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Is Digital Fashion Really Sustainable?

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Digital fashion is gaining traction with virtual influencers wearing designer clothing and brands creating digital clothing collections with materials that one can only dream of.

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What Is Digital Fashion?

Digital fashion refers to intangible items that exist in virtual environments. AR filters, direct-to-avatar clothes, skins for gaming, even crypto art that you can purchase for yourself—all of this and more are considered digital fashion. It even includes 3D collections and virtual runway shows!

Currently, more and more fashion brands are entering this space as they predict that this market niche will be profitable in the near future. As a result, it might even be easier to implement internal carbon pricing strategies with this technology. 

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In the next few years, we’ll be seeing more and more virtual-native fashion startups emerge, as well as the widespread adoption of this field among mass-market and luxury labels. 

Fashion’s Detrimental Effect On The Environment

Before we dive deeper into digital fashion, let’s first talk about fashion and the planet. It’s no secret that this industry has detrimental effects on our environment. 10% of the total global carbon emissions produced worldwide can be traced to the fashion industry. And it doesn’t end there! 

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Producing clothes dries up our water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. Plus, it’s estimated that the industry creates 92 million tons of textile waste every year.

These statistics are staggering. And the thing is that consumers are increasingly aware of the industry’s impact, which means they’re demanding accountability. 

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That’s why we’re seeing fashion brands pivot. From creating clothes out of sustainable materials to repurposing secondhand and vintage fabrics, there’s a clear shift happening. 

And then there’s digital fashion.

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Digital Fashion: Is It The Answer?

Virtual fashion can change how physical products are manufactured and purchased. With technological advancements and a push for more virtual experiences, it is possible to address multiple environmental issues that the industry is currently facing.

Digital fashion eliminates all physical waste, and brands wouldn’t even need to concern themselves with water consumption! Since raw materials are coded in computers, there are no unethical supply chains. There wouldn’t even be any labor issues because the workers are highly competent designers and programmers known to have generally favorable working conditions. 

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As for technological breakthroughs, some of the ideas and methods we’re already seeing are the following: 

Augmented Reality and 3D Digital Design

Brands can reduce waste produced in upstream operations with the help of 3D digital design and augmented reality. Working samples in technology allow brands to show customers their new collections through digital samples. 

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Compared to physical production, 3D garment simulation reduces sample lead time from one month to one day and generates no fabric waste. Some brands that are already adopting this strategy are Adidas and Theory. 

Digital Avatars For Try Ons

Through our virtual avatars, we can purchase made-to-order clothes. With this technology, we can virtually try on the products we plan to buy. By placing orders for clothes we know we like, fashion brands can cut back on production, effectively lowering the number of leftovers and textile waste. 

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Beauty brands like Estée Lauder are already adopting this by creating virtual beauty stores that let you try on products such as lipsticks and foundations. 

Digital Fashion Shows

It’s no surprise that virtual events are more sustainable than physical ones. They generate less waste due to less material fabrication and eliminate the need for large-scale food and beverage services.

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Digital Fashion Week is a thing now, and it’s unlike physical fashion runway shows. Here, designers can showcase their pieces which wouldn’t even be possible in the physical realm. 

Addressing Overconsumption With Digital Fashion

Aside from the incredible technological advancements being created in this space, digital fashion might also be just what we need to combat overconsumption. 

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Take a good look at your wardrobe. Are there clothes that you barely ever wear? Unfortunately, people have more clothes than they need, and the adoption of digital fashion can change this. 

A digital-only garment has less impact on the environment, and if it proves to meet the customer’s needs to have new, exciting clothes all the time, this will be a big win for sustainability.

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The Future of Digital Fashion

We can all agree by now that the future of fashion is digital. It’s definitely here to stay and slay! The sooner we adopt it, the sooner it will have an impact on how we consume clothing and even redefine our relationship with the outfits we wear. 

With digital fashion, the industry might finally be able to turn the tide and create more sustainable solutions for the sake of the planet and everyone in it.

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