Fashion is an expression and form of art. We live it every day as a way to express ourselves and our diverse cultures. Some believe fashion’s origins can be traced back at Adam and Eve, who wrapped leaves around their bodies. Others believe it started with cavemen creating loincloths out of animal skin. Whatever your opinion, we can agree that fashion has changed continuously since then. The majority of this evolution can be attributed to technological and social advances, or at the very minimum has been in tandem with them. The internet’s technological advancements enabled online shopping to be born. However, the invention of cotton mills spurred widespread fashion and cotton use. Undoubtedly, sustainability and ethical fashion are the most important fashion trends of recent years.
This concept, which I summarize as “treating your environment, animals, and your workers right”, was born out of a global surge in awareness about climate and our environment. This was made possible by technological advances that allowed the use of alternative materials and methods in fashion. The sustainable fashion industry is growing exponentially as people around the world become more conscious of their unsustainable fashion choices. A recent report estimated that the global value of the sustainable fashion sector will reach $8.25 billion in 2023. As with any practice worth adopting there are still many challenges. Because of this, advancements in all areas of sustainable fashion are still being made.
There are two examples of such innovations: digital fashion and virtual fashion. Digital fashion is the visual representation of clothes created with computer technology, especially 3D software. Digital fashion is a way to create clothes that look exactly like they were in your computer. Smart clothes can now be made with 3D printing. This eliminates all the waste that is associated with traditional clothes making. It has also improved over the past five years. Amber Jae Stouten, Digital Fashion Designer at The Fabricant talks about her latest project. Photo by The Fabricant. Virtual fashion is now a little further from the digital frontiers. Virtual fashion simply refers to the creation and sale of fashion items via virtual platforms or avatars.
This digital fashion concept goes a step further. It asks the question, “Why print clothes made by computers?” The technology allows users to visualize their creations and can create unlimited graphic placements, colorways, engineered print layouts, and replicate drape-sensitive fabrics. Virtual fashion designs cloth the same way digital fashion does, but instead of printing the final design, it is virtual. Anyone who likes it can buy it and use it online for social media, as well as their avatars in life simulation video games Sims and other games. This is a futuristic, but simple idea. Many times we use the clothes we purchase to upload pictures to online platforms. Why not just make clothes that can be used online, and not make them in the traditional manner? Virtual fashion allows you to purchase any design you want and then send it in with your avatar or picture. You can upload a photo or avatar to create a 3D model of the cloth that is highly photorealistic.
These dresses are not just Photoshopped to look like a dress. They can be used in all the same ways as normal clothes. These dresses come in many different states, including looking windblown or made of metallic materials. Virtual designs can be created to fit your personal style and are available online. You won’t be able to tell if a virtual dress you see on Instagram is real. Virtual fashion is sustainable in that it doesn’t require water and virtually eliminates all physical waste. Because the raw materials are coded in computer codes, there are no untrue supply chains. There are also no labor issues as skilled programmers and designers are known for having great working conditions. The waste associated with fashion shows is eliminated. They can also be virtual.
Does it get more environmentally-friendly than that? Digital fashion is the result of innovative innovation. The all-digital Neo X collection was released by Carlings Fashion House in 2018. Daria Simonov, an Instagram influencer, declared that the collection was well-received and she will buy more. Fabricant, the first global digital-only fashion house in the Netherlands, sold its Iridescence dress for $9,500 during a blockchain conference. The trend has grown even more since Moschino released a Sims-inspired digital collection in the same year. In the past, virtual and digital fashion were laughed at. However, things have changed rapidly with the rapid advancements in technology and the outbreak of pandemic lockdowns. Virtual fashion is a perfect fit for the moment because people are confined to their homes, can’t visit shops and have to follow social distancing laws.
Forbes reports that more fashion brands are turning to virtual and augmented fashion to deal with the effects of the pandemic. This means that there is a good chance these fashion innovations will become mainstream. Digital and virtual fashion will feed into our current habits, as we spend a large part of our time on various digital platforms. While digital and virtual fashion can solve a lot of environmental problems arising from traditional fashion, it is important that we are mindful consumers so that we don’t overdo it. We’ll end up consuming more tech advances than we need. This is the major problem with fast fashion, which is what the sustainability industry is trying to fix.
Imagine not only buying expensive clothes, as seen in fast fashion, but also buying clothes that aren’t actually available. We will soon be able to race to virtual luxury fashion with its specialized designs, high price tags and clothes we won’t actually wear. How does this relate to our ‘connected’ selves? Social media fashion is already a challenge for teens. Add this to the mix and it could become an insatiable quest for fashion validation. This is a race that may never end, as ‘tech fashion’ is the black hole of sustainable fashion. The supply of virtual and digital clothes will never end as long as there are programmers who can code them.