How popular is the idea of digital clothing?

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Digital clothing is a closet item that can only be seen through a monitor or in VR. It became popular during the pandemic, and today you can make serious money from virtual fashion. 

In just a few years, thanks to Metaverse, you can put on a virtual Gucci coat, walk into the virtual office of the, and talk about the gambling entertainment that interests you. It seems futuristic, but it will be!

Where did digital fashion come from, and how much does it cost

The idea of digital clothing came to us from the computer game industry. If you can create and sell a simple, beautiful, but not advantageous new outfit for a virtual hero, then why not do the same for aspiring meta-villages of real people? Designing a closet for digital avatars is no different from the approach in games: virtual clothes are tailored to an equally virtual incarnation of a person.

But many people actively “dress up” in virtual clothes in photos. To do this, you first must take a picture in something tight against a neutral background, which can easily be replaced. Then you need to find a designer who knows special programs (like CLO 3D or DC Suite) to create and “wear” the virtual clothes on you. If you’ve ever encountered paper dolls, it’s the same thing with the use of technology.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem to make much practical sense, but companies and designers are already making serious money from virtual items. 

  • In 2021, fashion house Dolce & Gabbana sold a nine-piece NFT clothing collection for $5.65 million in the equivalent value of Ethereum cryptocurrency at the time of the transaction. 
  • A couple of years before, the most high-profile digital clothing sale was a $9500 dress. 
  • Sometimes virtual items even sell for more than the originals in which they were created. It was the case with the Gucci Dionysus bag: at $3400 in the store, its electronic copy sold for $4115.

Today, anyone can touch the virtual fashion world: Found in 2020, the world’s first platform for selling digital closet items, DRESSX offers thousands of lots for prices ranging from $25 to $1500. The assortment is like the most ordinary clothing store: shoes, jackets, pants, dresses, and accessories. Adjusting for the fact that some of them look as unusual as possible. Fanciful shapes and strange textures, which in the real world are impossible, are characteristic features of digital clothing design. And for this, incidentally, it is often criticized. How natural the virtual closet items look on the photo of an accurate model on the web directly depends on the skill of their creator.

From digitizing branded items to adapting to the realities of the pandemic

It’s accepted that the history of digital fashion began in 2015. That’s when Kat Taylor, better known as Cattytay, took up virtual clothing and started posting her work on social media. Today she collaborates with fashion giants: Balenciaga and Gucci and does not only bring their real clothes to the Internet. The second milestone of this phenomenon was the release in 2018 of a collection of virtual dresses by the Norwegian brand Carlings called Neo-Ex. Each of the 19 closet items cost between £9 and £30, with the company’s marketers explicitly saying that the source of inspiration was computer games.

After the success of the “digital mass market,” the emergence of virtual couture clothing was not long in coming. Finally, in 2019, that $9500 dress came out – a collaboration between designer Joanna Jaskowski and Dapper Labs studio. The latter is the creator of the online game CryptoKitties, in which NFT-kitties went like hotcakes, despite prices of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency equivalent.

However, the popularity of virtual clothes was ensured not only by exciting projects in this area. A robust growth driver was the COVID-19 epidemic, which in 2020 hit the fashion industry hard. That year, McKinsey analysts estimated a 90% drop in profits. In addition, supply chains were destroyed, many stores were closed, and the behavior of consumers themselves changed. As a result, brands had to look for new ways to promote themselves in a changing world, and digital clothing was an excellent option.

The second lucky coincidence was the NFT boom in the digital art market. Blockchain technology has proven to be a convenient way to distribute virtual fashion items. Importantly, they also allow for reliable verification of the originality of goods. Even in the real world, forging a Louis Vuitton handbag is not a problem at all, but when it is transferred to photographs in the digital environment, it is a matter of a few clicks of the mouse.

One of the main goals is a huge gaming market

Speaking about the prospects of digital clothing, representatives of the fashion industry put the main emphasis on caring for the environment. At this point, a reference to a study by the British bank Barklays appears everywhere. In it, one in five respondents aged 35-44 admitted to buying clothes at least once to take a photo in them, and one in ten of the entire sample, details of which are not disclosed, say they buy clothes for pictures on social media and then return them. The idea of replacing such purchases with digital items so as not to bring even more unnecessary items into the world looks good, but what is the proportion of “fashionistas” among all the planet’s inhabitants? Their negative impact on the environment is greatly exaggerated.

Moreover, the advent of digital closets does not negate that brands often produce more clothes than people are willing to buy. And this is mostly the practice of premium segment companies. They don’t want to sell the surplus at discounts or give it away to charity because it would distort perceptions of luxury brands – they would cease to be associated with luxury, and recycling also allows them to offset import duties. In 2018 alone, Burberry burned $36.5 million worth of items from its old collections, and Cartier recycled nearly €500 million worth of wristwatches, which are far from the only examples. Fashion houses counteract this wave of negativity by introducing digital technology: virtual dressing rooms and touch screens to demonstrate samples. Convenient, beautiful, and effective, but it seems that a solution with artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict demand would have worked better.

But there’s no doubt that virtual clothing is a fast and cost-effective brand promotion tool. Its creation requires only the time of in-house or guest designers – logistics, materials, fitting, and adjustment are entirely excluded from the production chain. All that’s left is negotiating with influencers from social networks, and then the advertising campaign is ready. However, the blogger can also be made virtual: the digital model Lil Michela has over 3 million subscribers.

It is not a mass phenomenon but gives hope to talented designers.

The main problem of digital fashion is that it is still ready to pay only a relatively narrow circle of enthusiasts. These are either the representatives of the fashion industry, those who are seriously concerned with environmental issues, or fans of the newest technologies. In addition, digital things – the need is very high: if you have problems with the ability to buy ordinary shoes, then the thought of their virtual counterparts will not even occur. Finally, the question of feelings is also important – no “digital” will not replace the real feelings of a warm scarf in the cold winter. 

Do not forget about the prices. If skins in games cost from a few tens of cents, then digital clothes, even at the level of not limited circulation, “mass-market,” often cost as much as real pants and T-shirts. 



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