right and wrong only come after.
Tracy said that especially recently she’s heard a lot of advice that made her realize that often nothing you do as a start-up founder will be right or wrong, but those come with retrospect. She believes that you should do what seems right, and if it ends up wrong, you’ll find a way to pivot.
|3. Purpose comes before profit. Profit will follow when there’s a purpose.
Tracy emphasized that if you keep your purpose in mind when working on something, profit usually follows. For the Voor team, their purpose is to spark creativity while also innovating fashion and making it sustainable.