Virtual clothing: a waste of money or a way to save the planet in style?

A multi-thousand dollar Gucci bag is nothing new. But a Gucci bag that you can only wear in the Metaverse for more than its IRL counterpart is certainly eye-catching.

In May, Gucci welcomed spring to the virtual world by opening the Gucci Garden on the Roblox gaming platform. One of the items to buy was her Dionysus bag embroidered with bees. Priced at 475 Robux (the in-game global currency), this came to $ 6, considerably less than its actual price of $ 3,400. But just like in real life, the virtual world resale market can be a seller’s game, and the bidding on the bag has skyrocketed. One of them eventually sold for 350,000 Robux, or $ 4,115.

These online-only exclusives are a trend fashion brands of all stripes are following. The Gucci Garden, an immersive environment meant to mimic an actual facility in Florence, Italy, was just the luxury brand’s latest virtual offering. During the reign of designer Alessandro Michele, the brand improved the accessory set for Sims 4 characters and Pokémon trainers, who can grab items from The North Face x Gucci collection in 100 PokéStops located at Gucci pins. And the Gucci Virtual 25 sneakers can be worn by avatars from Roblox and the social media platform VRChat.

North Face x Gucci Collection

The entire collection is also available in the Gucci app for $ 11.99 for customers who want to wear them in photos and videos using augmented reality.

Michele is today one of the most noticed fashion designers; he may only be outclassed by Virgil Abloh. Founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White, Abloh is known in part for his Dadaist collaborations, like the one he did for Ikea, with clocks labeled “Temporary” and bags proclaiming themselves “Sculpture”. He has since brought his daring and innovation to Louis Vuitton as artistic director of his menswear collection, part of which will take place in the Metaverse.

“[F]What’s weird is that the real world is just the part-time metaverse, ”Abloh wrote in a February Instagram post in which he discussed the mix of physical and digital things. “Now back to my Ready Player-esque One ‘think tank’. ”

Abloh later told venture capitalist Matthew Ball, “I want to create virtual clothing to paint images that physical clothing cannot, and allow shoppers to access a new dimension of their personal style no matter who. they are, where they live and the virtual worlds they love. “

“I help [him] creating exactly that kind of brand, ”Ball wrote in a blog post.

Integrated shopping, but do it in fashion

The road there has already been paved by companies like The Manufacturer, which touts itself as “a digital fashion house leading the fashion industry into a new sector of digital-only clothing.” Her clothes are modeled in 3D so that customers can wear them in virtual reality environments. Fittingly, they can only be purchased in Ethereum.

iphone dark modeManufacturer’s Atari-inspired NFT digital fashion line.

Michaela Larosse, who works on creative strategy and communications at The Manufacturer, explains that digital fashion is the evolution of video game skins. “Physical fashion brands are starting to move into this space as the global revenue for in-game purchases is already huge and digital fashion will be a part of it,” she says.

Visit the Tribute Brand site and you will be greeted with a message from the future: “This is the platform for contactless and cyber fashion.” The digital-only brand sells limited edition, ready-to-wear and personalized clothing at premium prices in the real world. Once an item is purchased, the customer sends a photo of themselves for a digital fitting and within days they receive a picture of themselves in their new outfit.

The DressX digital fashion marketplace works the same, although customers first upload a photo and then submit it with their purchase of an item, like the pants and birds of paradise / warrior video game top from the fashion student Sofia Vaiman.

Before pressing the buy button, buyers will see a statement including the phrase: “The 100% digital collection did not require any fabric, water or CO2 for shipping and deliveries, creating the model for the institutions of traditional fashion and optimizing arts education in the 21st century. ”

four options on DressX


Fight climate change with a digital wardrobe

Durability is a big part of what DressX sells. “Buy no less, buy digital fashion,” reads its vision statement. It comes down to one of the things that is fueling the expansion of digital fashion: the terrible reputation of fast fashion.

The rapid production of clothing to meet the endless fashion seasons that pass on the Internet is an ecological and work nightmare. Fast fashion is a significant contributor to climate change and creates an immense amount of waste when its products are quickly thrown away as they go out of fashion or deteriorate quickly. The working conditions and remuneration of garment workers are abusive and sometimes fatal.

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Social media is teeming with fashion clothes, with influencers showing off outfit after outfit from huge piles they’ve amassed at places like Shein, which has facilities in China that produce insanely cheap clothes that are on trend. on TikTok. Much of this clothing isn’t worn outside of posts, so a digital alternative can save aspiring influencers money and give the environment a bit of a breather.

“The Manufacturer was created for the same reason: to create beautiful clothes that allow us to explore our identity in innovative ways without the planet paying the price for our desire to express ourselves,” explains Larosse. “The reality is, we just don’t need the physical materials or wasting any of our precious natural resources just to keep clothes in closets or end up in landfills.”

Digital model wearing white off the shoulder dress with orange trim

the manufacturer

Digital fashion can also be more inclusive, as clothing is designed to fit a photo or avatar instead of a human body. While there has been a push to expand sizing in an industry built mostly of single-size brands, there is still some inequality when plus-size customers face a rack in a clothing store. And for those who want to experiment with gender norms while dressing, doing so in a digital space can be more comfortable than in a public space.

All dressed up and nowhere to go

It would be hard to ignore another reason we’re seeing more of digital fashion: In the grip of a pandemic, we haven’t been able to experience much outside of screens. If clothes are used to see and be seen, where they are seen has changed dramatically.

“Our work was initially seen as an interesting outlier, but not something physical brands felt the need to participate in,” Larosse said. “The pandemic has radically changed the outlook on what we do and made the benefits of our work very tangible. “

Balenciaga designer Demna Gvsalia presented the brand’s fall / winter 2021 runway show in virtual reality by sending out 330 Oculus headsets to guests. The Spring / Summer 2022 collection was presented as a video, featuring a fake audience and a cloned model with deepfake technology to look like a full gaggle on the runway.

At the end of the day, or more likely a year from now, we will emerge. People are not 1s and 0s that inhabit a VR world. We live in a real one, but sometimes we have to play to figure out what we want in it.

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