Would you purchase a digital dress? That is the question that Roksanda, in collaboration with Clearpay, asked during London Fashion Week, with their launch of a series of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) of one of their exclusive designs.
The dress, seen in real life during the finale of Roksanda’s Autumn Winter 22 catwalk show is also able to be purchased via Roksanda’s website as a 3D render for £25, or the NFT for £5000. The creation of the NFTs marks Roksanda’s entry into the metaverse, and is capitalising on a rapidly growing market.
Sales of NFTs, according to a study by Business of Fashion Insights, were $10.7 billion in Q3 2021, more than 8 times the sales of the previous quarter, showing that the appetite for purchasing and owning digital assets is rapidly growing. Driven by a younger audience, their research showed that 72% of US consumers have accessed a virtual world in the last 12 months, with 50% of consumers expressing an interest in purchasing a digital asset.
Following the dress’s unveiling, a discussion headed up by Imran Amed, CEO of the Business of Fashion, examined how digital fashion and the metaverse would shape the future of the industry.
Likening the birth of the metaverse to the arrival of the internet, reference was made by several panellists to the fact that fashion was slow to grasp the opportunities offered by ecommerce, clearly something they are anxious to avoid this time around.
Why would someone be interested in purchasing a digital dress? Applications exist within social media, for example being able to post a photo that shows you “wearing” an item of clothing through the use of filters and AR (augmented reality).
However, digital fashion has the most obvious application in the gaming world, where players look to express themselves and their personalities through purchasing digital outfits that their avatars can wear.
It isn’t often that gaming platforms like Fortnite and Roblox are mentioned during a panel discussion on the future of fashion, but in fact these platforms are the perfect example of where digital fashion can thrive.
They also typically have a younger consumer base – digital natives who are growing up finding it entirely normal to spend real money to purchase items that only exist in the digital realm.
This intersection of fashion and gaming is nothing new. In 2019, Louis Vuitton collaborated with Riot Games’ League of Legends. Gucci created a virtual space in Roblox in 2021. Last year, the British Fashion Council presented a fashion award for metaverse design in a virtual award ceremony on Roblox that had over 1.2 million interactions.
A growing market
Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, speaking at the event had a clear message for fashion brands everywhere who are contemplating how to apply digital fashion to their current offering: “don’t sit back and think this isn’t for me”.
Rush envisaged that in the future, 10-15% of our wardrobes could become digital. With a $1.5 trillion global apparel market according to Statista, the outlook for digital fashion could be very bright indeed should that prediction come true.
While it may be hard to conceive of 10-15% of our wardrobes becoming digital items for use in the metaverse, there are several compelling reasons behind the growing interest in digital fashion.
Firstly, with a growing understanding of the devastating impact of the overproduction in the fashion industry, purchasing digital styles could help reduce waste and over consumption.
Leanne Elliott Young, CEO of the Institute of Digital Fashion also highlighted the possibilities of using digital fashion as a way of designers getting early sales reactions to new collections, before even creating the physical product.
With many brands still struggling with production and supply chain issues due to the pandemic, digital fashion could also allow them to deliver more new ideas and exciting launches to their fan base much more quickly and easily than when relying on garment production.
The key to digital fashion, as with all new technology, is creating an integrated approach across all platforms, creating a uniform experience for the customer across both the digital and physical touchpoints. Or, as Elliott Young put it “the URL and the IRL must work together in unison.”