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Can virtual fashion take the industry a step closer to becoming sustainable? Fashion has become a serious problem; it consumes fresh water, already scarce in some parts of the world, it is responsible for around 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and now it has become a top-three producer of waste and pollution in the world.
It is not easy to deal with pollution and cut down on water waste while continuing to satisfy consumers’ growing appetite for fashion. Some experts insist that the only answer is degrowth and reduced consumption.
But I wonder, what makes them think that the future generations won’t have the same desire to wear the latest ‘looks’? To stand out, to be acknowledged and accepted by others by showcasing who they think they are?
Social Media – A Double-Edged Sword
Want a simple answer? Check out your Instagram. The younger generation consumes fast fashion more than ever. Sometimes, the garments they buy are worn just once, ‘for a selfie post’ before being discarded and never worn again.
And it is about to get worse. Just like a double-edged sword, on one side, social media creates growing awareness towards the problems caused by the fashion industry.
On the other side, it is the perfect ‘ground’ for delivering the latest fashion trends. The modern ‘Vogue’ for the newest designs and styles from all over the world. emotionally charged with emojis, timed delays, and peer pressure, making its users consume at a pace faster than ever.
And there’s data to back it up. According to a recent study conducted by McKinsey and Company, the global fashion sales grew by nearly 5 per cent to $1.7 trillion last year.
That is, in part, attributed to social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram and the game-changer ability to purchase fashion through them.
With the understanding that fashion consumption will never end but only get bigger and faster, the only remaining choice is to consume sustainable fashion. Consume what’s better for us and the planet.
That is why WTVOX has made its mission to promote and showcase some of the most innovative fashion labels in the world.
Fashion labels that have sustainability at heart. Labels looking for innovative ways of satisfying consumers’ insatiable demand for fashion, however, without damaging the environment.
Virtual Fashion By ‘Carlings’
See, for example, Carlings. A Scandinavian fashion label with a unique business model. The brand allows customers to purchase virtual clothes that are then ‘fitted’ onto the buyer’s photographs. In simple terms, Carlings launches new fashion styles, but only via digital designs’.
Carlings’ initial designs – priced somewhere between 10 euros and 30 euros – were a complete sell-out. The brand is working to release a second digital collection, in the spring of 2019.
According to a survey run by Barclaycard last summer on 2,000 British buyers of fashion, one in ten buys outfits to wear them only once. Often with the aim of sharing them on social media and improve their image.
Carlings’s unique idea, the creation of virtual fashion apparel, could grow into the perfect solution to everybody’s problem of ‘being seen wearing the same clothes too many times’.
Recent endeavours into the digital fashion realm by consecrated fashion labels are based on rigorous studies. It appears that the younger generation is much more interested in constructing and maintaining a digital persona when compared with their real-life counterpart.
To some experts, virtual fashion is emerging as a new phenomenon, potentially explained by the inevitable migration of one’s physicality into the digital world.
However, researchers in psychology shed light on the issue quite some time ago. Not under the name of virtual fashion or digital self but as the congruence of the selves.
Social media in general and Instagram, in particular, allows consumers to achieve a certain level of congruence between the actual and ideal selves.
It makes sense. And as the next generation of visually impacting technologies such as augmented reality seeps into more aspects of our lives, I won’t be surprised to see the virtual fashion garments of today become the fashion norm of tomorrow.
Within a decade, the miniaturisation of AR glasses to the size of today’s contact lenses will allow the merger of realities. The existing layer we now call ‘real world’, will be superimposed by another ‘virtual reality’.
And then, the virtual fashion garments will become indistinguishable from the physical ones. Yes, virtual fashion won’t solve the industry’s problem of waste, toxic emissions, and pollution.
And yet, virtual fashion could reduce the sourcing of exclusive materials and rare skins in fashion. It could end animal cruelty, child labour, and the use of toxic chemicals to produce textiles.
Moreover, as these are no physical garments, there won’t be any need to transport them worldwide and thus, no unnecessary CO2 emissions.
Beyond its novel construct, virtual fashion apparel has the power to change the world of fashion as we know it. For better or worse, only time will tell.