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Digital Fashion Week: How tech is leading the sustainable fashion revolution

September 9, 2022 in Community | 13 min. read
Digital Fashion Week NY 2021, hero image
Digital Fashion Week NY 2021, hero image

The fashion industry is infamous for its unsustainable business practices. With the planet in climate crisis, creators are mitigating the social and environmental destruction involved with traditional apparel manufacturing and taking fashion into the metaverse to show the industry how overdue it is for a digital transition.

Digital Fashion Week NY takes place from September 7–11, and the theme for 2022 is Into the Metaverse. The event will be held simultaneously with New York Fashion Week, where high-end designers will show their 2023 spring and summer collections. However, with immersive fashion experiences at the intersection of real and virtual, you can expect Digital Fashion Week’s showcases to be unlike anything else on Manhattan’s runways.

DRESSX, design by Ahmed Nabiyev
DRESSX, design by Ahmed Nabiyev

What is digital fashion?

Digital fashion refers to intangible assets that exist in virtual settings. These fashion items are designed using real-time 3D (RT3D) and are accessible through augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).

Since the height of the pandemic, the consumer market for apparel has re-evaluated the design, sale, and distribution of apparel with sustainability and efficiency in mind. The opportunity to digitize the fashion industry is profound, and the benefits of doing so include cost savings, supply chain optimization, and the reduction of social and environmental harm.

The future of fashion is expanding beyond the physical world as the metaverse gains traction; the industry is embracing the digital, from NFTs and blockchain to video game collaborations and virtual try-ons. This adoption of VR, AR, and other technologies is important for brands that want to secure a presence in the metaverse, as well as those looking to reduce their impact on the environment.

DRESSX, design by Placebo Digital Fashion House
DRESSX, design by Placebo Digital Fashion House

Why is digital fashion sustainable?

Digital fashion is just that – digital. It does not exist in real life and, therefore, has a completely different product lifecycle and environmental footprint. This means that the need for physical processes and materials is eliminated, along with a multitude of negative effects associated with apparel manufacturing. 

Digital fashion's inherently sustainable nature becomes apparent when contrasted with the existing problems in traditional fashion design and manufacturing. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. It contributes to water scarcity through its annual consumption of 93 billion cubic meters of water. Social and environmental costs throughout a garment's lifecycle contribute to resource degradation, economic inequalities, and climate change. And, the worldwide proliferation of fast fashion has further worsened the fashion industry's environmental impact due to the mass production and underutilization of apparel to fulfill the demand for micro-trend garments. 

Micro-trend garments are fast fashion items designed to be worn for the duration of their respective seasons. This may not sound so bad if you only count four seasons in a year, but in fast fashion, there are 52 seasons a year – each week is a new season calling for new clothing to be released. With the constant push of new trends from fast fashion retailers, clothing is significantly underutilized, with 80% of garments being worn only once and discarded shortly after. This is unsustainability at its peak.

DRESSX store in Decentraland
DRESSX store in Decentraland

Into the metaverse – but make it fashion

Digital fashion represents a huge opportunity to mitigate the social and environmental destruction caused by the fashion industry, so let’s see how some Unity partners are challenging the fashion industry to become more sustainable.

DRESSX

DRESSX founders Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova
DRESSX founders Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova

DRESSX, a Unity-powered platform, is the largest digital fashion retailer leveraging technology to completely alter the product lifecycle. DRESSX is committed to using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a guideline for its business practices, and contributes 1% of its revenue to the No More Plastic Foundation. A digital garment from DRESSX emits 97% less carbon dioxide than a physical garment, with a water savings of 3,300 liters per item. By designing digitally, DRESSX avoids the use of harmful chemicals, eliminates waste, and minimizes the fashion industry’s carbon footprint.

How do I wear a digital garment? Glad you asked.

DRESSX uses AR technology to virtually dress its customers, allowing them to display their outfits from their “Metacloset” on social media, video calls, dating apps, live streams, games, virtual worlds, avatars, and anywhere else the metaverse takes them, including Meta’s Avatar Store. DRESSX’s motto is “Don’t shop less, shop digital fashion,” and for trend-chasers and social media influencers alike, DRESSX proves that you don’t have to sacrifice your sense of style to be sustainable.

VNTANA

VNTANA, Digital Fashion Week 2021
VNTANA, Digital Fashion Week 2021

VNTANA is a first-of-its-kind platform that makes 3D technology widely accessible to clients across a wealth of different contexts. Through its patented optimization algorithms, VNTANA automatically reduces 3D file sizes by up to 99%, instantly converts existing 3D designs into the file types and sizes needed for various use cases, and delivers those optimized files through the industry’s fastest-loading, highest-quality 3D web viewer. Built with a headless architecture and designed for infinite scale, VNTANA technology can be embedded into any platform to quickly upgrade existing tools (including PLM, DAMs, and marketplaces) with 3D capabilities at a fraction of the cost and time. VNTANA’s technology is bolstered by a team of technicians with the highest level of 3D and AR expertise in the industry.

