The Digital Runway: When Fashion Meets The Future

With the explosion in virtual worlds of gaming and social media, digital avatars are fashion’s next big disruptor. How can the industry ride the wave, find fresh engagement opportunities, and unlock new revenue streams?

By Red Bangle

06 min read

Jan 31, 2024

“In the near future, digital fashion will be a vital category for every brands’ business model, including luxury brands, and it will be the most sustainable category of all.”

-Natalia Modenova, -Founder of DressX

Launched in 2020, DressX was born with a unique and daring vision: to create ‘digital fashion’ for the virtual world. It’s the first “meta-fashion” company in the world, with a massive presence on Meta’s avatar-fashion marketplace, rubbing shoulders with heritage brands like Prada and Balenciaga. Their ambition is not to replace your physical wardrobe. Instead, they’re flipping the script for influencers and YouTubers who need daily style changes, offering them virtual, rather than physical, clothes.

In fact, recently in September 2023, DressX and Italian lifestyle and fashion brand Diesel collaborated to bring jeans to the metaverse. Mirroring physical Diesel products, rendered in digital form, so fans can dress their avatars in virtual versions of Diesel’s denim jackets, jeans and sneakers, and showcase them on Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and Quest VR.

In the digital era, the fusion of fashion and futurism is transforming fashion in unprecedented ways. Far from mere representations, these digital personas are influencing real-world fashion choices, challenging traditional online retail models.

Say hello to virtual influencers

A ‘virtual influencer’ can be defined as a computer-generated, fictional individual which is most often used for marketing purposes, especially social media-based strategies. They can range from independently created avatars to official brand personalities, representing a company in various aspects of the digital world.Brands are diving into the virtual influencer trend, with Marks & Spencer introducing ‘Mira’ and LVMH unveiling ‘Livi.’ These digital ambassadors reflect a strategic move by brands to engage with a younger, tech-focused audience, enabling brands to rack up huge amounts of digital impressions without having to stack up investments.

Pixel meets real: Blurring lines

In an era where exclusive digital releases command significant value, brands are creating a bridge between the metaverse and the tangible world. Consider the collaboration between luxury fashion giant Gucci and Roblox, a popular virtual platform. Gucci recently launched a digital space within Roblox, allowing users to dress their avatars in exclusive Gucci digital items. Experience this trippy world with your own eyes here: Gucci Town on Roblox. Gucci Town goes beyond a mere marketing stunt – it’s a strategic move to tap into the metaverse’s burgeoning fashion culture.

Virtual try-ons: Try before you buy

Google is revolutionizing the online shopping experience with its groundbreaking Virtual Try-On feature. The Virtual Try-On for apparel utilizes generative AI, programmed to work with real models in various sizes, skin tones, body shapes, ethnicities, and hair types. This enables users to see how clothing drapes, folds, and fits before making a purchase. Watch the video below to know how it works! Meanwhile in Europe, Amazon Fashion introduced Virtual Try-On for Shoes, an interactive mobile experience that allows customers to visualize how a pair of shoes will look on themselves from every angle, from the comfort of their home or on the go. Here’s a look at how it’s helping consumers make more informed decisions!

NFTs and collectibles: Just own it

Global brands such as Nike have experimented with limited-edition digital sneaker drops, paving the way for a new market where virtual exclusivity carries tangible value. Nike’s online platform for virtual creations, called .SWOOSH, is a great case in point, comprising 330,000 loyal, hardcore sneakerheads.

In May 2023, Nike dropped its first digital-creation collection: Our Force 1 (OF1). Co-curated by the .SWOOSH community and built for the digital generation, OF1 is a tribute to the first 50 years of Nike.

Nike’s digital Air Force Ones are essentially NFTs, i.e. a digital thing someone can own. Packed in a virtual Nike sneaker box, each ‘box’ includes a 3D file, allowing owners to potentially export the digital sneaker to various platforms, like games, for extra flair and fun.

AI helps you shop smarter

Does this color look good on me? Well, AI can help you decide. Retailers are leveraging AI-powered virtual styling tools, like Styleriser. Snap a pic, upload it to the online store, and let the virtual stylist do its magic—suggesting colors that complement your skin tone. According to CEO Mark Hunsmann, this boosts shopping confidence, spiking purchasing readiness by a whopping 80%. Bonus: Fewer returns mean a win for sustainability in the industry. (Go ahead, try the Styleriser demo here!)

Marketing campaigns with AI-celebrities

In 2023, Lenskart launched an eyewear collection inspired by K-Pop vibes, riding the global wave of South Korean pop music craze. And its campaign stars featured  Astro IRIS, a K-Pop band featuring Jiang, Dawn, Valentine, and Lyla, rocking trendy acetate glasses with bold color-blocked rims from the brand. Now, here’s the twist—it’s not your typical band. Astro IRIS is a virtual creation, brought to life entirely by Artificial Intelligence.

Ethical dilemma: new beauty standards?

As virtual influencers rise to prominence in the metaverse, a critical ethical debate emerges. Are these perfectly crafted avatars influencing our beauty standards in harmful ways? Consider Lil Miquela, a virtual influencer with millions of followers on Instagram. Her seemingly flawless appearance has sparked conversations about the impact of virtual beauty ideals on our perceptions of self-worth.

As we navigate the emerging virtual spaces, its impact on online fashion is clear. But more than transactions, this is a transformative force. Brands must not only adapt but embrace the opportunities and challenges. The runway of the future is digital. At this crossroads, fashion is innovating – blurring physical and virtual, tangible and intangible. Choices today will shape fashion and redefine self-expression in the digital age. 

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