Is digital fashion the solution to clothing overconsumption?
The fashion industry has been repeatedly called out for the environmental impact of its production processes. The apparel industry, in particular, accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and consumes 1.5 trillion liters of water each year.
Besides the production processes, another major problem with the fashion industry is overconsumption. An average western family disposes of around 30 kg of clothing every year. Therefore, digital fashion has emerged as a way to curb the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Let’s take a look at how digital fashion works and what it is useful for.
So how do you wear digital clothing?
Digital fashion refers to virtual clothing made using computer software. To wear a digital clothing piece, you need to browse on a digital clothing seller’s website and look for an item, just like you would on any other fashion retailer’s website.
Depending on whom you’re buying from, some sellers will request your image (within their specific guidelines) and send back the image with the clothing piece edited on you. Others will give you a digital version of the clothing piece, which you can edit onto your body using 3D software. The concept is similar to “skins” or outfit and weapon combos worn by video game characters.
But what is the point of digital fashion?
Besides the sustainability aspect of digital fashion, here are a few key reasons why fashion-forward people might flock to digital fashion brands.
Breaking through the physical limitations of creative expression
Let’s be honest, why would you want to buy the image of a piece of clothing instead of the actual thing? The digital fashion website DressX’s designs will show you why. When browsing through their website, you will find a section called “AR Looks”, in which you can explore their augmented reality clothing pieces. One such piece is this sweatshirt featuring Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting “The Starry Night”. If you try this sweatshirt in DressX’s app, the swirl print on it actually moves. By achieving something that physical clothing items cannot, consumers and designers are now given a new way of self-expression.
Wear new clothing every day without any guilt
Posting on social media is one of the biggest charms of digital clothing pieces. While one would think that this is only of interest to the rich social media influencers, almost all of us can benefit from this trend.
Certainly, some digital clothing pieces like The Fabricant’s digital couture dress (which was sold for US$9,500 in 2019) are out of everyone’s reach. However, some companies have been actively trying to use this trend to make their pieces affordable. The brand manager of the clothing company Carlings says, “By selling the digital collection at £15 per item, we’ve sort of democratized the economy of the fashion industry and at the same time opened up the world of taking chances with your styling, without leaving a negative carbon footprint.”
The digital fashion industry has thrived during the pandemic because, for the longest time now, people simply couldn’t go out and flaunt their outfits. Thus, it just makes sense to pick up digital clothing to post cool photos on Instagram without spending quite as much as you would on the actual piece. Besides, no one wants to be an outfit repeater online, which is why the trend of “purchase, Instagram, return” has been growing. Digital fashion simply gives you that option without adding yet another piece that you will never wear to your closet.
Will digital fashion revolutionize the way we shop?
So you can get outfits just for a photo without them taking up your much-needed closet space. That sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Almost too good to be true? That’s because it kind of is. However, the technology isn’t quite there yet. The clothes don’t always come across as natural or realistic. When one of Vogue’s employees tried outfits from the digital fashion brand Tribute, her friends pointed out that they looked “fake”.
Rest assured—the technology will pick up over time, almost like Snapchat filters have become better and better since they first began. Kerry Murphy, founder of digital fashion house The Fabricant, says, “It’s crazy to deny that our lives are becoming more virtual and that we are moving towards a more digital existence, especially with the popularity of virtual influencers like Lil Miquela.”
As we continue to delve deeper into digital spaces, and digital design starts looking more and more realistic, we can expect that more people will get on with the trend. Till then, we can all sit back and look at how designers make the most of digital technology in their designs.
Header image courtesy of DressX’s website