Fashion is an expression of art because we live it everyday as a form of self-expression and various cultures. Some argue that the origins of fashion can be traced back to the day Adam and Eve decided to wrap leaves around them; while others believe it started with cavemen making loincloths from animal skins.
Depending on your school of thought, we can at least agree that since then, fashion as we know it has been growing steadily. Most of these evolutions are due to technological and social advances or at least go along with them. For example, although the concept of online shopping was born from advances in internet technology, the development of cotton mills contributed to the widespread use of cotton and fashion.
Now one of the biggest fashion evolutions in recent times is undeniable, the concept of fashion that is sustainable and ethical. This concept that I sum up as “treats your environment, animals and workers right “ caused by an explosion of much-needed global social awareness about our environment and climate. This is also supported by the fact that advances in technology allow the use of other alternative material processes and methods in the fashion industry.
As people around the world become more aware of the unsustainable fashion choices they are making, the sustainable fashion industry continues to thrive. In fact, it was recently published report estimates that the value of the sustainable fashion industry is currently set to reach $ 8.25 billion by 2023. Naturally, and as with all viable practices, there are some challenges the industry still faces and therefore, Further progress in all the sustainable fashion industry sector is understandably still going on.
Two examples of such advances are that of the concept of digital mode on the one hand, and virtual mode on the other. Digital mode generally refers to a visual representation of clothing created by computer technology, particularly 3D software. Most of the digitally created clothing is actually designed on a computer, fed into a 3D printer and printed exactly as it appears on the computer. With 3D printing, all the waste associated with making traditional clothes can be avoided, smart clothes can be made and this has greatly advanced over the last five years.
Now slightly beyond the confines of digital mode lies virtual mode. Virtual mode is simply the design and sale of fashion items for virtual platforms and avatars. It takes digital fashion ideas a little further as it asks the question: why print computer-designed clothing at all? This technology visualizes user creations with the ability to create unlimited graphic placement, color paths and engineered print layouts, while accurately mimicking curtain sensitive fabrics. Virtual mode designs fabric in the same way as digital mode but instead of printing the finished design, it remains virtual and anyone who likes it can buy and use it online, for their social media, their avatars on Sims life simulation video games or other games.
The premise is futuristic but simple; Often times, the clothes we buy, we use to take pictures on online platforms. So why don’t we make special clothes to use on these online platforms without having to make them traditionally? With virtual mode, all you need to do is buy a design you like, and send your picture or avatar. The virtual fashion brand is editing a highly photorealistic 3D version of the fabric on your images and you’re good to go.
It’s not just a picture of your head on a garment, as it is very realistic dresses, able to do anything an ordinary outfit could. The dress can come in different states; For example, they can look like they are blown away and the materials can vary from plastic to cotton to metal and more. You can get a virtual design that matches your persona for your photos without the need to go to a physical shop and try on clothes, such as having a Zoom background that matches your personality. When you see a virtual dress on Instagram, chances are, you won’t know the dress is virtual.
Now on the sustainability end, with virtual mode, there is no problem of water consumption and practically all physical waste is eliminated. There is no unethical supply chain because the raw materials are coded on the computer; there are no labor issues as the workers are highly skilled designers and programmers who are generally known to have good working conditions. Even the waste associated with fashion shows is eliminated as it is now, the show can also be virtual. Is it any more environmentally friendly than that?
Digital fashion is a product of pioneering innovation. In 2018 Carlings the fashion house released all virtual collections called Neo X. The collection received wide acclaim with Instagram influencers such as Daria Simonova stating that they are sure to buy more. In 2019, the Dutch fashion house Maker, which is the world’s first digital specialty fashion house, sells its dresses Iridescence for $ 9,500 on a blockchain conference. Since then, the trend has only grown Moschino released a Sims-inspired digital collection that same year.
A few years ago, the concept of digital and virtual fashions would have been laughed at, but things are evolving rapidly with advances in technology – and pandemic lockdowns. With people cooped up at home, following social distancing laws and unable to visit shops, it seems that virtual fashion was tailor-made for now. Based on Forbes, more fashion brands are turning to augmented and virtual modes in response to the impact of the pandemic so that the prospect of developing this new fashion mainstream is no longer artificial.
Since we have spent most of our lives on multiple digital platforms, the prospect of digital and virtual fashion has fallen into our existing habits. Even so, while digital and virtual fashion solve a large number of environmental problems arising from the traditional fashion industry, it is important for us to keep our attention to consumers here not to overdo it. If not, we will just turn these technological advances into a different way of overconsumption and if you remember, this is a major drawback of fast fashion that the sustainability industry as a whole is working on.
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I mean, imagine not just buying excessive clothing (as seen in fast fashion) but buying clothes that are physically absent? How much longer are we going to start the race for virtual luxury fashion complete with custom designs and exorbitant price tags, all for clothes that in the true sense, we can’t actually wear? How does this fit into our ‘connected’ selves and our connected culture?
The insecurity generated by social media fashion, especially teenagers, is already challenging enough. Adding this to the mix, will snowball become an insatiable race for fashion validation? What’s more, it is one of a race that will probably never end as ‘tech fad’ is literally the black hole of the sustainable fashion industry. As long as there are programmers creating design codes, the supply of digital and virtual clothing is limitless.
Virtual and digital modes are a step in the right direction. These advances may not completely replace casual clothing, but provide a great alternative to some serious flaws in our traditional fashion system. But what’s more important is how we make and consume this product in the future. Otherwise, we will remain stuck in the loop of creating bigger problems for ourselves than the solutions we create to solve our fashion problems.
Cover image of a $ 9,500 haute couture digital ‘Iridescence’ dress designed by Producer and worn by French artist Johanna Jaskowska. Photo: The Fabricant.
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