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Does digital fashion mark the death of shopping as we know it?

Dress X is the newest and most sustainable way of shopping, so sustainable in fact, no material is used in the creation of their clothes, as they are purely digital. With clothes starting at about £19 and going up to £188, the cheapest item I found on their website was a $25 (approx £18.40) By_Soficor digital Cube Belt. For this price you can wear this belt – well, the you in a photo of your choice can wear this
belt – you will never wear this belt.

You will own the belt, but the belt is purely digital, you only own the pixels. Additionally, unlike changing your Stardoll avatar’s outfit you will not even be able to store this belt in an online closet to be worn in any photo of your choosing, you will only own it in the one photo you select for Dress X to superimpose it on.

Yes I know, bizarre. Who would purchase clothes like this, and why? Dress X showcases virtual garments from a range of contemporary brands and 3D designers, describing itself as offering ‘clothing made for content.’ Clothes on the website are 3D designed, so in theory have the ability to be produced physically.

The premise behind Dress X lies in the rise of ‘purchase, Instagram, return’ culture, a culture fuelled by fashion for the sole purpose of online content creation. Creators of Dress X, Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova, were inspired when they experienced this in their 2014 ‘More Dash’ pop-up shops.

These were content creation studios with stock from paid $10 just to dress up, take pictures, and create videos. They found many returned to buy only after receiving online validation of their digital content wearing the item. This led Shapovalova to conclude: “If the images are digital, why do (we) need to buy fashion at all?”

With one in ten Brits admitting to buying clothes just to post photos on social platforms, according to one survey by Barclaycard, clothing in this digital age no longer functions just to clothe the body anymore. In fact, Francesca Muston, vice president of fashion at the trend forecasting firm WGSN, argues, the fashion industry is actually late to the party, as Fortnite fans have been spending millions on skins for their gaming avatars since 2017.

Sustainability is of course a chief selling point for this kind of fashion. Forty million items generated by the fashion industry end up in landfill each year, therefore it makes sense for people who want clothes just to post onto social media to just buy digital. In that way, no clothes, at
least for this purpose, end up in landfill. Shapovalova herself has
stated of the company, “We share the beauty and excitement that physical fashion creates, but we believe that there are ways to produce less, to produce more sustainably, and not to produce at all.”

Digital fashion has definitely been bolstered by the pandemic’s need to switch everything online. Dress X launched in July 2020 and in its first four months had more than 200 clients. The pandemic has also seeped into the designs available; the newest piece from a project with digital fashion house Fabricant and designer Buffalo London is a limited-edition flame sneaker, inspired by “self-expression through fashion, despite the physical limitations of pandemic-enforced lockdowns.”

Dress X is weird, and I’m definitely not in a rush to spend $25 for a digital cube belt edited onto a picture of me from Summer 2019 (the last time I was anywhere exciting!).

All things considered, it does fill a gap in the market: fulfilling the neophilia of the modern consumer whilst also tackling the climate impact of fashion.

Image: cottonbro via pexels