Fashion Tech is Changing the way we view the Garment Industry.
Updated: Jun 8
When the worlds of fashion and technology collide, new and exciting possibilities come into play.
To explore where advancements in fashion tech might take us in the next few decades, let's take a look at some of the most interesting developments from recent times.
It's time to start filling up your virtual wardrobe.
Fashion is a material interest. We buy physical items of clothing which appeal to our visual tastes and wearing these pieces reveals a part of our personality. Some of us are more passionate about fashion than others. You might be someone who obsesses over the feeling of quality fabrics, or who loves to admire the meticulous stitching or neat, parallel darting in a garment.
Some brands are beginning to experiment with fashion on a virtual level. This might seem strange at first. How can the wholly physical phenomenon of fashion possibly translate into the digital world?
Yes, we can scroll through outfit-of-the-day posts on Instagram, or browse pages upon pages on e-commerce sites to find the perfect handbag, but this is a very normal part of life.
Virtual clothing could be the next big thing. To the extent where we can buy, sell, and own fashionable pieces in a digital form.
On the 11th of May, a self-proclaimed digital fashion house named The Fabricant made history by selling the first ever haute-couture, digital dress at a New York blockchain summit. It sold for a remarkable price. $9,500 to be exact.
This might sound surreal to you, like something out of a science fiction film, but it is a part of reality. The dress cannot be worn in a conventional sense, rather, it exists in the form of a digital file that can be used to customise online avatars or be shared online via social media posts.
The virtual garment named ‘iridescence’ was a collaborative effort between The Fabricant and artist Johanna Jaskowska. In the photograph used to market the product, Jaskowska models the digitally-rendered dress with a serious expression and, on closer inspection, it is difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality. The fabric is realistically textured. You can see the creases and the way the pattern folds into the material.
Now, I don't believe it's a product that will gain mass market appeal overnight, but it does give us a futuristic glimpse into how fashion and technology can interlink. Give it some time, and maybe a few eager investors will start showing more interest in virtual clothing.
The Link Between Fashion and Gaming.
There is one market where the concept of virtual clothing is nothing new.
According to the BBC, the gaming industry is worth more than the music and video sectors combined.
Playing games online is a popular way for individuals to join like-minded communities and express a part of your identity through in-game avatars. In fact, on RPGs and social mobile games especially, a huge part of the appeal are the available options for character customisation.
This reveals an area where gaming and fashion is compatible. It seems like a no-brainer that fashion companies would delve into this market and begin merging with popular gaming titles. Affordable clothing brands like ASOS have already capitalised on the popularity of in-game avatar customisation. 2018 saw them collaborate with The Sims mobile game.
Players could complete challenges in return for limited-time ASOS tokens. These could be used to buy a range of ASOS clothing in-game, and even get you a 20% discount on real ASOS clothing. A clever balance between online game play and real world consequences.
Even top fashion houses have begun to show an interest in gaming. In November 2019, Nicolas Ghesquière - the creative director for Louis Vuitton - shocked League of Legend fans after he posted an Instagram photo of himself and the playable character Qiyana from the popular multiplayer game.
This haute-gaming Instagram post was made to tease an exclusive in-game Louis Vuitton skin which players could purchase to customise Qiyana’s avatar. Another skin featuring the character Senna is set to be released in January 2020.
It is not Ghesquière's first foray into gaming. Lightning, the stoic heroine from the RPG Final Fantasy XIII, was a virtual model for a Vuitton campaign named SERIES 4 in 2016.
What does virtual fashion mean for the future?
As the idea of virtual fashion starts to become a reality, it is more relevant than ever to discuss the possible implications of these developments. It makes you wonder if it can generate mass market appeal in the next decade or so.
If it does take off, designer clothing will become more accessible for everyone, regardless of income.
Recently, Burberry developed a mini-game which is playable on their website or in their Regent Street store. B bounce allows you to control a cartoon deer mascot and guide him up a series of platforms to reach the moon. The game coincides with Burberry’s latest monogram puffer jacket collection; your cute character wearing a favourite jacket from the collection. With the points collected you are awarded with a custom made GIF of your deer in your chosen outfit.
Even if the player doesn’t receive a physical item, there is still that sense of owning something tied to the brand. After all, you’ve spent a small part of your day trying to get your prize. It is something that everyone can enjoy.
Advancements in fashion tech could also play a key part in making the industry more sustainable.As of now, fast fashion companies have been under fire. Virtual clothing might be one way to minimise further damage to the environment.
Digital clothing does not require harvested materials or gallons of water to be made. Instead, clever programmers and designers can digitally render desirable pieces. Then, large numbers of online audiences can engage with the clothing online; sharing, and possibly purchasing, garments for social and commercial use.
In the next few decades, perhaps these fascinating fashion developments will capture the attention of more computer savvy fashionistas from around the world.
The next decade is going to be an exciting one. Let’s wait and see where the fashion of the future will take us next.