25 years have passed since fashion icon Cher Horowitz of Clueless introduced us to the concept of a virtual wardrobe. On that legendary 1990s computer which would appear with a harsh ‘MIS-MATCH’ banner to denote a lousy outfit – but we’d be lying if we said we haven’t fantasised about it since.
From the development of the sewing machine to the development of e-commerce, fashion has always been at the forefront of innovation. Fashion, like technology, is forward-thinking and cyclical. According to CB Insights‘ Industry Analyst Consensus, the fashion sector will be worth more than £2 trillion by the end of the decade, making it one of the world’s greatest sectors. Not only is the pandemic altering customer behaviour, but it is also altering how brands think about their future plans. It also opens up new possibilities for forward-thinking firms to get a glimpse into the future of fashion. A future that might be highly profitable if they recognise the patterns that are converging as our physical and digital lives become increasingly intertwined.
The use of augmented reality and virtual reality technology to create digital experiences in stores and online is becoming more common. The Fabricant, a digital fashion boutique, made news in 2019 after selling a virtual dress for £7,500 on the Ethereum blockchain. Only in post-production could the dress be “worn” digitally, that is, photoshopped onto the person. Start-ups and established fashion houses have both begun testing new virtual lines, whether for real people or digital avatars. Other businesses are now providing virtual try-on services. Zeekit, an Israeli start-up, has developed a platform that allows customers to virtually try on apparel from online stores. Major merchants’ websites, such as Macy’s, Walmart, and ASOS, have already implemented this technology. Converse was one of the first brands to adopt virtual try-on in 2012. The Sampler App, which was built for iPhones, allows users to use their phones’ cameras to view how shoes looked on them in real life, share images on social media, and make online purchases.
Consumers can use virtual try-on technology to examine how specific things look on them before purchasing them. This technology works effectively in shoes, garments, accessories, jewellery, and make-up, where customers want to be able to “touch and feel” the product. They also have complete control over their decisions, including the ability to try and choose things at their leisure, without feeling rushed. Customers nowadays expect to be able to connect with products on the Internet, try them out, test them, and share them on social media and communities.
In a world where people are attempting to balance social distance, days spent on Zoom, and sustainability, the concept of a virtual wardrobe does not seem so implausible. Without having to go in store and try on clothes, you can buy virtual fashion that fits your persona for images using digital couture. Your digital couture would be similar to having your own Zoom background that speaks to your business and personality. Virtual try-ons may even reduce the amount of carbon emissions generated into the atmosphere as a result of people not having to visit clothing stores. It’s important to acknowledge that this does not include the use of Ethereum and blockchains, since they do produce more carbon emissions and increased electricity usage. With people growing increasingly aware of how their purchasing habits harm the environment and social distancing becoming more common, digital fashion may become the norm.
he emergence of “metaverse malls” appears more probable as more brands and customers interact in online realms. These malls would be new sales channels and virtual locations where customers could interact with one another, browse digital fashion items, and have a fully immersive experience. Games like Fortnite and Roblox provide a peek of what metaverse malls could look like. The amount of money spent on virtual content in the gaming industry is enormous and the fashion industry is only now beginning to recognise that there may be a potential there. However, developing metaverses necessitates a significant investment in computing power, engineering talent, and funding. As a result, this concept is likely still a long way off, and bringing it to life will necessitate a concerted effort by internet giants, inventive start-ups, and fashion labels.
The proliferation of high-street retailers, where everyone is pushing out massive volumes, but each store is identical, has made the fashion world quite uninteresting. I personally believe that the element of exclusivity that virtual apparel can provide can help to fuel that desire and bring back a sense of how we used to shop.
Whatever your feelings regarding virtual clothing, there’s no denying that the industry is in desperate need of reform. Digital fashion has the ability to lead the path for a more sustainable business model, one that reduces our overconsumption of used apparel. Post while also helping to save the planet? Absolutely!