I’m subconsciously scrolling through Instagram when an image pops up out of the blur of “shoefies” (shoe selfies), inspirational quotes and sponsored posts. It’s a photo of a mermaid on a beach, perched on the sand against a backdrop of light blue ocean waves.

She is an embellished ivory fairytale vision, with dramatic bell sleeves and a tail. I sweep to the left and reality sets in. This is a digitally enhanced image – in the original, the woman wears a simple one-piece swimsuit: mundane and timeless.

With the pressures of looking perpetually perfect on Instagram, the mundane and time-honored things just won’t be enough. New, innovative, artistic and avant-garde are the necessary elements for an out of the ordinary fashion photo, and this enchanting image by the beach ticks all the boxes. The outfit, dubbed the Mythical Mermaid Dress, is the creation of Berlin-based virtual fashion designer Yifan Pu, and costs $ 129 to wear – digitally, that is – on the XR Couture virtual fashion platform.

Make fun of whatever you want, but in a market that is becoming more and more saturated by the day, digital fashion figures have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. They usually search, sometimes obsessively, for striking outfits and jaw-dropping backgrounds for their photos, in the never-ending quest to gain more likes and comments, elevate their Instagram status and outsmart it. algorithm of the platform with content that will appeal to all.

“Digital fashion gives them the ability to master their style by wearing outfits that don’t actually exist,” says Subham Jain, Founder and Creative Director of XR Couture.. “The growing culture of Instagram influencers and growing consumerism on social media has sparked a new way to create unique content. Digital fashion gives Generation Z the opportunity to redefine the way they express themselves, captivating their followers with absolutely spectacular outfits, while being eco-responsible.

If this is a trend, it certainly comes at the right time, both for its enduring appeal and the convenience of content creation. With athleisure and loungewear growing in popularity due to a more home-centric lifestyle brought on by the pandemic, many fashion enthusiasts now prefer simplicity to elaborate and exaggerated fashion. But for those looking to maintain an aesthetically intriguing social media presence, the basics can just be interpreted as boring.

Offering users ways to digitally don dramatic designs, specialized virtual fashion platforms, such as XR Couture, The Manufacturer and DressX, are gaining traction. XR Couture collaborates with a selection of multidisciplinary digital fashion designers specializing in the creation of 3D garments, which Jain says are “sewn together only in the digital realm”.

Customers can browse and purchase 3D models such as dresses, gowns, jackets, shirts, pants and even shoes, featuring futuristic, iridescent, galactic, metallic and other influences. “Our team of expert digital tailors ‘dresses’ their image and sends it [to their client]. Instead of waiting for the item in the mail, it arrives by email, ”Jain explains. And, to maintain that exclusivity advantage that also exists in actual fashion, the designs are only available in limited qualities – Jain says the resulting dress images have “long-term value.”

It’s a glorified way to photoshop fashion pieces unique to consumers, and it’s a trend. “In a world where there is a lot of the same content, this is a great way for influencers to make their content more different and more exciting,” says 3D digital artist Gigi Gorlova, who lives in Dubai, and believes that the main attraction of digital fashion is the fact that it is sustainable.

“Having to constantly buy clothes for new images is a waste. Using digital mode to produce fashion images is a great way to prevent faster fashion from ending up in landfills. “

When you indulge in digital fashion, you aren’t actually consuming, cleaning, storing or throwing away tangible clothing. “The current climate crisis requires us to rethink our relationship with fashion. Endless creations only pile up textile waste and lead to the massive generation of carbon footprints, ”Jain explains. “Digital fashion depletes nothing but imagination and data, eliminating the need for manufacturing and shipping, two of the most socially and environmentally damaging activities along the global supply chain of fashion.

Jain calls digital fashion “the rebirth that will clean up the fashion space”, and he’s not just referring to its ecological credentials. In a way, digital fashion also fights the elitism of the industry. “The inclusiveness and diversity of digital fashion makes it the democratization of the fashion industry, providing a huge opportunity to explore the creative freedom that is suitable for all genders, sizes and ages,” he explains. he.

