The history of digital fashion is short. For many people, the starting point was three years ago, during the pandemic.
There was a famous name before him. Iridescent Dress This collection from The Fabricant from 2019 was preceded by a lesser-known digital collection from Norwegian brand Carlings in 2018. Lee Alexander McQueen Widows of Culloden The 2006 fashion week collection is also considered the first fashion moment in which the hologram enabled Kate Moss floating in the air.
Before this there was almost nothing.
There were no digital fashion brands, no way to wear digital fashion, no marketplaces, and certainly no market. Fast forward to today, there are a multitude of digital brands and designers, a multitude of marketplaces, and thousands of virtual garments. Not to mention incubators for brands and startups, university programs, digital fashion weeks, exhibitions, conferences, mentoring programs and workshops for designers.
But even amid the great momentum in the digital fashion world, its wearability remains limited and the number of buyers is small.
The challenges facing digital fashion aren’t entirely limited to nascent or last year’s bear market.
The truth is that digital fashion has had a handicap since day one; There was no problem to be solved. As a result, no one really needs it right now and very few people want it.
Comparison of vintage and digital fashion
The reason for this is the fundamental difference between old fashion and digital fashion; Digital fashion was born from technology, not fashion itself.
Fashion stems from our appreciation for patterns, colours, style, craftsmanship and quality and has an extremely rich history.
Fabrics and clothing have helped define indigenous communities around the world for millennials. Woven fabrics have a history of 27,000 years, and screen printing, the ancestor of today’s fabric printing techniques, originated in China about 1,000 years ago.
The industrial revolution was fueled in part by the textile industry in the 19th century, and today luxury fashion is a defining cultural force.
Fashion is a natural layer of our existence. It is culture by definition.
Every time we dress, our clothes say something about who we are and what community we belong to. We use clothes to indicate social status, power and to impress others.
Deep biological forces come into play when we dress. It is an intimate, sensual experience in its purest and highest form. It is the feeling of an exquisite fabric on your skin. This is how a garment accentuates and complements your body. It makes you like this to feel.
Digital fashion, on the other hand, exists in its own universe with its own references and aesthetics. These are not always easily decipherable for outsiders. There is a gap between digital fashion and its future users.
Even though we call it digital fashion, that doesn’t put it on the same level as what we instinctively know as fashion. There is not enough fashion in digital fashion. Wearers must create their own interpretations to understand its purpose and promise, which is an obstacle.
During Paris Fashion Week, I attended collection presentations of luxury brands, fashion school showrooms and digital fashion week events. While there were interesting moments in digital fashion presentations, it was not possible to ignore the shortcomings.
The gap between digital and luxury fashion remains stark. To achieve this, just look at the difference between silhouettes, use of color, use of materials, storytelling and craftsmanship.
close the gap
This gap needs to be bridged for digital fashion to fulfill its promise, and I believe that this bridge is fashion itself.
The first phase of digital fashion was dominated by gadgets and technology. Now is the time to double down on design and quality.
After all, that’s what will attract newcomers. For this to happen, we need to start having honest conversations about the quality of digital fashion while remaining supportive, constructive and optimistic.
Digital fashion needs to be completely reframed. Rather than thinking of this as something we need to pioneer, we should think of it as a new way of iterating on ideas that were previously limited to the physical world.
Both areas should fall within the definition of ‘fashion’ and over time we will stop distinguishing between the two areas.
The path to the future of digital fashion is through fashion with its craftsmanship, heritage, storytelling and understanding of quality, style and appeal; not because of fashion. The biggest impact of digital fashion will be to enhance the experience and storytelling of digital layers over physical clothing.
Evolution of creativity
Creative skills are what will make this possible. It can take up to 10 to 12 years, including five years of training, for a designer to reach a senior design level in luxury fashion.
The history of digital fashion spans decades, not 10 years.
This disparity in development means there is a gap in quality between the design skills of digital fashion designers and the designer teams behind the collections we see on the catwalks of New York, London, Milan, Paris and beyond.
At No More Mondays we have a team of designers working under the direction of our creative director and we specialize in print and surface design illustration with 15 years of experience working with luxury brands.
When working with a brand we often spend hundreds of hours on prints for a collection, and in extreme cases we spend 100+ hours on a single piece of art. This is in addition to the countless hours the brand’s design team spends designing silhouettes, creating patterns, fabrics, sewing and fittings before arriving at a finished garment. 10 to 15 people are involved in the design process alone.
In digital fashion, the same process is often completed by a single designer. Digital fashion is not yet evolving into a collaborative design process and therefore quality is declining.
Being excellent at 3D animation doesn’t automatically make you a good fashion designer, or anything else for that matter. Design is a completely separate skill set and has the power to be much more effective than 3D in terms of digital fashion.
Anyone serious about digital fashion should work as hard as they can to become a great fashion designer. Therefore, I advise young talents interested in digital fashion to gain as much experience as possible in the traditional fashion environment, while also improving their 3D skills.
Digital fashion needs to move away from its origin story centered on rebellion against old fashion and instead focus on the creative possibilities it opens up.
By doing this, digital fashion has the potential to attract users’ attention to a great extent. Combining creativity and craftsmanship into an irresistible, immersive experience, the next era of digital fashion could produce new fashion icons like McQueen.