What is digital fashion and why is it important?
From Big Tech conference rooms to podcasts and tweets, the hype of the metaverse is everywhere. However, as with many emerging technologies, excitement about the expected future impact often overshadows its real preparation for adoption by the general public.
But even amidst all the hype, it’s foolish to dismiss Web3 and the metaverse altogether. Over the next decade, emerging technologies could change life as we know it. In the same way television and the internet have democratized access to information and entertainment, blockchain and the metaverse will change the way we buy, play and shape our digital identities.
Whether physical or digital, fashion is a central layer of our being. It is one of the purest forms of self-expression while acting as a direct extension of our emotions and beliefs. As humans, we care deeply about our appearance, and as we spend more time in virtual environments, the same behavior is expected to continue. By 2030, Morgan Stanley estimates the digital fashion market alone could be worth $50 billion.
While this prediction is ambitious and far from a guarantee, industry leaders have recognized the potential and are already starting to invest heavily in the trend:
With that in mind, there are compelling arguments that winners in this emerging sector could be good investments for years to come. But before you even think about investing, it’s important to cover the basics of digital fashion.
What is Digital Fashion?
Digital fashion is 3D virtual clothing designed with both humans and digital avatars in mind. Rather than using fabrics and textiles, digital garments are created with special 3D computer programs like Blender and CLO3D.
Compared to traditional garment manufacturing, digital fashion is inexpensive and extremely durable. Most importantly, there are no creative constraints or production limitations. This is where the true beauty of digital fashion shines. The only limits are our imagination. We don’t need be the same people online as we are in real life. We can be whoever we want to be.
According Jackson BridgesNFT Project Advisor and Showcase Guide at Alterrage, digital fashion offers a new means of individual expression.
“In the metaverse, we can decide our own identities in relation to the physical world in which we cannot choose our own race, gender or cultural background. Digital fashion builds on this idea by enhancing self-expression by outside the constraints of the physical world, and taking advantage of technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. The ability to express oneself with unlimited creative freedom opens the doors to true expression of one’s identity,” he said. shared in an interview with Kiplinger.
To date, digital fashion has been most prevalent in gaming, where gamers pay billions of dollars a year to outfit their digital avatars with the latest cosmetic skins. Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, sold 3.3 million units of their NFL partnership skins, grossing $50 million in just a few weeks.
How do you wear digital clothing and accessories in the physical world?
Outside of gaming, digital skinning is the most convenient way for buyers to showcase their digital style. By editing photos and using advanced technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence, consumers can truly wear their digital clothes.
For digital native apparel retailers like DRESSX, digital dressing is built into their business model. Customers who purchase digital clothing from DressX can upload a photo to the platform to digitally dress in their new look. For social media influencers who often spend thousands of dollars on an outfit only to return it moments after a photo is taken, wearing digital fashion offers a much more efficient and cost-effective alternative.
Snapchat (SNAP), a leader in augmented reality technology, has offered a variety of AR filters since its inception. Snap has also partnered with companies such as Prada and Ulta (ULTA) to provide customers with virtual try-on experiences, which have resulted in a substantial increase in sales.
To encourage more retailers to embrace augmented reality-based e-commerce, Snapchat has made its proprietary technology free. Now retailers can seamlessly integrate Snap’s AR trial technology and camera kit into their own mobile apps and websites.
Why is digital fashion important?
To fully recognize the importance of digital fashion, you must first understand the desire for digital identity and ownership. Among the digital native generations, there is a strong demand for digital ownership and the ability to express our identity the same way we do in real life.
According to a report by BoF Insights, approximately 70% of general US consumers (from Gen Z to Gen X) consider their digital identity to be important. And they vote with their wallet, with 50% being interested in buying a digital asset within the next 12 months (game skin, digital mode, avatar and/or NFT).
Although still incredibly early, digital fashion is positioned to be a major revenue stream for apparel retailers. Over the past year, brands such as Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce & Gabbana have invested millions of dollars in opening virtual metaverse storefronts where they have sold a mix of digital fashion NFTs and NFTs redeemable for physical goods. Virtual stores also allow customers to shop through on-site e-commerce collections.
As explained by Nico FaraWeb3 Retail Strategist and Founder of Chief Metaverse Officer, Metaverse Virtual Stores do not replace traditional retail channels, but rather serve as an indispensable complement.
“In the same way that retailers need a physical or e-commerce store (Web 1.0) and a social media page (Web 2.0), they should have a presence in the metaverse (Web 3.0). Virtual stores in the Metaverse are more efficient, immersive, and accessible than any other retail experience.”
Like all new tech trends, there will be companies that invest in hype for PR and quick money. But there will be others who will make digital fashion a central part of their future retail strategy. Whether the winners are legacy fashion and tech companies, digital native retailers, or a combination of the two, only time will tell. But when industry players of this caliber all make a move, it’s usually worth paying attention to.