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7 For All Mankind delves into virtual reality for spring ad campaign

7 For All Mankind, Jaunt and Elle partner to create a virtual reality fashion experience

The Vernon-based premium denim brand 7 For All Mankind is leveraging virtual reality technology to put customers smack in the middle of its spring 2015 marketing campaign, set to roll out today. And while no one is likely to confuse the brief detour into the virtual world with the sights and sounds of the real one, it’s a close-enough creepy/cool experience to make it memorable.

Created in partnership with Palo Alto based VR company Jaunt, "Visions of California" consists of a simple, minute-long vignette in which a model appears to be walking outside (and later inside) a French chateau, while feverish dreams of Southern California — in the form of palm trees and crashing surf — flicker into and melt out of focus.

While a traditional two-dimensional video might have showcased the actual clothes (including flare-legged jeans, denim skirts, sleeveless tops, denim jackets and cropped jeans with paper-bag waists) better, the 3-D version allows for surprises — like the sound of the model’s heels clicking on the flagstones from right to left as she crosses in front of a viewer’s field of vision and having the ability to take a 360-degree gaze around the room while she lolls lazily on an ottoman.

Barry Miguel, 7 for All Mankind’s president, says that the over-arching purpose of the campaign has less to do with showcasing particular pieces and more with creating what he calls a “wow factor.” “We have a brand story and we have product stories,” he said. “In the [virtual reality video] it’s not about the product, it’s about the woman and the environment and her dream. But if you walked into one of our stores, you’d get the product story [too].”

This brings up the biggest challenge to using virtual reality as a platform — the user interface itself. While a handful of 7 For All Mankind stores (including Santa Monica locally and the SoHo store in New York) will have dedicated viewing kiosks that include VR goggles and headphones, the company has partnered with Elle magazine to mail assemble-yourself DoDoCase cardboard viewers to somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 select subscribers and customers.

(For those sans a VR viewer of any kind, an old-school 2-D version will be posted at the label's website as well.)

Once the case is snapped together and the app is downloaded from www.7forallmankind.com/experience (only an Android version will be available at launch, an iOS version will follow this month), embarking on a VR adventure simply requires sliding the device into the back of the viewer and pressing a few buttons.

And that’s exactly what I did late last week. Invited for an exclusive sneak peek at the campaign, I found myself standing outside a Century City café on a sunny Friday morning, clutching a recipe-box-shaped piece of cardboard to my face and swiveling my head back and forth with abandon, tracking a model that only I could see. I probably looked like a class-A buffoon, but, for a brief moment (especially at the end thanks to a neat effect I don’t want to spoil) I was fully immersed in something like a look book come to life.

It’s a heady brand experience and my guess is we’re going to see a lot more marketing efforts like it in the not-too-distant future.

No virtual reality goggles required.

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