InstaVR Interviews: Meet the VR Practitioners
InstaVR Interviews is a blog series where we turn the spotlight on our customers. We find out why they create VR, how they use InstaVR, and what the future of VR will look like. To read more interviews, visit the InstaVR Interviews homepage.
Dan Knight, CTO at ORDRE
ORDRE is a global online wholesale platform for the ready-to-wear fashion industry. They present Designer Portfolio seasonal collections in online showrooms to a select group of Retail Network buyers, and allow wholesale orders to be placed and managed through sophisticated yet easy to use technology. ORDRE combines efficiency and global simultaneous reach, revolutionizing the way luxury wholesale works online.
Dan Knight is the Chief Technology Officer at ORDRE, headquartered in their London office. He oversees all technical aspects of the platform, enabling buyers to have an exceptional purchasing experience.
Dan discusses why they are investing heavily in VR, how they first got started building VR applications, and the role InstaVR plays in facilitating their VR goals. Thank you to Dan Knight and ORDRE!
ORDRE launches its online fashion showrooms in 2015, starts capturing collections in 360 for worldwide buyers, including in Australia and Japan
Question: Tell us about ORDRE and what you do there.
Answer: I joined the company about six months ago. It was founded around mid-2015, by Simon Lock, who was the founder of Australia’s Fashion Week. He’s been in fashion a long time and his reason for starting the company was that he saw a lot of changes in the fashion industry. Everything from buyers not being able to travel as much, to designers changing how often they create a new collection. A lot of people wanted to use technology to change the fashion industry, so he came up with the idea of ORDRE, which are luxury online showrooms.
The core business is: we’ll work with a designer, photograph all of their collection in 360, and film their shows using 360 video as well. We represent that in an online showroom where buyers around the world can come onto the site, look at the collections, and make their selections as well. Rather than having to travel to the showrooms, they can see it all online.
There are two main goals: 1. For buyers, particularly in countries like Australia and Japan, where travelling to Paris a few times a year can get expensive, they can use our online showrooms instead of travelling. They save on cost, save on time, help the environment — many reasons. 2. For buyers that are travelling, they don’t need to spend as long in the showrooms, because they know we’ve captured the collection.
ORDRE now takes buyers virtually to multiple fashion shows, saving them time and money on travel, giving them a front row view
Question: How have you incorporate VR into the online fashion buying process?
Answer: Designers spend a lot of money doing their shows and presentations. The cheapest shows will usually cost a designer £20,000 or £30,000. The most expensive shows will usually cost in excess of £500,000 to produce. So one of the things we’ve started doing in the last few months is going to the shows, sitting in the front row, and filming the shows as if we were a buyer, using 360 cameras. This allows the buyers to watch them remotely, if for whatever reason they couldn’t make the show — if they’re in another country or at a different show themselves. We now give them that VR experience where they can essentially be in the front row of the fashion show, which is quite exciting for them.
Our photography has always been 360. The goal is to allow buyers to see or spend as much time with products and to experience it in high definition. From the start of the business, we would photograph fashion product from every angle and make a spin of the product. This allows the buyer to see it from every angle, not just the front and the back. Recently, we’ve transitioned to 360 video as well. Still images are great for zooming in, seeing the fabrics, seeing all the angles. But we need video to show the movement and drape of dresses. We did a few standard 2D videos, but now we’re moving more into 360 videos, that also capture the atmosphere of the show. This is what the designers want to portray when they put on the shows, the atmosphere and the products.
ORDRE makes use of multiple cameras, including Orah, Insta360 Pro, and Z CAM S1
Question: Can you talk about your 360 camera use?
Answer: For images, we have two approaches. Originally, it was high definition SLR cameras. But recently, we’ve developed and are patenting, for lack of a better word, a photography booth called “The Orb”. It has 120 cameras in it, and the model will walk in, with the cameras capturing her from all angles and stitch all the photos together. So we’re working with some 3rd party companies and our Hong Kong team on that for asset capture. It’s going to be quite exciting, as we’ll have a worldwide patent on that.