VNTANA is trusted by leading apparel companies like VF Corp, which is leveraging the VNTANA platform and Browzwear plug-in to optimize thousands of existing 3D design files for use in the metaverse. They also offer a Unity plug-in that allows users to pull optimized RT3D files directly into the Unity Editor.

How can RT3D enable sustainable shopping?

VNTANA AR x Stuad
VNTANA AR x Stuad

The convenience of online shopping is one that many appreciate and perhaps even prefer over in-store shopping. However, online purchase return processes have big implications for the environment. Approximately 30% of all online purchases end up being returned, and in the U.S., return shipping results in over 15 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year. By enabling 3D and AR shopping through experiences such as virtual try-ons, VNTANA can help brands and retailers eliminate the need for physical samples and reduce product return rates while still providing an enjoyable shopping experience for consumers.

Lablaco

Circular Fashion Summit 2021 by Lablaco; fashion design by DRESSX
Circular Fashion Summit 2021 by Lablaco; fashion design by DRESSX

Lablaco is another platform that has partnered with Unity to develop the leading Web3 circular fashion ecosystem through its annual Circular Fashion Summit and SPIN. The Circular Fashion Summit is a Global Collective Action Summit that brings together changemakers in design, technology, and sustainability. The Summit operates in support of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to accelerate the adoption of circular fashion. SPIN, Lablaco’s blockchain-powered engine, is a “phygital NFT metaverse” that serves as a plug-and-play circular retail solution curated for luxury fashion, art, and culture.

What is phygital fashion and how is it sustainable?

Phygital fashion describes the combination of physical and digital experiences with fashion. Lablaco refers to itself as a physical-first company, meaning that by addressing physical products first, it can help brands and retailers digitize and connect their products and provide full supply chain traceability from the consumer use phase to the item’s end-of-life. This is made possible by applying unique QR codes called radio frequency identification (RFIDs) printed from the industry’s first-ever NFT label printer – a joint initiative between Lablaco and H&M Berlin – to individual garments, resulting in the first blockchain-based rental system. The process allows Lablaco to convert physical products into phygital NFTs, which can be accessed in the physical and digital worlds via AR try-ons and VR experiences on avatars, thereby enabling a circular fashion ecosystem.

Circular Fashion Summit 2021 by Lablaco
Circular Fashion Summit 2021 by Lablaco

Where can I see digital fashion in action?

As the popularity of digital fashion continues to rise, you can expect digital fashion weeks to become higher-profile events. And with metaverse exhibitions, VR and AR try-ons, NFT fashion drops, and phygital runway shows, our Unity partners at Digital Fashion Week 2022 are well-styled to take you on an unforgettable – and fashionable – journey through the metaverse.

New York City

Digital Fashion Week NY (DFWNY) will have in-person and virtual events occurring from September 7–11. Experiences include live digital fashion animation screenings, a Metaverse Fashion Tech Expo, an IRL x URL runway, and a metaverse afterparty.

Dress for the occasion with a unique, curated collection from DRESSX, and join a fashion show at Skylight Modern in the heart of Chelsea, where DRESSX has partnered with DFWNY to create an opportunity for you to try on a selection of styles hand-picked for the art and fashion worlds.

Think you might be interested in digital fashion design? VNTANA is a generous supporter of Digital Fashion Week NY and will be providing designers with free access to its 3D infrastructure platform, allowing them to optimize their 3D designs for viewing online and in AR.

Milan and Hong Kong

This month, Lablaco will have two physical activations where they’ll be showcasing phygital NFTs via meta-retail and providing AR and VR experiences powered by SPIN and Unity. These activations will take place at Milan’s Fondazione Sozzani Corso Como 10 location and in Hong Kong’s K11 Art Mall.

Paris

Lablaco’s second annual Circular Fashion Summit will take place inside the SPIN metaverse at the digital twin of Paris’ Grand Palais Éphémère from December 8–11, 2022. Though the first summit in 2019 was held as a physical event in Paris, Lablaco moved into the metaverse in 2020, marking its ongoing partnership with Unity by hosting the first VR fashion industry event of its kind.

Curious to hear other ways tech is leading sustainability efforts? Read about sustainability at Unity and discover the work we’re doing to reduce our impact and support environment-focused creators. If you’re a sustainable creator, sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on funding, partnership opportunities, and more.

September 9, 2022 in Community | 13 min. read
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