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FASHION: Is Digital Clothing The Future Of Fashion?

Dutch digital design house, The Fabricant, wastes nothing but data and exploits nothing but imagination.

By Sonia Kovacevic.

Now more than ever, as we sit confined indoors uncertainly musing about the future of, well… a lot of things, Dutch digital design house, The Fabricant confidently validates and continues to pursue pioneering a new sector of digital-only clothing.

With a background in visual effects, Fabricant’s founder, Kerry Murphy, witnessed the creative freedom and reduction of waste that technology allowed for in the film industry, and realized he could lead the same path in fashion. Digital fashion might seem far from our familiar lexicon, but gamers have been spending a significant amount of money on virtual clothing for years. In 2018, Glu Mobile’s ‘Covet Fashion’ game, which allows users to style models with digitally rendered designer clothing, generated $53.4 million. So, whilst the Fabricant concept isn’t new, its application is. The Fabricant wants to democratize fashion, transcending trends, seasonality and sizing, co-creating with their users in a continuous dialogue and feedback loop, allowing designs to evolve through “collective intelligence.”

What was originally considered “nice to have” has become a fashion “must-have” as Covid-19 forces the industry to recognize the benefits of digitalization. To succeed operating under the current circumstances – no physical samples, travel bans, and most importantly, the shift in values surrounding consumption, Murphy says, “digitalization is a critical move to ensure industry resilience, sustainability, and long-term relevance.”

Born from the intersection of fashion and technology, The Fabricant believes that fashion’s purpose is to foster self-expression. For this, they argue, there is no need for physical clothing, especially as our reliance on the virtual world continues to grow. Murphy shares, “from the start, we believed that the digital-only fashion arena is a place of freedom, fantasy, and self-expression and that we can help brands and individuals to explore this place and its unlimited possibilities – wasting nothing but data and exploiting nothing but imagination.” So, what does The Fabricant customer look like? “We call them the Digi-Sapiens,” says Murphy, and surprisingly they comprise of around 3.5 billion individuals globally, with more than 55% of the total spending power, he shares. They are made up of Gen Zs and young millennials, who have grown up blurring reality and fantasy, with the virtual world becoming their second home. Murphy describes them as “environmentally conscious, Digi-savvy, multi-device, collaborative beings. They are trendsetters, trend chasers, and early adopters of any technology that upgrades and frees up their existence.”

Designed by @the_fab_ric_ant, worn by @Johwska, auctioned by @Dapper_Labs, creators of CryptoKitties. Photo by @bleumode For some, this world of digital fashion might be hard to imagine. On the business side, it involves digital showrooms and shows, where collections can be shown in immersive 3D narratives; 3D sampling with an approximated cost saving of up to 30%, and new revenue streams via the creation of digital-only garments that can become shareable content or tradable digital collections. Just last year, The Fabricant auctioned the first-ever piece of digital couture on the Ethereum blockchain for $9,500, a move Murphy believes “will have the cultural impact and value of any major art piece in history.”

On a consumer level, we still ‘um and ah’ over imagining purchasing digital garments, often failing to recognize our obsession with such expression. This has been seen in the rise of digital characters, like Lil Miquela, who has 2.1 million followers, and the over excessive use of Instagram filters, which infiltrate our feeds daily.

Garments are produced with expert craftsmanship that is hyper-real, and The Fabricant adopts a multi-faceted approach that mirrors the traditional system, focusing on “human needs, wants and culture.” In addition, 3D technology allows for the freedom of pushing boundaries, giving designers the ability to visually explore new digital shapes, textures, materials, and colors. Digital fashion also solves many of the issues the traditional fashion industry faces, primarily in relation to transparency and sustainability. The current complexity of supply chains makes traceability extremely difficult. Without transparency, we are unable to hold brands accountable for any erroneous practices. Blockchain, on the other hand, allows creations to be protected, in a peer-to-peer marketplace that is fully attributable. Digital fashion also offers an opportunity for sustainability, whilst the traditional fashion industry is producing around 150 billion items of clothing each year and tackling environmental issues encountered during the entire life cycle of the product. These range from waste associated with fiber growth, fabric waste in the design stages, pollution from dyeing and treating fabrics, and microfiber shedding, as well as a linear end of life, which leaves 80% of all clothing in landfills or incinerated.

While you still might not be convinced, Murphy argues, “the digital-only fashion sector returns to the heart of what fashion was always meant to be – a playful and creative space that allows us to fully express our identities and individuality.” If you are looking for an #isoactivity, The Fabricant recently launched LEELA, a platform (or playground), to embrace and express multiple layers of the self through the non-physical digital fashion arena. This Beta version, launched after several months of research and positive feedback, is another step in the process of revolutionizing the accessibility, experience, and acceptance of digital-only fashion.

Photo credit: The Fabricant

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