Monday, 4 October 2021

Now you won’t have to worry about laundry

Just when we thought everything that could be digitized had been, digital fashion proves us wrong: Fashion that can only be worn digitally is gaining traction, with several companies now offering digital versions of everything from workout clothes to gravity-defying avant garde fashion, often in the form of NFTs. Digital fashion can be worn in a few ways: either through an augmented reality filter similar to those in Snapchat — as in the case of digital sneaker company RTFTK — or by taking a picture and sending it to a digital fashion retailer such as DressX who will then Photoshop it onto your body.

Ummm… What? Yes, you read that correctly. Digital clothes are not meant to actually be worn but are items that cater to “an audience looking to fulfill a different type of need—constant fashion newness for their online persona, divorced from physical clothing,” according to Forbes. Some digital fashion sites have also teamed up with video gaming firms to allow their clothing to be displayed through avatars in their games.

The digital fashion space has been booming, if DressX’s USD 2 mn seed round from the Artemis Fund and RTFKT’s USD 3.1 mn digital sneaker release are anything to go on. Big brands are getting in on it too, with a digital version of Gucci’s Dionysus bag selling on Roblox for about USD 4.1k, more than the price of the physical item. Taking things a step further, Balenciaga presented its Fall 2021 collection within a playable video game.

And it only looks set to get bigger: In July, Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. acquired Vertebrae, a company that allows high-end brands to create 3D versions of their projects, as the social media app moves to further its AR shopping and AR apparel plans, The Verge reported. Other brands such as Nike and Louis Vuitton are also actively investing in blockchain technology to roll out their own “digital twins” of real-life products.

Why is this a thing? The digitisation of fashion can reduce clothing waste while making luxury items more affordable and size inclusive. Keeping fashion in the metaverse eliminates the need to produce fabric, run factories or ship materials all over the world, Simone Berry, a team member at digital fashion site BNV, told the Financial Times. For the fashion-wearers, buying digital fashion eliminates the worry you get when you’re afraid to physically wear something valuable or expensive, while also keeping up with the trendiness of the NFT craze.

It’s cool in theory, but the ESG aspect might be another case of greenwashing: Digital fashion NFTs run on blockchains that consume massive amounts of energy. While a polyester t-shirt might have a carbon footprint of 5.5 kg, data scientists estimate that the emissions impact of a simple NFT garment could be closer to 600 kg of CO2. Plus, an NFT generates more emissions every time it’s bought or re-sold.

It’s all about preparing for a future where we spend more time in the metaverse: The average amount of time spent online doubled during pandemic-filled 2020 and the world has continued to work, ship, play, and even fall in love online. The increase of online participation will fuel a new kind of self-image that is expressed virtually that offers more creativity and elaborate aesthetics that can’t be achieved comfortably in the real world, head of content and strategy at digital fashion house The Fabricant Michaela Larosse told Bloomberg Wealth. The fashion house sold a shimmering blockchain dress for USD 9.5k back in 2019.

The next step: Integrating digital spaces together. An outfit you can wear on Fortnite won’t be available in League of Legends or as a Snapchat filter. But expect firms to move towards making a truly immersive metaverse possible as demand grows for digital fashion over time.

Interested in more? Check out highlights from Gary James McQueen’s (Alexander McQueen’s nephew) digital fashion show (watch, runtime: 03:51), hear from DressX co-founder Daria Shapovalova, (watch, runtime: 08:12), or watch YouTuber Safiya Nygaard try on seven different digital fashion outfits and really put the trend to the test (watch, runtime: 28:16).

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