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Mona Maine de Biran

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Virtual and Augmented Reality, Le Freak C'est Chic!

Virtual and Augmented Reality, Le Freak C'est Chic!

It seems bigger is better in the beauty industry. And it is, as an industry, certainly that- BIG.

In the United States, we as a people spent more than 9 billion dollars in nail care last year. Another 8 billion was spent spent on cosmetics. That’s 17 billion dollars of our labor and hard-earned cash (not even taking into consideration what we spend as a nation on fragrance, hair, body, skincare, surgeries and other beauty products.)

Within the space of a couple generations, the beauty industry has grown so big that it seemed, at least to me for a while, that the fun was lost.

Those desperate days in search of uniformity, expressing a beauty ideal that should appeal to all people, are happily (if not forgotten) fading. Individualism is the trend and the fun is back, baby! The field these days is wide open and today’s trends include body art expressed with piercings, tattoos, nail art and rainbow hair. And they don’t stop there!

All this seems to me as right as rain, back to being… just plain entertaining. Because what is beauty, if not art after all?

Maybe it’s that search for individuality that has spurred, ironically, virtual and augmented reality to catch on like wildfire.

Fun, playful and expressive of the individual, VR and AR technology liberates people. Our inner-artists and children are free to roam in the virtual beauty world. We are free to make mistakes, try on new lips, new brows and looks, all without an ounce of consequence.

How else could you see yourself in ten different shades of hair color not natural to any human species, all in one day?

Throughout history, the body has always been a canvas to some peoples. But technology has broadened it’s appeal. We’ve been given a newfound appreciation for the poetry and playfulness of our inner-child.

Virtual and augmented reality allows us to experiment with the boldest versions of ourselves. It is ironic that, while many worry about the tentacles of technology taking away our privacy and individuality, technology in this area proves to actually be liberating. Because of virtual reality, you’ll have the foundation shade that perfectly matches your skin tone. It’s a tool, not just fun, that puts into focus the individual.

If you are a bored but like exploring Beauty, then try Sephora's largest store ever in NYC.

Though I do not walk on the wild side of cosmetic style, I enjoy those who do. The new Sephora store gave me a chance to have a fun experience creating my VR avatar. It is a great way to entertain yourself on a Saturday afternoon.

That started me on a VR journey. One where I discovered something I never knew (or had even thought previously to ask)… I look bleepin’ awesome in rainbow hair! Though the jury is still out for me there. While the kids are on board, the hub… well? Let’s just say, not so much. He still loves me as the red-head he first met. And it’s somehow hard for me to find wrong in that.

I recommend you make time to visit Sephora’s new virtual “try-on” stations. Guy or girl, give it a go and get in on the action. Not unlike a carnival attraction, to see computerized images of the real you transformed is just too fun.

In addition to the store, Sephora certainly is ahead of the beauty pack with its app. It helps shoppers on the go by allowing them to do their trying on via selfie. The application may still have a few limitations but it still seems like a win-win-win for the consumer: who gets to be creative, doesn’t need to worry about sanitary samples, and they’ll know they’ll like a product when they bring it home. That’s a happy consumer.

The other big beauty players, such as L’Oreal and Shiseido, have jumped on the tech bandwagon.

There is a mad rush to gobble up tech companies like candies. These bigger brands hope the acquisitions will fuel their future success. So they, too, can become more personal and individualized for the consumer. These conglomerates are betting big and counting on such experimental retail to save the brick-and-mortar stores.

I’ll admit it is worth the trip. It is a mesmerizing experience to have a Lancome foundation custom-blended in front of your eyes with a few zaps of light machine and a few commands into a while-you-wait, mini laboratory.

Does the individual experience extend beyond cosmetics into fragrances?

KIERIN NYC, a disruptive niche-fragrance house, is challenging the rules of fragrance. Its line of scents are crafted from real New York City stories. Each Kierin NYC fragrance is a typical New York experience with notes that correspond to that experience, evoking the vibe of the story that defines the scent. The fragrances of its launch collection are: Sunday Brunch, Nitro Noir, 10am Flirt and Santal Sky.

But KIERIN NYC is not alone as a disruptive brand doing things a bit differently. Other fragrance brands are putting the individual first. At Fragrance Shop, patrons are encouraged to take a romp through the senses and land on a fragrance distinctly their own. Herbal Alchemy guides its patrons towards their own private journey of scent memory toward a fragrance that is exclusive to each individual. Scenterprises is one of a growing number of fragrance firms offering their patrons interactive tools and a quiz to help them get to mixing and matching from among its catalog of notes. 

So, let’s take VR and AR for what it is right now – a new player in the game that will keep it exciting and, perhaps, a little more competitive to create innovation. 

In a virtual world where any hairstyle goes, what does your avatar’s mane look like? Manhattan Minds wants to know! FOLLOW and JOIN the conversation on social media: @ManhattanMinds on Instagram, Pinterest , Facebook , LinkedIn and @Manhattan_Minds on Twitter.

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Author: Mona Maine de Biran

Manhattan Minds is an inspired blog on New York City Art, Beauty, Fashion and Lifestyle. You are invited to share your comments on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn and a link to this article using the easy icons below.

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