29 Rooms: Integrating Fashion, Art & Technology through Interactive Art

ART HISTORY PAPER ON 29 ROOMS BY REFINERY 29 ON HOW BRANDS ARE USING INTERACTIVE ART TO CREATE EXPERIENCES FOR THE CONSUMER IN THE LANGUAGE OF MILLENNIALS.

Ever had the urge to touch a painting or a sculpture in a museum, especially when you know you’re not supposed to? The traditional forms of art known to layman have always been in the museum. Here, a distance is maintained with the do not touch signs and at times a yellow line separating the viewer from the artwork. With the emergence of new media, those lines have started to blur. Fashion brands are making an effort to bring art closer to the visitor, turning them into a user by making them interact with the brand in the name of art. The exhibition 29 Rooms by Refinery 29 (September 9-11, 2016) in Brooklyn, New York is a well suited example of how interactive art is being used to appeal to the general public in a contemporary exhibition setting. It gave fashion brands a platform to showcase themselves and invite viewers to enter the brand’s world and create their own niche. The exhibit touched major key points which are currently trending: fashion, interactive art, technology, Instagram, gifs, personalization all packaged and presented in the form of an immersive brand experience. Each room also had elements reflecting the theme for that year, women empowerment. The aim of this paper is to study how interactive art is used as a medium by fashion brands to become more approachable to the viewers and increase affinity for themselves in the consumers’ minds through experiential marketing.

This exhibition is a fascinating attempt of adapting fashion & interactive art in the social media language that millennials speak. A special focus on the room by Michael Kors and fashion photographer Petra Collins due to their contrasting themes. The target consumer is the millennial; whose lifestyle is extremely different from their former generations. Therefore, brands need to adapt themselves according to their specific digitally bound lifestyle in order to be more relevant. Keeping their preferences in mind, the rooms were designed in a way that they reflect the brands identity in the form of strong storytelling while also able to provide an immersive personalized interactive setting for the visitor. Which in turn lets them be around things, feel them, walk through them, try them on, make them their own and of course put these experiences up as ‘cool’ Instagram posts. This also enabled the brands to gather user generated content (UGC), for the promotion of the brand. In this age consumers look at brands from the eyes of their peers and trust that more than a commercial advertisement.

As computer-driven display technology becomes more powerful and accessible, the online, virtual art spaces have the ability to provide a new platform for artists to exhibit their work. Virtual exhibits can afford opportunities for both the artist and the spectator to display, view and perhaps purchase various digital art forms.1 It is intriguing to observe user interaction with digital artworks inside a gallery space. There is adoption of a range of criteria to describe conditions for both the designer and the user of such a virtual display system. 29 Rooms was a collective of major brands like Michael Kors, Fossil, Nordstrom, Disney, Puma and along with them independent artists like Petra Collins, Daniel Rozin, RuPaul, Tinashe, Ryan Burke, Adwoa Aboah, Kate Moross and many more touching upon social issues. It was a fun mix of art, beauty, style, culture, self-expression, environment, empowerment. Each room had an element of surprise and something to think about, whilst sharing it on social media amplifying the message.