Fashion is an industry that has always been in flux, but recent technological developments have brought about new changes. One such development is the use of digital fashion, which is clothing that exists only in the digital realm. While some might view this as a mere novelty or marketing tool, others believe that it has the potential to transform the fashion industry. This essay will explore the use of digital fashion in the metaverse, its potential profitability, and its impact on the way consumers think about fashion.
The Rise of Digital Fashion
Scarlett Yang, a London-based fashion designer, created a garment that resembled glass, reacted to temperature and weather, and dissolved in water. Yang’s use of algae extract and silk cocoon protein enabled her to make this garment, which she initially created virtually before bringing it to life. Yang’s interest in combining science, digital tech, and visual fashion is shared by many designers who move fluidly between virtual design and physical manufacturing. Yang was among the designers who recently participated in the first Metaverse Fashion Week in Decentraland, a virtual-world, browser-based platform. The event featured brands such as Etro, Tommy Hilfiger, and Roberto Cavalli, as well as virtual “skins” created by Yang in collaboration with artist Krista Kim and digital fashion house the Fabricant.
Digital Fashion as an Intangible Market
Unlike traditional fashion, digital fashion is intangible, and customers cannot try on or touch it. Stores such as The Fabricant, DressX, and the Dematerialised specialize in digital fashion, offering customers pieces such as lilac puffer dresses and silver armor with twitching stems. Customers can pay for an image of themselves in one of these fantastical garments or purchase the piece as an NFT. While digital designs are not yet big earners compared to physical clothing, the fashion world sees the metaverse as a potentially lucrative new market. According to Morgan Stanley, the digital fashion industry could be worth $50 billion by 2030.
The Impact of Digital Fashion on the Fashion Industry
The rise of the gaming sector offers an example of virtual fashion’s potential profitability. Much of the gaming market’s revenue comes from selling skins and other in-game objects and accessories, and this might suggest some future cues for the fashion industry. The fashion industry’s overall worth by the end of the decade is harder to estimate, although market intelligence platform CB Insights places it at over $3 trillion. Digital fashion is currently being used primarily as a marketing tool to redirect attention to actual goods by fashion brands, but it has the potential to transform the way consumers dress, shop, and think about fashion.
The metaverse, a virtual space where people can interact with each other in a computer-generated environment, presents vast creative opportunities for fashion designers. For many, the metaverse provides an avenue for breaking free of the limitations of physical fashion design. For instance, Marjorie Hernandez predicts that this space will provide a platform for young creators around the world to thrive. To Tribute, it provides an avenue for pushing the boundaries of what fashion can be. However, there are limitations to what designers can do in the metaverse, as designers such as Vrbanic have had to scale back on what they release due to customer preferences. At the same time, some designers such as Scarlett Yang use digital design software to create virtual and real garments.
Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch couturier, sees the coexistence of digital and physical clothing as vital to her work. Van Herpen has been working with digital designs since 2009 and has created complex collections that combine cutting-edge techniques with ancient organic forms. Her collaboration with kinetic artists such as Philip Beesley and Anthony Howe has produced stunning pieces such as the motorized Infinity Dress, which features a delicate exoskeleton covered in feathers that revolve hypnotically around the model. Van Herpen believes that the metaverse offers exciting prospects for creativity, as it allows for the convergence of architecture, fashion, and science. She has been working on her metaverse to provide a suitable home for her digital designs, as she believes the digital quality must match her physical haute couture for it to be worth sharing.
The Metaverse: A Utopian Realm for Fashion Designers?
The metaverse offers opportunities for breaking boundaries and embracing new forms of creative expression, suggesting a utopian realm for fashion designers. However, the reality of the metaverse is that it is often uninspiring, badly designed, and falls short of its transformative potential. While there have been strides in the metaverse, it is not a substitute for real fashion, which people need for their corporeal lives. Moreover, a lot of fashion in the metaverse is still unremarkable, bearing a striking resemblance to older virtual world games such as Club Penguin or Habbo Hotel.
Despite the limitations of the metaverse, it presents solutions to some of the problems facing the fashion industry, particularly in sustainability. According to Leslie Holden, co-founder of the Digital Fashion Group, the fashion industry is in a terrible state, plagued by numerous issues, from graduate employment prospects to the environment. The industry produces enormous amounts of waste, and by 2030, it is predicted to generate 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon emissions per year. Designers have been tackling this problem by upcycling, using deadstock fabrics and recycled textiles. However, a digital approach could also provide a pragmatic answer to the industry’s sustainability issues.
The Potential of the Metaverse for Sustainable Fashion
A possible solution to the fashion industry’s sustainability issues is for brands to create digital showrooms and shopfronts in an extended version of Metaverse Fashion Week. This would allow customers to order what they want from hyperrealistic renders of garments, ensuring that only what has been purchased is put into production, and excess stock does not go to waste. It would also narrow the gap between creator and product, allowing customers to be involved in every stage of the supply chain.
Another proposition is to keep the online and offline selves separate. One reason for the rise of fast fashion is the desire to showcase clothes once on Instagram before discarding them again. However, Paula Sello, the co-founder of Auroboros, sees wearables for avatars in the metaverse as an ethical decision, allowing their garments to be extended on social media
In conclusion, digital fashion is an emerging trend that has the potential to revolutionize the fashion industry. The use of virtual design and digital technology allows for more creative freedom and the ability to create clothing that could never exist in the physical world. While the digital fashion industry is currently not as profitable as the traditional fashion industry, its potential for growth is significant. As the metaverse continues to expand, it will be interesting to see how digital fashion evolves and how it affects the way consumers dress, shop, and think about fashion.