Digitized fashion has already made an impact in the gaming sphere, where players can now purchase designer outfits for their virtual avatars. In March, Burberry launched its skins for the characters of the famous Chinese online battle game. Honor of kings. Louis Vuitton has collaborated with Legendary League, and Prada skins are available for avatars in Final Fantasy XIII. In May, a digital version of a Gucci Dionysus bag sold for over $ 4,000 – more than the retail value of an actual Dionysus – on the video game platform Roblox.

Earlier this year, Gucci also released a digital version of their sneakers for under $ 20 – far more affordable than their actual physical shoes. But while it may democratize fashion for digital connoisseurs, beyond Gen Z and Millennials, consumers of other ages may not see the appeal of clothes you can’t physically wear. in the real world.

Jain, however, sees potential for more demographics to embrace the virtual fashion movement. “When we started the business, it seemed overkill for many, including young people. Any new technology is first adopted by the digi-savvy and ultimately accepted by others, ”he explains.

Gorlova, who is one of the first female artists in the UAE to sell her 3D artwork as NFTs (non-fungible tokens), says: as physical items. Like all new technology, this is a new and unknown trend to explore. “

Increasingly popular in fashion, NFTs are markers that indicate the authenticity and ownership of digital files through blockchain encryptions. Gucci’s first NFT, a fashion film, was auctioned by Christie’s in June for $ 25,000. And while digital designs created for social media and games may target young consumers, luxury fashion house NFTs could attract an older, established clientele who are crypto-rich and covet rare and exclusive collectibles. .

Dolce and Gabbana, for example, recently entered the world of NFTs with its portable Collezione Genesi collection, available on the UNXD luxury digital marketplace. Her first NFT offering, a Dream Dress, is inspired by a vision of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, and its value will be appreciated by longtime fans of the legendary label.

While NFTs may not yet have a mass market appeal, digital fashion fundamentals provide groundbreaking support for future industry campaigns such as photoshoots, lookbooks, and catwalks. , which typically require fittings from in-person models, photographers and a seated audience. Such technology could be a game-changer for the marketing branches of fashion brands, likely sanctioning a mass overhaul and digitization of traditional branding activities.

Already, many fashion and beauty brands are implementing augmented reality technologies through high-tech experiences that help elevate the consumer journey, like Neiman Marcus’ MemoMi mirror, which allows shoppers to virtually try out. clothes and change the colors of the clothes. Color editing is also proving to be a popular technique for fashion bloggers, who practice using video and photo editing software to mimic the effect of different outfits.

On XR Couture, a set titled Jell-O Coords by Spanish 3D clothing designer Soledad Gallardo can be customized to any color preference. Deciding to try the digital fashion experience for myself, I select this outfit, eager to see what the different hues will look like and how real the result will appear. For a millennium, I have never been extremely tech-savvy. I don’t use calorie counting apps and keep track of my to-do lists and calendar dates in a traditional, tangible planner.

Luxe: the September issue

I am, however, an avid Instagram user and fashion enthusiast – the type of mainstream digital fashion the consumer caters to. I awkwardly pose for a photo and settle into a frame where I look sideways, my hair halfway up in the air. After receiving my images from XR Couture, digitally “dressed” from Jell-O Coords in various hues, I am impressed with how fluidly they are transferred to my body. While it looks designed and not entirely authentic, I realize that this is a line that has long been crossed, with social media filters that plump our skin, plump our lips, and change the color of our eyes.

If the predictions of digital fashion supporters turn out to be true, we might find ourselves buying clothes based on how well they stack up against the models, and the way we decorate our virtual selves might end up becoming more. relevant than the fashion that we’re really wearing you. But this millennial fashion writer is still uncertain about the purported benefits of this futuristic movement.

Despite all of its enduring selling points, it seems digital fashion for personal promotion still fuels the narcissistic and consumerist ideology of constantly sharing images of oneself adorned with new threads, whether traditional and tangible or tailored to the consumer. technology.

Update: September 25, 2021, 2:45 p.m.


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