With every advancement, there are usually people and companies who take it upon themselves to push the envelope and create novel ways of doing old things. Now the fashion industry for all its innovations and astonishing designs has largely remained very traditional. Fashion powerhouses along with their clothes and designs may undergo modifications in various fashion seasons but essentially, the traditional concept of clothes has remained practically unchanged. The black dress remains just that: the black dress. The suit remains the suit, shoes remain shoes and we buy them much the same way we always have; in retail stores.
There has been a gradual turning of this tide though because in the last 20 years,the fashion industry has witnessed a rise in innovation than it had in the prior hundred years. From the online shopping revolution spearheaded by the internet to concepts such as smart clothes, algae-made shoes and non-animal leather, the original idea of clothing is being challenged. One such idea is the concept of virtual fashion.
Virtual fashion is simply the design and sale of fashion items for virtual platforms and avatars. This innovation promises to be incredibly revolutionary for the fashion industry because it arrests the issues of mass production and generation of waste. The estimated impact of virtual fashion depending on its adoption promises to be the next best thing after the development of Internet fashion shopping but as with such things, the growth of this fashion innovation did not happen by chance. Several corporations, individuals and companies have pioneered the advancement of virtual fashion in our world today and they include the following:
When it comes to virtual fashion, the Norwegian fashion house Carlings is probably the most advanced fashion brand. In November 2018 when virtual fashion was much more nascent, Carlings released an all virtual collection called “Neo X”. Containing 19 pieces priced between $9 to $30, the collection was otherworldly, featuring a bright yellow crocodile skin coat, blue latex chaps covered in computer code print and a black visor emblazoned with the slogan ‘Eat The Glitch’ and received very favourable reception from fashion enthusiasts.
The collection sold out and was also quite the hit on social media. Influencers such as Daria Simonova modelled the clothes and declared how they would be interested in more. Since then, Carlings has released two other collections and is so far, one of the few fashion houses to have consecutively released and sold out its virtual collections.
Established by Kerry Murphy and Amber Jae Slooten in 2018, The Fabricant is another important pace-setter on all things virtual fashion. The brand shot into recognition when it sold its Iridescent dress for the sum of $9500 in May 2019. Since then, the brand has grown from strength to strength having successfully collaborated with industry bigwigs such as Tommy Hilfiger and Soorty.
The Fabricant currently completes monthly drop of fashion items which are free and are intended to encourage people to explore virtual fashion on their own. In May earlier this year, Fabricant launched Leela, a digital platform and playground where people can play around with various virtual dresses.
Moschino is one of the first big name fashion brands to come to the virtual fashion party. Last year, it released a capsule collection inspired by Sims, the wildly popular online game. The Moschino x The Sims Capsule Collection is making its way into the virtual reality world of The Sims today with an in-game launch in The Sims 4, The Sims Mobile, and The Sims FreePlay. Prices ranged from an $85 phone case to a $1,295 backpack.
Alongside the collection, Moschino also released its first virtual clothes. These were the Freezer Bunnies from the capsule collection and with this collection, players can dress or style their avatars in Moschino clothes and designs.
The newest brand on the digital block is the Croatian label Tribute and this brand exclusively makes virtual dresses. Founded by Gala Marija Vrbanic and Filip Vajda, this fashion company is based in Zagreb, Croatia and has perfected the art of making ‘contactless cyber fashion’ wears. Its designs are inspired by Tekken and Grand Theft Auto video games and priced up from $29 to $699.
Gala Marija Vrbanic is the brand’s head of digital fashion and before Tribute was born, had worked alongside a traditional clothing brand. A shared love of sustainable design led them to take the concept to the extreme with Tribute, and this seems to be paying off not just in terms of profits but also because this digital brand is zero-waste as the clothes are made from pixels rather than textiles. Though it’s not real stock, Tribute only produces a certain amount of virtual styles, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Hanifa is a Congolese fashion label founded by Anifa Mvuemba. The brand broke the internet with its Pink Label Collection which featured photorealistic 3D models of the clothes walking (or floating down) the runway without human models. Think of clothes perfectly draped on models walking down the runway except there were no models, just perfectly draped dresses.
While the Pink Label Collection was not strictly virtual, the virtual runway event brought a lot of attention to the possibilities of virtual fashion especially as a response to the pandemic. The digital catwalk show was live streamed on 22 May via an IGTV video, igniting and outpouring of awe, wonder and excitement at all the possibilities ahead.
A dress is nothing without a good fit. While Dress-X is not strictly a fashion brand in itself, its contribution to virtual fashion has been immense. Dress-X is the first international digital fashion multi-brand retailer that carries digital fashion collections from the most well-known contemporary brands and 3D designers.
While other brands make 3D and virtual clothes, Dress-X helps people wear them online since people who purchase them usually lack the tools individually. So with DressX, when an individual buys the clothes from its e-commerce store the person can upload their picture and Dress-X helps them fit the clothes and make it readily available for use via email.
Being a trailblazer in any sphere of life is both a challenging and humbling feeling because when you’re a pioneer, you face an unknown. There are no clear cut benchmarks to surpass, no trail of where you should walk and no preconceived notions of what success should look like. But by taking the plunge and daring to deviate from the norm in the fashion industry, these pioneers of virtual fashion continue to add new changes to our traditional notion of fashion by figuring out a way for people to wear things that could never exist on our earth.
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Cover image by The Fabricant.