Digital fashion and the metaverse

Virtual shopping malls are popping up all over the metaverse as demand for digital fashion grows

A digital world with the view of an avatar with red hair and a beard outside a modern-looking building with banner that reads Metaverse Fashion Week
A virtual view of Metaverse Fashion Week 2022
(Image credit: Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

The future of fashion could be digital as more and more fashion brands set up shop in the metaverse, providing netizens with unique clothing options for their online avatars.

High-end brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana have all invested millions of dollars into “metaverse store fronts” and “digital fashion NFTs,” said Kiplinger, while more affordable brands such as Gap, Aeropostale and Forever 21 have created digital wardrobes for gaming platforms.

Although these intangible garments may seem like a niche investment, there is a growing demand for digital clothing, said The Future of Marketing Institute. Its global survey found that “47% of consumers are ‘interested in digital clothes, with 87% having already purchased some form of digital fashion”.

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With digital identity gaining importance among younger generations, will interest in pixelated garments continue to rise, or is it just another internet fad?

What is digital fashion?

According to Kiplinger, digital fashion “is virtual 3D clothing designed with both humans and digital avatars in mind,” as most brands make replicas of their digital pieces for physical use as well. These virtual shirts, trousers, dresses, etc. are made “with special 3D computer programs like Blender and CLO3D”.

Making clothing out of pixels instead of fabric makes these garments more ecologically sustainable, said Zerrin.

Currently, there are two types of digital fashion, said Refinery29. There are “digital wearables, which are clothes that an avatar…can sport inside a game or a metaverse”. Or there’s fashion NFTs, which are generally more expensive and “are limited collectables”.

Some of these garments can be found in virtual museums or mall-like stores without an avatar. Tobi Ajala, the founder and CEO of TechTee, “a digital agency specialising in luxury and fashion,” told Elle that the experience is like “walking through a museum or window shopping”.

With an avatar, she says, you can “customise and dress to experience the brand in an entirely new way”.

Consumers of digital fashion, along with the brands themselves, appreciate that the metaverse “comes with zero creative constraints or production limitations”, according to Kiplinger. Online users can choose to be whoever they want in the metaverse and digital fashion allows them to “showcase their digital style”.

How much does it cost?

Like physical fashion, digital fashion can cost a little or a lot.

On the lower end of the spectrum, on digital fashion stores such as DressX, “T-shirts can go for $14 and pants for $20”, while on rival store Replicant, “the same items can go for as low as $6”, said Refinery29.

On top of that, some designer brands are offering replicas of their physical pieces in the metaverse, sometimes with significant discounts in order to attract loyal customers, according to the Financial Times.

The NFT sector of the digital world is not as forgiving. “Dolce and Gabbana sold their nine-piece NFT collection for $5.7m that included both physical and digital items,” said

Tiffany & Co created a line of “NFTiffs”, pendants that were sold for $50,000 each, reported the Financial Times. Those who purchased a “Tiff” also received a physical pendant of a “corresponding pixelated CryptoPunk character”.

In general, “by 2030, Morgan Stanley estimates that the digital fashion market alone could be worth $50 billion,” said Kiplinger.

This may be due to its growing fan base among newer generations, due to the digital universe’s ability to “create more equitable spaces and experiences for plus-size shoppers, those living with disabilities, and the LGBTQI+ community,” according to Vogue Business.

This uptick in metaverse consumers and the fast-growing digital world means that the metaverse “economy could hit $8tn in 20 years,” according to estimates from Goldman Sachs, said the Financial Times.

What does the future look like?

The rapid growth of the metaverse does come with its own set of problems. For example, regulations around intellectual property haven’t been addressed to accommodate the virtual world yet.

“Many have concerns about…compliance issues on these new platforms and worry about tarnishing their carefully preserved images,” said the Financial Times, as “Web3”, another name for the metaverse, is not regulated.

Nevertheless, the digital fashion world is growing very quickly. With the recent addition of “virtual try-ons” and “metaverse fashion shows,” in the span of just a few years, “there’s no telling what will come next”, said Elle. Regardless though, innovation in the sector will “only make the industry stronger, especially as brands get creative with how they present their digital pieces”.

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