VirtualFashion: The Industry’s Escape from Sustainability

Think back to a few years ago when you would work hours and hours on end trying to make your Bitmoji be exactly who you wanted them to be. Or when you were on Stardoll and had to scour your doll’s wardrobe for the best outfit.


Well, guess what? You’ll be able to do it all over again.


Within the last few months, major fashion houses have announced their newest collaborations with technology. Nike dropped NIKELAND on the gaming platform Roblox and the NFT (Non-Fungible Token) Birkin sold more than the actual bag. Interestingly, Dolce & Gabbana auctioned off an NFT collection for 6.1 million dollars. Now, Meta (Previously known as Facebook) announced that they are committing billions of dollars to the Metaverse.


Metaverse is the newest expansion of the internet. It plans to build a 3D social space that can hold work meetings, social gatherings, etc. Imagine in just a couple of years, you’ll be speaking to a 3D avatar of your coworker while wearing the newest Balenciaga virtual sneakers. At least that’s the plan, (they still don’t exactly know what they are doing).


Luxury fashion brands have already started creating virtual collections by collaborating with gaming platforms. This past September, Balenciaga debuted their new collection on the gaming platform Fortnite. A few months before, Gucci launched an immersive space on Roblox. 


This past spring, Gucci also started selling NFTs. A virtual-only sneaker. No, you won’t be able to get the physical thing. According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, NFTs are a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided, recorded in a blockchain, and used to certify authenticity and ownership. From my understanding, it’s a digital license that one can track who uses it.  

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels      Instagram: @o_pidvalnyi

Many have been quite excited about the innovation of virtual fashion, “I haven’t felt this excitement about fashion and technology ever.” Cathy Hackl, CEO of Consultancy Futures Intelligence Group, told GQ. Metaverse enthusiasts look to Gen Z, believing that they don’t see a difference between the physical and digital world, pushing their limits and unleashing their creativity in virtual reality instead of reality itself.


However, It’s not the first time fashion has tried going digital. It was only a few years ago when Bitmoji launched Bitmoji Fashion, where it collaborated with brands like H&M and Pacsun. It never became a crazed innovation. So why is it so impressive in 2021?


According to the BOF Insight report, 70 percent of consumers in the US (Gen X to Gen Z) rate their digital presence as important. I’m not going to deny I am a part of the 70 percent. However, I don’t want to live a virtual fantasy for the rest of my life. Like did we not watch that one Black Mirror episode?


But what makes virtual fashion so unique that it is being pushed upon us?


I suppose it’s a great marketing tactic since the gaming industry had a significant boom during the pandemic, along with Gen Z and their new NFT culture. But who are they marketing to exactly? Eight-year-olds? Twenty-one-year-olds? Last I checked, my last name isn’t West or Kardashian, and neither are the eight-year-olds I know. The majority of the target market they’re trying to reach most likely can’t afford it.


Some may argue that virtual fashion is the answer to sustainable fashion. That way, fashion houses won’t be producing as much product anymore. It feels like another case of all talk and no action. What about virtual fashion is going to lessen production? I still have to wake up in the morning and put pants on. 


We are real, breathing, walking, talking, human beings in real life. We still wear real clothing (Unless you don’t, no judgment here). It’s not possible to fully immerse ourselves into becoming just an online presence. 


Honestly, this seems like the fashion industry is trying to escape from sustainability. The industry knows it is number one when polluting the earth, but does the industry think this is a solution?


We’ll have to wait it out and see.