During my daily Insta-scroll, I was struck by an image of a woman wearing a glossy, almost pixelated, silver dress. On CC (closer caption) inspection, this item - bought for £7,500 - doesn’t actually exist. Confused, much? Created by Dutch start-up The Fabricant, this is the world's first-ever digital blockchain dress (see below), titled Iridescence, which harnesses 2D garment pattern-cutting and design software to create a 3D rendered design, that is then overlayed on an image of a person. Okay, so, Question Time: What actually is digital fashion? Will our closets be computerised by 2050? BURO. investigates.
The world’s first circular economy concept store - HOT: SECOND - makes for an interesting case study, trading physical products for ‘digital experiences’. Lecturer and self-described ‘fashion futurist’ Karinna Knobbs, came up with the retail prototype to demystify digital fashion. This month she hosted a pop-up shop in East London, in collaboration with innovation studio Holition and 3D artist Emily Switzer, where you can try on virtual fashion garments (another pop-up is slated for January in Berlin). How does it work? You ask. First, guests are asked to donate an ‘unloved’ garment to the ‘Love not Landfill’ eco-project, from there you are then led into special pods equipped with a camera, projector and an AR “magic mirror” where you can then sample 3D rendered looks from British designer Christopher Raeburn and clothing pioneers The Fabricant and Carlings.
Okay, but if you don’t actually have the item, or you can’t be seen in it IRL, what’s the point? Consider this: Have you ever bought something for a party, ‘grammed it, then never worn it again? Either you’ve been guilty of this or know someone who does this. It’s essentially the same thing.
It also signals a step towards a more sustainable fashion industry, by creating an experience that reduces the actual physical need of clothing.
“I think it’s definitely something to consider for sure,” fashion blogger and stylist Arooj Aftab tells BURO. “I think there’s a huge market for this and something that will have longevity, as well as a good impact on the environment. In terms of influencers wearing virtual garments? I think it’ll happen. However, it will take time.”
Are digital experiences the new luxury? “Yes, if it’s done well,” Karinna Knobbs says. “What I’m excited about in this space is how it can transform in the future to potentially be a new business model. For example, maybe you could rent a digital image of a Chanel bag. It’s that access to garment that’s really interesting.”
Elsewhere, Assaf Reeb, designer and co-founder of IVA (Immersive Virtual Apparel, alongside Matt Jones, which connects fashion and gaming industries), is excited about the growing interest in digital clothes to disrupt the industry, although how you can actually monetise this is still a grey area.
“Fashion always loves the new, so anything that hasn’t been seen before is going to get attention,” Reeb says. Though, he argues digital fashion isn’t about to replace physical fashion any time soon (after all its practical uses are rather sleem if you can’t wear the garment to work or on a night out). These experiences created in digital fashion need to be on a par with those that luxury brands in particular are creating physically. “Luxury houses are built on their reputations which they fiercely protect, designs created digitally need to reflect this.”
Today, we are living in an age of hyper-reality, in which the lines between fantasy and reality are increasingly skewed, so the interest in algorithmic style makes sense. “We’re seeing more and more virtual worlds where people can express themselves,” Matt Jones adds. “For a generation brought up on this, the boundaries between the characters and avatars they use to express themselves in these worlds are blurring with their physical selves.”
CGI influencers. Instagram face filters. VR wardrobes. Now, artificial intelligence to alter the way we get dressed. Are you ready?