This week in New York, Italian fashion icon Valentino Garavani unveiled a first-of-its-kind virtual museum at the Museum of Modern Art. An ode to the designer's iconic fashion design, it's the world's first virtual fashion museum.
The launch event was live-streamed on YouTube and featured a maniacally enthusiastic Anne Hathaway as host. Presenters included Valentino, his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti, Google Art Project’s creator Amit Sood, and Italian Vogue editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani. A sleepy-looking Hugh Jackman jumped on stage for the virtual “ribbon cutting.”
Giancarlo explained that the 3D museum was originally conceived as “an idea space." Google Art Projects, which had been working on virtual museums for the National Gallery, MoMA, Uffizi, Tate Britain, and France's Palace of Versailles, became involved after Valentino reached out with his initial ideas.
The app, which is free to download now and took two years to develop, features designs dating back to 1959 and contains seven different salons that users can wander through. 360-degree photographs of Valentino’s designs reveal every intricate stitch and line to viewers. The app also offers in-depth stories behind each design – the women who wore it, such as Sophia Loren, Jackie O and Julia Roberts' black-and-white Oscar acceptance dress above, where they wore it, and why it was created. App users also have access to Master Classes led by fashion figures and critics.
While the app falls short of a live runway experience, the fly-through and level of detail to Valentino’s designs is remarkable, and as archives go, it's certainly an engaging way to bring a brand's history to life. It is easy to see other luxury brands with a rich history—Chanel or Gucci, for example, or the red-hot Alexander McQueen exhibit that stormed New York—following Valentino's lead and creating similar brand experiences.
For luxury brands, a virtual museum strikes just the right balance between exclusivity and accessibility. It elevates the brand by framing it as high art, while also leveraging its history and authenticity. At the same, however, it also taps into a new audience through innovative technology and creates buzz about the brand beyond its typical audience — all without cheapening it.
It seems as though Valentino, who Franco Sozzani credited in her speech as the original inventor of “logomania” back when he slapped his “V” on everything from scarves to pocketbooks, has achieved yet another brand first. Download the app for free here, and find out more below.