After officially opening New Zealand Fashion Week for 2019 and casting six models with physical and neurological access needs in designer runway shows, including Zambesi’s iconic 40th anniversary show, accessibility advocate Grace Stratton has this week added another world first to her five-month-long career.

Stratton, who established social change movement All is for All to reframe accessibility issues in a modern way, has partnered with UneeQ, an intelligent digital human platform company, to add a digital human to the offering. As a new element of All is for All’s e-commerce platform, “Manahou” will bring garment explanations to life through speech, providing a powerful way for shoppers to engage with All is for All and breaking down even more barriers in the retail experience for consumers with access needs.

Named after New Zealand fashion model Manahou Mackay, Manahou’s presence on the website is something that both Stratton and UneeQ hope shoppers will explore and give honest opinions about, through the website’s online feedback form. The garment explanations are currently accessible in video format as an initial exploration—however, in future Manahou could be set up so that website visitors can converse with her about their garment needs.

Extensive research by UneeQ has shown that interaction with a digital human can significantly improve user experience, and the potential for other e-commerce platforms to incorporate similar features is something both parties are excited about.

Stratton says: “Our collaboration with UneeQ is the beginning of an exciting intersection between technology and the fashion industry. It is an opportunity to innovate the way we interact with consumers and ultimately make the retail experience more accessible for everyone. We are thrilled at the prospect of helping other designers and online sites to utilise the technology that we have collaborated on.”

“We want to co-design how this solution may look with All is for All’s community. Their feedback and input is key, after which we will develop the concept further together with Grace for her site and others,” says UneeQ CEO Danny Tomsett.

“Every customer is unique, and we couldn’t think of a better project to incorporate our digital humans in.”

With All is for All already attracting attention as a best-practice example of accessible communications, and a global expansion plan in the works, Manahou is a timely addition. She is currently able to describe five garments, provided by New Zealand fashion designers Wynn Hamlyn, Stolen Girlfriends Club, Ingrid Starnes, Zambesi, and Penny Sage, all of which can be viewed here.