Wear The Future
In a 2021-world where Zoom calls are the norm, virtual fashion is less of a fantasy and more of a reality that has the potential to crush fast fashion.
For many of us our obsession with playing dress-ups started and ended at a young age. Our younger selves loved to dress up Barbie dolls, put on fashion shows, and style our Sims 3 avatars in funky outfits.
However, virtual fashion has rapidly gained popularity during the COVID-era giving fashion designers the ability to sample clothes cheaper, quicker, and easier than ever. But the benefits don’t end there, virtual fashion also has the potential to make a real difference to our planet and improve sustainability.
According to Sustain Your Style, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry. Globally, we consume 62 million tonnes of textiles per year; by 2030, this is expected to reach 102 million tonnes. With people buying more new clothes, they are wearing them less and the average piece of clothing is worn 36 per cent fewer times now than it was 15 years ago. The reason? Fast fashion.
The term ‘fast fashion’ refers to cheaply produced and priced garments that copy the latest catwalk or celebrity styles and get pumped quickly through stores in order to maximise on current trends.
Founder of 3D product development platform Recube Fonny Bunjamin said depending on the brand, it is common to produce anywhere between three to 10 physical samples per garment.
“If you multiple that by the number of styles you actually develop each year, it’s a lot of physical samples that are not actually used,” she said.
“A lot of them cannot even be used because it’s marked, it’s cut, it’s sewn; so, you cannot even sell it on a sample sale.”
Fonny said if the samples aren’t being stored in a warehouse it’s likely they will end up in landfill.
New York Fashion Institute of Technology digital fashion designer and adjunct professor Mikelle Drew-Pellum said during her time working as a full-time designer at athletic wear brand Champion, one of the most wasteful practices she experienced was sampling clothes.
“If people can cut down on how much sampling they do, that alone would make the fashion industry so much more sustainable.
“Just that alone,” she said.
While sampling is still an essential part of the design process, fashion designers around the world have discovered a much more cost-effective, faster, and sustainable method; by using virtual/3D fashion technology.
But what exactly is virtual fashion?
Mikelle describes virtual fashion as a true-to-life visual interpretation of a garment.
“3D fashion is where you’re able to take your design and show it in a three-dimensional space, so you can see the front, the back, the side, all different directions,” she said.
“And what’s cool about that is that you’re actually seeing it how it drapes, how it falls on someone, and you can also style it and dress up the avatar.
You can even put yourself in the garment and see what you would look like with your measurements.”
Fonny said most designers work the 2D realm where Adobe Illustrator or hand sketches are used to show a flat illustration of the garment.
“The traditional way of learning isn’t useless as you still need to know how to make patterns and you still need to know how fabric behaves, however virtual fashion has revolutionised the way clothing can be made and manufactured,” Fonny explained.
3D technology is used in this space to create virtual samples and to cut down on the number of physical samples being produced for each garment.
Mikelle said with 3D you can see all the details of the garment without having to create a physical sample.
“With 3D, at the very least you cut down on to two to three samples, because you can see how the garment will look and move before it goes into production,” she said.
Not only is this process more sustainable, but it is also cost effective and faster.
“Instead of waiting two weeks for a new sample to arrive, you can make the change that is requested and then send it back straight away so it can be viewed from all different angles and approved for a final, physical sample,” Mikelle said.
All of this is means that, you’re cutting back on samples and you’re cutting back on your production time. Ultimately, you are going to save money in the long run.”
3D virtual sample artist and founder of Dziep Designs, Diep Nguyen, said virtual fashion will eventually change the current product development process and remove the need to create physical samples altogether.
“At least for casual wear, we will design the garment then send it straight to production, skipping the sampling process in the middle,” she said.
Video sourced by Diep Nguyen
While virtual fashion is great for the environment by cutting down on samples, it also reduces the need for influencers buy fast fashion, snap a pic for the ‘gram and then throw the outfit away.
According to a survey commissioned by Barclaycard, one in 10 admit to buying clothing only to take a photo for social media.
To combat this, virtual fashion house Auroboros have created a way to blend physical couture with digital-only ready-to-wear pieces.
Auroboros co-founder Paula Sello said their digital ready-to-wear collection presents a perfect solution against many industry downfalls.
“First you upload a photo of yourself to our website and choose which design you would like to buy.
“Each piece is then digitally manipulated onto the wearer and is inclusive of all body types and genders.
“We then send you the image back with your unique, tailored digital garment on so you can share the image on social media.”
Video sourced by Fonny Bunjamin
Fonny believes this will be the future of fashion and 3D fashion will be widely accepted by manufacturers, fashion designers, and consumers alike.
“I know that a lot of consumers buy fast fashion because they would like to post things on social media for fun, for trends and to express themselves through fashion.
“With digital fashion you achieve the same result without having to buy the physical garment that you wear only one or two times before you dispose it,” she said.
“Another thing that I see also is the shopping experience will be different with digital fashion.
I can totally see that we will have digital shopping malls, and with the help of VR or extended reality, we can actually sit on our sofa and go shopping digitally with an avatar,” Fonny said.
While this technology might seem like it is many lightyears away, Mikelle said it is closer than expected and consumers can look forward to the new age of shopping.
“There are companies looking at ways for you to make a universal avatar of yourself, so if you are shopping online at different stores, you can do a virtual try on, upload your avatar, and try on the garment with your measurements, height and skin tone.
“There is no risk associated with the piece not fitting how you like it, decreasing the potential for this item to end up in landfill.”
It seems consumers aren’t too far away from playing their own real-life version of Sims, all while saving the planet.