Article 21 Nov. 2023

Virtual Try-on: A New Way of Shopping

Read the article in Italian here.

Partners Daniela Della Rosa and Federico Criscuoli have written an article discussing new 'virtual try-on' AI technologies and their impact on the luxury fashion industry.

Read the full article below.

1. What are virtual try-on technologies and how does it work?

AI technologies are slowly disrupting several industries, and luxury, especially fashion, is no exception to this trend.

One of the most interesting AI applications in this regard is the so-called “Virtual Try-On” technology, which leverages augmented reality (AR) to allow customers to digitally try on clothing, accessories, and other fashion items, without the need of physically visiting a store of the brand.

Herein below how it works.

  • First, the customers provide their measurements either directly or through a 3D body scanning tool made available by the brand (via website or app).
  • The measurements allow the AI to immediately create a digital avatar of the customer’s body, which is more accurate than a 3D body scan.
  • Brands have created a digital copy of their clothing or eyeglasses or bag or watch or other fashion item, reproducing in 3D their design, color, fabric texture, etc., that can then be used on the digital body avatar.
  • Customers can experience virtual try-ons through AR applications, which can be downloaded on smartphones or tablets or pc browsers, but also on virtual reality headsets, on any of these devices. The same technology overlays the digital fashion items onto the customer's real-world image (through their digital body avatar).
  • The customer can then interact in real time, more or less depending on the specific application in use, like adjusting the fit or zooming in or customizing colors, styles, sizes, etc.

This technology appears especially promising as a means to make shopping more conscious and sustainable. For example, a luxury brand may choose to use virtual try-ons to enhance its clients’ shopping experience, reducing the return rate of fashion items, increasing customer engagement, data collection, differentiating from competition, and cross-selling items suggested on the basis of the chosen virtual outfit.

2. Example of Brands’ virtual try-on use

Several multi-brands resellers and fashion houses have joined the fray to offer similar services.

Below are just a few examples of virtual try-on, mostly through dedicated apps or their own store website:

  • Chanel, makeup;
  • Burberry, eyeglasses;
  • Gucci, sneakers and accessories;
  • Prada, sunglasses;
  • Chrono24 (multi-brand), watches;
  • PerfectCorp (AR software provider), watches.

Even Amazon currently offers a slightly different kind of AR implementation, dedicated to furniture and home décor. This AR shopping tool allows consumers, through a smartphone or tablet, to visualize an item of their choosing (like a table or vase) within their room, sized and rendered to scale, having a preview of one or more products before buying.

3. Legal Challenges

Virtual try-on technologies open many interesting possibilities for luxury and fashion brands, however they also brings about a host of potential legal challenges that industry stakeholders should address to gain the most from this innovation. The recently approved European AI Act will require compliance from AI technologies providers, including, possibly, virtual try-on technology.

Here are some of the challenges relevant for the most innovative stakeholders:

3.1. Data Privacy and Security

Customers’ data, especially biometric measurements and facial recognition, are essential for virtual try-on technologies to work as intended.

Collecting, storing, and processing such sensitive information raise significant privacy and security concerns. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) apply to the mentioned activities, and brands should carefully evaluate compliance when dealing with the digitalization of the customer body as described above. Consent collection, specific DPIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment), data minimization, are only some of the actions to be taken in such context.

There are also several data protection technological measures that can be implemented, like data encryption, anonymization, and secure/cold storage.

The above may also be relevant for technology providers in relation to compliance undertakings under the European Digital Services Act.

3.2. Liability and Consumers’ protection

The opportunity to visualize how a product will appear on customers before they make a purchase is welcome, however should the virtual representation significantly differ from the actual product received, or be so perceived, customers’ dissatisfaction may bring them to claim liability from seller.

This is primarily relevant in relation to consumers’ right granted by law, including, depending on the jurisdiction, rights of withdrawal, which, in the EU, can be freely exercised by consumers, without any burden of proof or need to give cause, within 14 days from purchase date.

Generally speaking, clear and comprehensive terms of service agreements should explain the current limitations of the technology (as implemented case-by-case) and therefore the expectations of the virtual try-on experience, and that results depends on a significant number of factors, including individual body shapes, devices, lighting, etc. This is true to both fashion manufacturers, sellers as well as to technology providers.

Another provision in the terms of service may relate to customer service and dispute resolution mechanisms, including the offer of refunds or exchanges to customers, provided that the latter can prove the virtual misrepresentation of the actual received product.

3.3. IP and Copyright Issues

Digitalization of a brand’s assets can become a concern, especially when the virtual try-on technology is provided by a third party. Such third party technology providers can often access large libraries of data, storing brands’ copyrighted materials and digital assets.

Should the virtual try-on service be hosted on platforms out of the brands’ control, counterfeiting would actually be made easier though digitalization. However, AI-driven programs can detect infringements and notice immediately the owner of the infringed property.

Therefore, licensing agreements, defining the scope of authorized use and ensuring compliance with copyright laws, as well as AI-powered content verification tools, are essential to avoid issues between brands and technology providers, down the line, and to fight counterfeiting and brand dilution.

Additionally, depending on how the technology is implemented and on the role of the relevant online platform, compliance with the Digital Services Act may be required.

3.4. Accessibility and discrimination

Virtual try-on technologies work with body scans and this may inadvertently exclude individuals with disabilities, which, in some jurisdictions, could potentially lead to discrimination claims.

Fashion and luxury brands should, in so much as technically feasible, work with technology providers to develop accessible virtual try-on experiences, complying with accessibility standards and regulations such as, in the EU, the European Accessibility Act, and, in the USA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

4. Conclusion

Virtual try-on technologies are just beginning to graduate from an experimental phase in the actual market, but are already proving how AI- and AR-driven technologies can make an impact in the fashion and luxury world, helping its stakeholders in facing the complex green-challenges ahead of them.

By proactively and correctly addressing the legal challenges posed by these new technologies, the fashion and luxury sectors can pave the way to a more sustainable way of shopping, working in parallel to the more traditional, analogical, way of consuming fashion and luxury products.

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