The Reality of Fast Fashion in Virtual Reality
X-RAY FASHION IS A VR FILM ON SHOW AT Al RIWAQ THAT TOUCHES ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY, AND IT NEEDS TO BE SEEN.
The fashion consumer is tempted every single day, when new seasons are out and trends are charted, at the moment a new dress, shoe or bag is revealed. With micro-targeting features, algorithms based on our interests make sure that the brands we like or the products that we consume stay close to us luring us to buy the next “big” thing in the industry.
It is a constant battle of consumerism versus sustainability; buying to gratify a craving rather than for the pure need of any object. There is no reprieve in being aware of the fact that consumers are purchasing 60% more items of clothing now than they were 20 years ago or that 40% of the clothes in many people’s wardrobes are never worn.
All this is in a scenario where the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the global carbon emissions, more than all the international flights and maritime shipping combined and is said to be the second largest polluter of the environment. Twenty percent of global waste water comes from garments industry, while cotton farming during its agricultural process consumes nearly a quarter of the world’s insecticides. Every fact from this industry is terrifying enough to put an instant stop to consumerism.
It is against this setting that I removed my shoes, donned the VR headset and the simulator backpack, set my foot forward to be transported virtually to the industry. It actually began from the most glamourous and coveted place, a ramp through which you imagine yourself strutting like one of the models to come face-to-face with the reality of the multi-billion-dollar industry. I was experiencing the X-Ray Fashion VR film which has come to Doha as part of Qatar Museum’s (QM) extensive 2019 programme.
X-Ray Fashion which premiered during the 2018 Venice Film Festival in the Virtual Reality section shines the spotlight on the inner workings of the world’s second largest polluter: the fashion industry. It is created by the Danish VR production house MANND and co-produced by the World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate programme and the late Paul G.Allen’s Vulcan Productions with the support of Alcantara, a certified carbon neutral company. Directed by Italian-born director and fashion photographer Francesco Carrozzini (Franca: Chaos and Creation), X-Ray Fashion is a cinematic VR experience built around a 49-square meter physical installation that guides the viewer through the different stages of the fast fashion garment production.
I walked the ramps, looked into a garment factory and listened to the female seamstress in her cramped setting, watched the colours of dye polluting the water sources of the villages close to the factory when my legs were softly caressed by cold water, and wind blew down, as the voiceover of Carrozzini took me through the harsh realities of the tragic Rana Plaza disaster that triggered him to look at the not-so-glamourous side of his profession.
Carrozzini tells us of a survivor of the tragic Rana Plaza disaster who told him that, “The colour of the rivers can predict the palette of the upcoming trends fashion.” A statement that struck with him forever, making him want to do more to make sure that the profits generated by this huge money churning industry is distributed fairly.
The original concept for the X-Ray Fashion installation was developed by the Danish VR production house MANND for the Uniting4Climate VR/360-Video Pitch Competition established in 2017 by Connect4Climate, the World Bank Group’s global climate communications and partnership programme.
“The X-Ray VR experience has been to two fashion conferences where sellers and consumers visit and hence had a good viewership,” says Maria Herholdt Engermann and Signe Ungermand, founders of MANND. “The reactions were great, it was highly relevant for the industry as well as for the fashion consumers. Virtual Reality is a strong and powerful empathy machine to work with and we have had audiences taking this message to heart. We had people coming out of the experience, shocked, loud and even crying.”
“We have been using the United Nations’ statistics from 2018 and hence the results are all recent. We created this movie when we realised the impact of fast fashion, after we watched a documentary called the True Cost, which this experience is highly inspired by,” says Signe.
“We made a conscious effort not to talk about any brand in specific because we want the consumer to take efforts to find out which brands take that extra effort to make sure their fabric does not make a negative impact on the environment and also gives back to the supply chain fairly,” she says.
As each one of us as consumers leave the show, we should be contemplating of steps to be taken from now on, to act consciously.
This is a VR show that one should not miss; an experience that should be shared with the new generation who are, or will eventually be caught up in the trap of fashion cravings.The installation will be on show at Al Riwaq from April 1, 2019 through 21 April 2019.