Arts and Entertainment

Sorry, Digital Clothing isn’t the Next Fashion Revolution

Though the idea of digital clothing is appealing, its high cost and limited use prevent it from being more than just a fad.

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By Justine Kang

With the recent craze over NFTs and virtual art in general, it should come as no surprise that many have turned to fashion as the next digital frontier. Many companies have made online collections designed to be photoshopped onto the customer, creating a cheap, wasteless alternative to luxury clothing. Headlines have dubbed digital clothing the future of fashion, but is it anything more than another short-lived fad?

In 2018, Scandinavian retailer Carlings pioneered the concept of digital fashion by launching its first online collection: a 19-piece futuristic series selling for just $20 each. The company posted 3D models of each item, and customers would send in a picture of themselves for the clothing to be photoshopped onto. Since then, several other companies such as DressX and Tribute have adopted the same idea, selling photoshoppable clothes for customers to publish on social media. Recently, these companies have entered the limelight, sparking a debate over the practicality of digital clothing.

Many of these companies claim that their mission is to make high fashion affordable. By making avant-garde, ultramodern pieces available for prices ranging from $30-$100, DressX aims to bring runway looks to the average customer. The clothing itself is cool—who wouldn’t want a dress with holographic spikes poking out of it from all angles? The issue is whether it’s still worth these prices for something you’ll never actually wear. Sure, digital art and even video game skins have a similar concept in that you don’t receive a physical item for your purchase, but your intent for buying these items isn’t functionality. With digital fashion, you’re essentially paying $50 for a cool Instagram post.

Companies like DressX have also launched specific digital collections with prices reaching $1,000, defeating the entire purpose of democratizing high fashion. When the entire basis of your brand is making these eccentric runway pieces accessible to the majority, it seems incredibly ironic to launch a line able to be purchased by only people who have nothing else to do with their money. In fact, many companies don’t even bother with affordability or accessibility—Tribute’s entire brand revolves around selling a limited number of pieces for hundreds of dollars. Let’s be honest: digital fashion’s main demographic is becoming the fashion elite because who else would bother spending money on clothes you can’t even wear?

To make matters worse, the photoshop quality often doesn’t match the pricetag, with countless customers complaining about the lighting and proportions. After looking at many of these photos, it’s obvious that they are photoshopped, and if your goal is to post them on social media, you’ll have to accept the fact that your followers will be able to easily tell that your outfit is fake. Obviously, editing photos isn’t easy, especially when editing already unrealistic looking clothing onto people in varying poses, but when you’re paying hundreds of dollars for digital clothing from more expensive companies like Tribute, it should be done near flawlessly.

Another basis that these brands’ market themselves on is eco-friendliness. If you’re not actually making any physical clothes, then there’s no harm to the environment, right? Many environmentalists have labeled digital clothing the “solution to fast fashion,” and DressX even has a tab on its website preaching sustainability. Though this may help prevent people from buying an outfit just to wear it once for a post on social media, the fact remains that people need physical clothes for their daily lives. When you’ve already narrowed down your demographic to people who have excess money to spend on whimsical clothing, you’re really not doing anything to solve fast fashion––most of the people buying from more affordable brands like Shein are doing so out of necessity.

Digital fashion’s limited customer base and non-functionality mean that it’s most likely not going to be the next fashion revolution. Though it’s a fun medium for artistic expression and can help spice up your Instagram feed, the real world still requires real clothing. The solution to fast fashion must be tangible, and some photoshoppable neon-ribboned clothes aren’t going to cut it.