In terms of 360 video capture, we’ve used a few different cameras. Originally, we used the Orah camera, which was quite good. Then we moved onto the Insta360 Pro and also the Z CAM S1. Each of the cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses. One of the things the team is doing right now in Milan is working with emerging designers at the Milan Fashion Show, doing interviews with them.
So we’ll have a 360 camera in the middle of the room, and the designer will go to the different rails around the room and pull out the clothing. They’ll talk to the camera and describe the clothes, which is good because buyers don’t often get a chance to hear from the designers directly. So we’re using the 360 camera to allow the buyers to hear directly from the designer who made the clothes and see it from all the angles, as if they’re there. We’re using some different cameras for the closer shots on that.
Often this will be the first time the buyer has experienced virtual reality, putting on headsets for the first time ever. So it’s quite nice for our company to be giving them that experience.
Proenza Schouler Spring Summer 2018 Runway Show
An image from the VR footage of the Proenza Schouler show in Paris.
Proenza Schouler is a New York based womenswear and accessories brand founded in 2002 by designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. Proenza Schouler is sold in over 100 of the most exclusive retail outlets worldwide, including Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Harvey Nichols, Colette, and Joyce.
ORDRE selects InstaVR because of specialization in VR, as well as ease of use and fast app creation time
Question: How did you first start using InstaVR?
Answer: Originally we were going to create a virtual reality app with our tech team in London. But obviously that would take us quite a bit of time and effort. Given this is quite a new area, it would be quicker and easier for us to use a company that specializes in that (VR). So we trialed a few different companies, and found that InstaVR was easy to use and pretty straightforward in terms of building apps for both Android and iOS, which is our big priority.
At the moment, our focus is Android and iOS because those are the most common devices our buyers will have. We’re considering doing more with the more advanced platforms like Oculus Rift or Vive. But at the moment a lot of people don’t have them, so we want to focus on the devices our users have.
The Proenza Schouler show being edited in the InstaVR Console
ORDRE makes use of InstaVR’s offline download feature, deploying smaller apps that let fashion buyers pick the VR videos they’d like to experience
Question: Tell us about your approach to building apps using InstaVR.
Answer: The first app we’re building will have all the shows in it. For instance, the Proenza Schouler show in Paris, Diane Von Furstenberg’s show in New York, the Linda show in New York, and then some of the emerging designer interviews — they’re all going to go into the one app created in InstaVR. This makes it relatively easy for the buyers to know there’s just one app with all the shows in it. Then when the new shows come, they just get the new version of the app.
So we’ve used InstaVR’s offline capabilities to basically have the app come with no videos downloaded, just the menu, and it’s 30 MB on Android or 100 MB on iOS. Then the buyer can choose which video they want and download that video and watch it. We know they’re always going to get the high quality version and it’s always going to be fully downloaded, so they’re not going to have buffering issues. So that was the main approach and one of the reasons we wanted to use InstaVR.
The ability to pre-package the files and send it to them is best. We thought about giving the buyer instructions on how to download the video and play it in a VR app natively. For Android that’s relatively straightforward, but for iOS you have to connect the phone to the computer and sync it to iTunes, which our buyers are not going to necessarily want to do. So again, InstaVR’s simplicity, of just download the app from the App Store, works really well for us.
VR likely to be incorporated into buying process in the future
Question: Where do you see VR evolving in a business like yours?
Answer: Obviously VR is still in its early days. If it does become a big part of our business, we’d want to integrate it back into our existing platform. So you’d build the capability for buyers to be able to shop in the VR experience. As the looks are coming out on the runway, they’d click a button or use a controller — whether that’s with Samsung Gear VR, Oculus, or some other Bluetooth controller — and save the fashions that they like, so they’re essentially buying from the show. It will be quite an interesting thing for us to explore, but that’s probably a bit further down the line.
“InstaVR is many, many times faster than building your own app.”
Question: Any final words for other companies considering using InstaVR?
Answer: One thing we like about InstaVR is that the building of the app is probably the quickest part of the process. Things like submission to Apple and distribution to phones is actually what takes longer than building the app. So that’s pretty exciting. InstaVR is many, many times faster than building our own app. Unless you’re going to be a pure play VR company, then something like InstaVR is the obvious choice for getting started building apps.
Thank you to Dan Knight and ORDRE for using InstaVR and sharing their insight!