METAVERSE/ REAL WORK AND PHYGITAL FASHION
So in true circular fashion, in answer to the question that Dazed asked “Is digital fashion really the fashion industry’s eco saviour”?
Of course, digital fashion will have a huge part to play in the future, however it won’t be the saviour if brands don’t change their business models to manage the existing overproduction problems, become more circular and begin to gauge customer demand for newness in a more conscious way.
Daniella Loftus, from “This Outfit Does Not Exist”, a platform for digital fashion, believes that designers have a key role at the centre of this new universe: “I see the digital designer’s place as ensuring that we are immersed in the digital world”, said Loftus. Loftus defines digital fashion in three distinct forms: the first is phygital, digital fashion designed for the aim of producing physical garments. The second form is physical and digital combined, which is digital fashion that can be worn using augmented or virtual reality. And the third is fully digital, which is digital fashion that is sold directly to an avatar. The metaverse is concerned with the last two forms: physical and digital combined, and digital-only.
Phygital garments are currently brand led with the assets controlled by the retailer. It’s evident that phygital garment can save costs, time and reduce CO2e within product development, coupled with AR, this will also help to reduce returns and improve conversion. Burberry have also shown how 3D rendering can be used to save on marketing costs and CO2e. At the end of October, they joined forces with Farfetch and DressX to launch a 3D rendered editorial and influencer campaign. The models are real and it’s actually very difficult to tell the clothes are 3D rendered.
When you start to mix phygital garments with AR on snapchat or other AR channels, the interaction becomes more customer led, not only does this give consumers the opportunity to “try before you buy” but it gives customers a way of engaging with the brand and in turn gives users a way to engage on social commerce by posting pictures of themselves in an AR garment that they have personalised. Brands can use this twofold, to help reduce returns and conversions but also to test trends before they go into production.
The fully digital part D2A (direct to Avatar) mixed with the real world is where the opportunity becomes unique and interesting for reducing waste within the fashion industry because it can be more customer led.
In pursuit to a better understanding of what people want their avatars to look like and wear, The Institute of Digital Fashion undertook a global study, collecting data from 6,000 people. IoDF’s one of their findings was that 92 per cent of people thought customisation was important when creating virtual avatars. The range of desired types of clothing reflect the range of styles people want in virtual spaces: with surreal (24 per cent), casual (20 per cent) and couture (15 per cent). Religious garments were especially important to offer, according to Leanne Elliott Young, co-founder of the IoDF, which also conducted a number of in-depth, one-on-one interviews. Interestingly, 60 per cent said that their “URL” style was similar to, or the same as, their “IRL style,” with 40 per cent preferring a more “surreal” style. This means 60 percent want their avatar and clothes they wear to be a reflection of themselves.
Now to fulfil the surreal demand, there are some highly innovative digital garment being designed, with Fabricant and DressX pushing design boundaries in this experimental field. “Within the digital world, we can go completely crazy. We can wear a dress made of water or have lights everywhere and change your textile according to your mood,” says Amber Slooten, the co-founder of The Fabricant. Consumers are also showing an appetite to pay considerable amounts for these collectable items. Fabricant created the world’s first digital-only dress on the blockchain and the NFT sold for $9,500. Another virtual fashion brand RTFKT, sold a garment for $125,000 in-fact RTFKT have reportedly sold $4.5 million worth of digital goods this year already. Digital garments which are designed solely for our avatar open the door for more self-expression, allowing people to tune into the person they really want to be and to find pieces that reflect a more abstract version of how you wish to be seen.
However, the blockchain is still unpredictable and there is no guarantee that digital assets will hold their value, in-fact the consumers could be left with an asset that’s worth zero. NFT’s can create hype and reach new customers but creating a digital asset doesn’t replace the desire or need for a physical garment. It may decrease the overall consumption of fast fashion but the world still needs real garments and it’s really how this technology is used to change the issues we are seeing within the fashion industry that will help to push the needle. Brands that find a way to integrate the metaverse and the real world to give customers the connectivity that they will demand in their shopping experience will be the real winners.
Dolce & Gabbana, is one brand that are combining phygital and purely digital garments. In September they launched a nine-piece NFT collection, produced in collaboration with UNXD, a curated marketplace for digital luxury and culture. 5 of these pieces were physical creations with digital versions and four items were entirely bespoke virtual designs. The entire auction netted over $6 million, with the “Doge Crown” a diamond and sapphire crown that sold for the equivalent of $1.25 million.
A streetwear brand, Shoes53045 collaborated with Rico Nasty to launch the Mix’Air Boot Hybrid Sneakers. They partnered with Dematerialised (a Web3 digital fashion marketplace) to be able to NFT their phygital garments. They created 3 sneaker NFTs, collectibles, phygitals and one custom master owned by Rico Nasty. They then released a limited edition of 300 NFT’s. The NFT includes a digital pair of sneakers and a made-to-order physical pair. This efficient no waste model is a great way to combine NFTs, phygitals and custom-made garments whilst providing the customer with exclusivity and innovative design.
Then lastly, let’s look at the 3 main attributes of how Gen Z view fashion consumption as reported by McKinsey.
Firstly, they see consumption as an expression of their individual identify. “Gen Z and millennials, consumers across generations are not only eager for more personalised products but also willing to pay a premium for products that highlight their individuality”.
Number two is their expectation for brands to take a “stand” ethically.
The thirdly is the move from possession to access. This more pragmatic and realistic generation of consumers expect to access and evaluate a broad range of information before purchase. Consumption means having access to products or services, not necessarily owning them. This generation have grown up with the world, literally at their fingertips.
The shift in consumption mentality is what leads brands to virtual goods as commodities in the emerging area of augmented retail. They also want to be part of communities, Generation Z are looking for a particular virtual experience: to be a part of a specialised online community that provides a sense of understanding and belonging.
So into the future: Gen Z will demand that their products are personalised, unique and ethical. They will want to own the NFT of the 3D shoes that are made exclusively for them and they will want the ability to have their favourite avatar in real life (assuming it’s possible). They will expect brands to be transparent about their supply chains and Gen Z will expect to be able to try anything on virtually using AR glasses or AR and to flit around the metaverse with any digital outfit they have acquired. They will want all these experiences to be connected and seamless.
So the perfect futuristic brand, in my opinion, will be customer and demand led. This is the future and this is the industry’s eco saviour. Brands may have a seasonless collection that drives core, but for newness, this would be driven by collaborations and demand. Brands could employ some of the numerous technologies we have discussed to test demand and to understand what the customer requires before releasing capsules that will be “limited editions of NFTs”. These demand led and personalised products would be made within the waste efficient micro-factory.
Outside of the operational part, fashion weeks and fashion shows will need to be tightened and streamlined across the whole industry to cut down on CO2e emissions and waste. Better still, fashion shows and showrooms are all digitised, which allows everyone to be able to access with a code and view through the metaverse whilst wearing their newest digital asset on their personalised avatar.
This is the reason that Mark Zuckerberg just changed the name of Facebook to META because he is a dedicated follower of fashion!