Picture this: You find the most exciting piece of jacket when browsing though the internet. You decide to buy it, and instead of ever being able to see it in person, you are able to wear this jacket in a different way - digitally on a photo of yourself.
This is what digital fashion offers to buyers. Clothes you can not touch or try on, but wear ‘digitally’ instead.
What is digital fashion?
The fact that the fashion industry is being digitally disrupted along its value chain is no news. Technological developments have increasingly been part of the fashion industry, as for instance when you look at 3D prototyping, visual fitting rooms and QR code prints. However, what is new is the link to the actual product. A new trend has risen the last couple of years, which is the consumption of digital fashion.
But is digital fashion a totally new concept? Well, if you look into the gaming industry you can see that digital clothes have always played a big role for the experience of a game. Popular Game makers such as “Fortnite,” make money by offering “skins'' to players, prices starting from $5. This purchase does not get people to a new level or give them more lives in the game, but it's a way of looking for attention and ways to bond with friends and competitors. And in case you are not a “Fortnite” fan, just think about how much you like to dress up your Sims. Luxury brands have taken inspiration from this, such as Moschino in 2019, when the brand collaborated with The Sims and created a collection with an in-game launch in The Sims 4, The Sims Mobile, and The Sims FreePlay.
Another, more recent, example is the Louis Vuitton x League of Legends capsule collection.
Other companies that have increased the demand for digital fashion are such as the Dutch Digital fashion house: The Fabricant. With their slogan ‘we waste nothing but data and exploit nothing but our imagination’ they are creating digital-only fashion that can be used and traded in virtual realities.
Why is digital fashion gaining popularity?
In an article by CNBC Benny Giang, a founder of Dapper Labs stated:
“The combination of digital fashion which people can wear is the natural extension of the face filters that are offered on Snapchat and Instagram. It’s a way for people to express themselves in entirely new ways”.
High-tech fashion has escaped from sci-fi fantasies and into our everyday life, with tech-savvy millennials blurring the line between technology and the fashion industry today. It’s not just from 3D printed shoes or digital marketing, such as the introduction of virtual influencers Lil’ Miquela. Nowadays, more or less everyone creates their own online-identity. For Gen Z digital fashion is a great way to engage with brands.
Can digital fashion ever replace traditional fashion and even fast fashion?
Digital fashion can offer a more eco-friendly solution to the conventional way we produce clothes, simply because clothes that do not exist can also not be wasteful, negatively affect manufacturing or manufacture workers and ultimately can not be sent to landfill. What makes digital fashion also so appealing for most is that usually these designer clothes would cost thousands of euros and will usually be worn on social media once because of their distinct design. Now you can live out this desire, without actually wasting textiles and valuable resources.
This year has also shown the necessity of virtual or digital-only technology, such as for the first digital-only fashion week, that provides a safer way to participate in these events with Covd-19 still dominating our life.
Recent research conducted by Ordre estimated that in total, fashion buyers and designers attending fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan contributed 241,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. This does not account for all other people attending such as models or press.
Just like digital marketing, watching videos online and digital shows require a huge energy-consuming infrastructure in the form of massive servers, computers and laptops, so can the technology behind adjusting the digital clothing onto one's photo. Yet, their greener benefits are not undeniable and therefore possible to change the way we see and consume fashion in the future.