Virtual fashion is here to stay.
Credit: The Fabricant
Fashion week is out! At least that’s what luxury brand Gucci has said after they announced they are going seasonless and will only have two shows a year.
The pandemic is changing not only consumer behavior but also changing how brands think about their roadmap. It is also bringing about new opportunities for forward-thinking brands to take a peek at the future of fashion. A future that could be a very profitable one if they understand that trends that are merging as our physical and digital lives collide even further.
The Empress’ New Virtual Clothes
If you think about it, more than 150 years ago Hans Christian Anderson first thought of the idea of wearing clothes that people could not see in the physical world. In his book, The Emperor Has No Clothes, two weavers pretended to make a new suit for the emperor, claiming only those fit for their position could see it. Maybe he wasn’t that far off from a trend that is starting to gain steam.
Recently, the idea of creating virtual clothing that does not exist in the real world became a reality. The concept came to fruition because Dutch startup The Fabricant, Dapper Labs and augmented reality artists and creator Johanna Jaskowska combined creative forces to create a digital dress called Iridescence.
What is even crazier than a digital clothing designer, a creator of some of the most prominent Instagram filters, and the creator of the most popular game on the blockchain creating the first ever digital dress, is that it sold for $9,500. Richard Ma, the CEO of QuantumStamp, bought it for his wife, Mary Ren, at Ethereal Summit in New York.
Ma has been quoted as saying that while he admits the digital dress was expensive he bought it because he foresees it as having “long-term value.” He went as far as saying that he saw it as an investment.
The idea of a digital dress, which only exists on the Blockchain, is based off of 2D patterns of whoever will wear it using photos given to the designers within 28 days of purchase. The simplest way to think of the digital dress is as a personalized fashion filter that only the owner can use on Instagram and other social media sites.
While Iridescence may not exist in the real word, what gives it value is its existence on the blockchain. When you consider that buying cryptocurrency on the blockchain is an investment in an intangible good, it is easy to see why one might choose to exchange cryptocurrency for a digital dress. Perhaps digital fashion houses like Gucci will offer both digital and physically sustainable versions of their designs in the months to come.
The Environmental Benefits of Digital Couture
In a world trying to blend social distancing, with days spent on Zoom, and sustainability, the idea of a digital wardrobe does not seem so far fetched. Digital couture gives a person the ability to buy virtual fashion they feel fits their persona for photos without the need to go to a store and try on clothes. Much like having your own Zoom background that speaks to your brand and your personality, your digital couture would too.
Another benefit of digital couture is that it saves the earth from being depleted of natural resources used because of and within the fashion industry. The growing trend among more environmentally conscious people has been to buy second hand clothes or clothes made from recycled materials, but digital couture offers another alternative.
According to Unenvironment, the fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global emissions. Wastewater is water contaminated by human use, and it is a growing problem among the Gen Z which tends to be more environmentally conscious.
Every year, the United States produces 85 trillion liters (a trillion liters is 220 billion gallons) of wastewater. The amount of gallons of wastewater produced in the United States every year is an astronomical number that extends beyond comprehension.
While that is only in the United States, the fashion industry is culpable of 1/5 of the usage of that waste water. The growing trend of digital couture allows environmentally conscious people to look fashionable in the digital world while also preserving the physical world.
Looking Fashionable within a Digital Environment
The growing trend of digital fashion not only allows a person to change their digital persona based on their physical background, but it also allows a person to create a digital persona within a digital world.
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This growing digital trend allows people in different parts of the world to interact in virtual spaces like Fortnite and Animal Crossing while also outfitting your avatar with the look that best suits you.
For instance, on May 8, Fortnite, which boasts of 350 million registered players, hosted Fortnite Party Royale (a digital concert featuring Steve Aoki, deadmau5, and Dillon Francis). The Skins on Fortnite even inspired a digital street wear collection created by Carlings, a Scandinavian company. Animal Crossing also had its first virtual fashion show where avatars dressed up in current season looks inspired by Loewe, Prada, and GmbH.
This trend is also translating into social virtual reality where you get to customize your avatar to your liking, including your clothes. While fashion choices in social VR are still limited, there is probably a budding entrepreneur out there in the metaverse working on launching their own fashion brand collection solely for avatars.
“In social VR giving your avatar a whole new look through fashion, gives users an opportunity to personalize their avatars, allows them to tailor their look to their own preferences and make them feel personally connected to their virtual self. It’s almost like when you were little you dressed up your dolls and lived vicariously through play but with social VR and digital fashion you are the ‘Barbie’ or ‘Ken’ doll allowing you to bring forth individuality in an immersive world,” said Navah Berg, Social VR Host of The Hive, a show produced in virtual reality.
The Concept of Virtual Try on
With consumers not being able to go to the store for now and try on a pair of jeans or a pair of shoes, many companies are looking at ways to bring their virtual goods for a try on to them in the comfort of their own home. Brands are also seeing an uptick in consumers using augmented reality to virtually try on makeup or even clothes.
“With businesses like SPATIALx, a company on a mission to reinvent physical spaces through Mixed Reality powered retail experiences, they holographically project products through your customer’s biometric data profile to find the perfect fit and see what a brand’s new fashion line will truly look like. And with return rates for online retail at least 20% higher compared to brick-and-mortar store returns, virtual try ons are the perfect solution for brands and retailers struggling to get consumers into their stores until there is a cure for coronavirus,” added Berg.
Virtual try ons could even lead to the minimization of carbon emissions released into the air due to people traveling to clothing stores. With people becoming more conscious about how their buying habits affect the environment, and social distancing becoming a reality, perhaps digital fashion will become more of a norm. Virtual try on and digital couture could lead to a world in which people no longer need to go to stores to try on clothes because they never plan to wear those clothes in the physical world.
The Future of Digital Fashion
According to creative director, curator and independent journalist focused in fashion and immersive tech, Darragh Dandurand, brands need to pay attention to virtual fashion because there is tremendous potential in trying and testing and treating fashion differently than it has ever been treated before. For her, brands, big and small, will need to utilize emerging innovation if they want to stay on top of the overdue sustainability movement and take hold of ever-growing trends that seamlessly blend technological functionality, like IoT, with economical, palatable, and accessible style. The future of retail and commercial clothing brands is no doubt related to the success of the AR & VR industry overall.
Fashion brands of all sizes will need to utilize emerging innovation.
“Augmented fashion poses a significant development to the way we understand our body movement and our sense of self as linked to materialism; already we project elements of ourselves through our clothing, now with immersive tech we have almost limitless ways to reinvent how we are perceived and experienced. When it comes to all things mixed-reality, we need to remember we can redefine every standard of our current reality,” added Dandurand about the benefits of Augmented fashion. “For immersive technologists pursuing relevancy in the fashion industry, sights must be set on prioritizing individualization, specifically taking identity and security into consideration. This is a time to reassess minimalism, function, beauty and value for the future.”
While one of the lessons of The Emperor Has No Clothes was that pride causes us to lose sight of how others see us, the sale/investment of a $9,500 virtual dress is that you can look fashionable, be sustainable, and have your own unique way to express yourself via virtual couture.
It would seem that perhaps in this new reality clothes won’t make the man/woman, they will make the avatar.