“The Metaverse, New Technologies and the New Fashion Industry” (Part 1/8)

Nov 03, 2021

I’m continually battling with how fashion is so wasteful. The business models that most brands follow, of over developing, over production followed by consumers chasing the latest trend means that the textile industry accounts for 4% of the worlds waste.

Fashion is also the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Nearly 20% of the global water waste is created by the fashion industry. This amounts to 93 billion meters of water used annually just for textile production. Fashion also accounts for 5% of the worlds landfill, in-fact 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. Another devastating statistic is that the global apparel and footwear industry produced more greenhouse gases than France, Germany and the UK combined in 2018, totalling 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions (4% of global emissions), without significant action, the figure could rise to 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030.

This statistic says it all: “the number of garments produced annually has doubled since 2000 and exceeded 100 billion for the first time since 2014”. It is estimated that the fashion industry creates 92 million tons of textile waste annually.  Shockingly, every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally.

Just like the radical changes that the automobile industry has gone through, the fashion industry needs shaking up before it’s too late.

Dazed published an article at the end of August titled: “Is digital fashion really the industry’s eco-friendly saviour?”.  This lays out some interesting points. One is the CO2e saving if events like fashion weeks and shows changed to digital experiences where you can attend virtually in your specially created avatar. When Helsinki fashion week hosted their first digital fashion week this year, it was found that the carbon footprint of Helsinki Fashion Week per visitor dropped from 137kg to 0.66kg CO2e, after switching to purely digital.

There are companies such as DRESSX, a digital-only retailer which just launched an AR app who have moved to purely digital design.  When comparing the impact of producing a fashion garment versus digital, they found that the production of a digital garment emits 97 per cent less CO2e, and saves 3,300 litres of water per garment on average. The brand’s tracking included factors such as creating the garment, sending photographs to clients and emailing files, but didn’t include archiving files on the cloud.

3D rendering is also being tested with retailers and influencers. Farfetch has become one of the first, large retailers to test the practise of digital sampling by digitally dressing influencers from brands including Balenciaga, Palm Angels, Khaite, Off-White, Casablanca and Nicolas Kirkwood. “Vogue”. Items can be digitised based on photographs or scans, given to the influencers who can then select their preferred look. Once the images are posted, they must be advertised as “carbon neutral” and say they are digital. Digital dressing is by no means instantaneous though, for example, it takes the firm Tribute between three and five hours to customize the digital garment to one’s photo.

However, once scalable, the benefits are enormous. The BOF spoke about the need for brand’s to find a new approach to gifting back in 2019. Brands send out thousands of gifts to influencers, often without their being any demand for these gifts.  This is costly, (sending out 1,000 boxes of luxury beauty products per month can cost about $700,000) and it is a scattergun approach. Working directly with influencers, to digitally promote clothes through AR and 3D rendered designs, will dramatically cut down waste. DressX have stated that with the support of the Farfetch influencer community, they were able to save 346,898 litres of water, enough for 20 people to drink for 24 years day.

Now it’s true that the ICT sector that powers digital fashion– is a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the addition of NFTs which are often recorded on Ethereum, a blockchain-based platform with its own cryptocurrency are highly consumptive of energy as it’s based on a proof of work. However, the market is already heavily invested in moving from a proof of work to a more energy efficient proof or stake, so inevitably, with time, digital fashion and NFTs will product less GHG and be more energy efficient.

Minimising travel & unnecessary flights and moving to a more versatile digital world, will undoubtedly reduce our human carbon footprint but there are other environmental factors that are fuelling the move to fashion becoming more sustainable.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


"The Metaverse, New technologies and the New Fashion Industry " (Part 2/8) . Circular Fashion

Part 2 discusses circularity within the fashion industry and how design, the 2nd hand clothing market and the booming rental market can all help brands become more circular and to reduce their waste.