As the dawn of a new decade draws near, we’ve been reflecting upon the change that engulfs us in 2019. Sparked by our disruptive times, new ways to do everything from politics to pop culture and shopping are emerging. But which are the best innovations to take into the 2020s? And how will this influence retail and fashion? 

From computer-generated influencers – hello, KFC’s very own virtual influencer Colonel Sanders (pictured below) – to teens creating their own fashion brands via revolutionary retailers like Depop (coming soon to Selfridges) – technological advances have reshaped the fashion and retail landscapes, enabling us to build entirely new digitised worlds that are immersive, experiential and accessible to all. 

Inspired by this digital revolution and the democratisation of art and retail, our latest creative campaign, The New Order, invites some of the most boundary-breaking digital creatives [including DIGI-GAL and Jon Emmony] to reimagine what shopping, style and the department store might look like in the not-so-distant future. Applying digital-first techniques to our Selfridges Oxford Street store, they will challenge how we interact with and consume fashion product and establish a new wireframe for the future of fashion. 

What to read:

'Goodbye, World!
Looking at Art in the Digital Age'

– Omar Kholeif

Find the digital advances mind-boggling? Fear not. This book, by writer and curator Omar Kholeif (he’s just co-curated the new Sharjah biennial in the Middle East), is a fascinating look at how the internet and post-millennial technologies have transformed our ways of seeing and birthed a new culture. For more critical insights into technology’s impact on humanity, try James Bridle’s ‘New Dark Age’.

What to try:

Otherworld’s VR experience

This amazing multiplayer virtual reality bar has a permanent residency in east London. Unlike the usual VR spaces (bare, stripped-back rooms), the bar has been given a sci-fi makeover, so even before you've entered your own immersion room and put on the VR headset, you feel like you’ve stepped into an ‘other world’. And once you’re done climbing Mount Everest (minus the queues at the summit) or fighting a zombie apocalypse in Arizona (there are 16 experiences to choose from), you can get back to reality with a cocktail and dinner. Visit www.other.world for more details.

What to buy:

virtual fashion

Nuts, right? Actually, with zero impact on the environment, it’s a really neat solution to the industry’s overconsumption. Norwegian retailer Carlings recently sold out of its digital clothing collection, Neo-Ex. Customers supplied a photo of themselves that Carlings manipulated to seem as if the customer was wearing the look and then sent it back to the customer. And the world’s first digital couture dress (pictured), designed by The Fabricant (an Amsterdam-based digital fashion house) recently sold for $9,500 at the Ethereal Summit in New York. Called Iridescence, the virtual garment appears to shimmer and float in mid-air – online, that is.

Who to follow:

virtual influencers

With her full lips, freckles and envy-worthy wardrobe, avatar Lil Miquela (@lilmiquela) has amassed 1.6-million followers, featured in an ad kissing Bella Hadid for Calvin Klein, virtually attended Prada’s AW18 show, and sparked a whole new way of advertising. Our favourite new VI? Virtual Colonel Sanders for KFC (@kfc). This handsome virtual spoof character’s Instagram page is filled with amusing posts like a picture of his ripped abdomen tattooed with ‘a secret recipe for success’.

 What to visit:

Venice Biennale 2019

With seamingly more digital art at this year’s Venice art biennale than ever before, it’s a clear sign of the genre’s ever-growing relevancy. Our highlights? Artist Shu Lea Cheang’s immersive installation (above) in the Taiwanese Pavilion, which reflects on different technologies of confinement and control. At the China Pavilion, an AI-operated installation by Artist Fei Jun uses a machine to pick up viewers’ emotions and appearances to deduce elements of his or her identity. The biennale’s on until 24 November 2019.

Tune into:

VJs

British-Iranian electronic musician and multimedia experimenter Ashkan Kooshanejad (or Ash Koosha) uses his work to explore the intersections between VR environments and electronic music. He describes his music-making process as visual, using words like ‘sculpt’ and ‘decorate’ to talk about his work, and imagining environments where people will literally be put inside tracks, as if they were walking through a museum of sound sculptures. Ash, and a whole host of other visual artists, are performing at MUTEK festival in Montréal from August 20 to 25, which includes audiovisual performances, live electronic music and digital art experiences. 

 Go and see:

Bold Tendencies’ ‘Fiction’

This year’s Bold Tendencies' site-specific installations programme, in the multi-storey car park in Peckham, London, is based on the theme, ‘Fiction’, and asks the question: ‘Is this real or not?’ (rather apt for our new campaign). Our standout piece is conceptual digital wizard Lawrence Lek’s work, FTSE (Farsight Stock Exchange). The multimedia installation, set in a future, dystopian London, explores a virtual pound-shaped skyscraper, which soars 1,000 feet into the air from the top of the car park, with algorithmic trading floors, server farms and smart-tech art galleries. Awesome stuff.    

 Look out for:

VR collectives’ shows

VR collectives are exploring a multitude of mixed reality, multi-sensory experiences that blend the physical and the virtual. Hot-right-now virtual reality creators Marshmallow Laser Feast recently put on ‘Ocean of Air’ at the Saatchi Gallery, a trippy VR installation (you were kitted out with a VR set, headphones, a heart monitor and breath technology) that was so moving, people were seen leaving in tears. Meanwhile, the upcoming mixed-reality show ‘Eternal Return’ (above), from Swedish artistic duo Lundahl & Seitl and ScanLAB Projects, takes you on a journey through digital replicas of historical buildings that are hyper-connected to sculptures and fragmented objects. It’s rare to experience technical excellence and artistic quality in VR, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

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