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What Is The Future Of Fashion?

Science fiction directors have often fantasized about the fashion of the future. For example, according to the creators of the “Barbarella” (1968), in the 41st century we will wear mostly bikinis (including those with a metal top) combined with bright boots, and sometimes breathtaking tight-fitting jumpsuits made of shiny spandex. Jean-Paul Gaultier, as the costume designer of the acclaimed “Fifth Element” (1997), predicted fashion for bright orange in the XXIII century (not so long to wait!) and fancy bandage pantyhose — such as the character of Milla Jovovich wore. Anyone who has ever watched Back to the Future 2 (1989) dreamed of sneakers with laces that automatically tie. It’s a pity that this fashion prediction did not come true — the main character of the movie wears such shoes in 2015. In general, the “fashion of the future” for people with imagination is either bizarrely exotic — hence shiny fabrics, abundance of metal, unusual silhouettes, or hyper-functional — such as automatic laces or a jacket that dries up in a matter of seconds.

Anyways the assumptions of all these people about how fashion will look like in the future boil up to one thing — the future of fashion is undeniably going to be tech. Alas, in the times when they were dreaming and fantasizing about the future, the capacities of their present were quite different and far more limited from what we have now. As actually, what we have now, is the future that they were imagining.

The fact that undoubtedly proves my theory is that the main trend of 2020 and the upcoming decade is digitalization of fashion. Here are some examples of how fashion invades the digital dimension with no backing out.

At a certain level of abstraction, it can be assumed that the world of fashion and video games connects the human desire to assert individuality. The role of clothing and appearance in a person’s identity has an ancient history, and for video games, the starting point can be considered 1978, when the cult arcade Space Invaders introduced the rating of players. If earlier visitors of the game remained anonymous, now the list of records with the names of the winners made the player’s figure noticeable in the local community.

Rating and the idea of ​​competitiveness have made esports actually a sport, turning it into a way of self-determination. Tetsuya Nomura, character designer at Square Enix and creator of Final Fantasy character costumes, says that “… there are various ways to show a person’s uniqueness in the real world, but in the limited world of a video game, clothing is one of the most important elements that express and define personality of the character “. In the era of consoles and PC games, the hero’s appearance has become more important in the player’s identity.

In the past decade, the connection between video games and the world of fashion has become more and more tangible, and last year several fashion brands started collaborating with the industry and even released their own video games. Burberry joined the movement at the end of October 2019 with the release of B Bounce, a browser-based game in which you dress up a cute deer in capsule clothing and try to jump to the moon to get the main trophy — a real down jacket with a monogram in the form of Thomas Burberry’s initials.

The relationship of brands with video games, which already have a developed universe and a community of users who are ready to invest real money in virtual characters, is completely different. Fortnight made $1 billion in in-app purchases in 2017. Since most of the players are buying outfits (skins), it’s no surprise that fashion sees a lot of marketing potential in the video game market.

In 2019, two companies launched a collaboration with well-known game publishers: in spring Moschino presented a collection inspired by Sims 4, and in September Louis Vuitton announced a partnership with Riot Games, creators of the multiplayer League of Legends. For League of Legends, Nicolas Ghesquière, Creative Director of Women’s Collections at Louis Vuitton, created virtual skins for the characters of Qiyana and Senna.

Another case of Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with the gaming industry that is of a big interest — making Lightning, a character from Final Fantasy, the face of the 2016 spring-summer collection. The choice of the charismatic heroine became iconic not only for the reason of her virtual origin, but also because in the world of Final Fantasy she represents a strong and courageous woman that is contained in the brand’s DNA.

Alongside video games, the fashion industry is mastering another global trend — augmented reality. In the Gucci app, next to the Gucci Arcade platform, you can now find a sneaker try-on function in AR. The projection of virtual clothing onto a real body parallels the digital outfits of video game characters.

In addition, clothing in virtual and augmented reality is a logical step in development, because the production of digital T-shirts does not require tons of water and the treatment of cotton fields with chemicals. The only way to stop polluting the environment is to stop making real clothes and start making virtual ones. Moreover, similarly to the self-identification pattern in video games, social media have become a much wider self-determination platform. Almost everybody now has a virtual avatar that lives on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat. So why would we dress those digital avatars in real clothes?

In the “buy — Instagram — return” reality digital clothing becomes the main (Note: sustainable) option. One of the first companies to follow this path was The Fabricant: they create virtual-only garments. Their philosophy is to “democratize the fashion industry, where manufacturers share knowledge and resources with each other.” “In this way, the industry can grow towards a healthier future,” says the team of the Netherlands based company.

There is still of course a lot of skepticism over the whole concept of digital fashion. Running our digital fashion company DressX, I’ve encountered many opinions that it will be difficult to transform digital fashion into an actual industry (meaning-making customers want to pay real money for digital garments). But here is the example, that I hope will prove that digital fashion has already become a powerful industry: The Fabricant garment, developed by an artist Joanna Jaskowska and Dapper Labs, creators of the blockchain game CryptoKitties, was brought to the hammer for a record $9,500. The buyer was a Canadian entrepreneur Richard Ma, who decided to present a digital dress to his wife. “This is the first of its kind to represent a new wave that has just emerged. Just as it once happened with the debut works of Marcel Duchamp or Jackson Pollock,”- justified the cost of the outfit Richard Ma.

While building DressX, one of my main goals was to bring great fashion pieces that exist in real life into the virtual dimension, and therefore make them more affordable and reduce the environmental impact from the production of real garments that will be worn only once with the pure goal of dressing up our virtual avatars. Having made a career in the fashion industry I truly share the excitement from the real fashion masterpieces, but now my own deep conviction is that the nearest foreseeable future of fashion is not possible without technologies and that the main trend of the upcoming decade is DIGITAL FASHION.

Co-authored with Elena Saraniuk

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