It is 6 days before Christmas, and all through the house, everyone is baking, sipping eggnog, or doing some last-minute online Christmas shopping, except for yours truly. On this Saturday afternoon, I find myself stressing over my next Gustav article. What to write? Is anyone except the editor even reading these pages on which I spend hours each month?

In any case, for this month’s issue, I think I will abandon the traditional Christmas-themed article (for example, my previous year’s article, „The History of the Snowman“) and concentrate on something a bit more interesting, at least to me: the fashion industry.

Fashion has long been evolving, but now it is undergoing a metamorphosis. Like society, the fashion industry is digitizing. And not without reason. As one fashion blogger recently noted,

the fasion industry “is one of the most resource-intensive and highly-polluting sectors there is. Something needs to be done.” That something, it seems, is digital fashion.

For those of you who have not yet heard of digital fashion brands like Tribute, Republiqe or Nike’s virtual sneaker maker RTFKT, let me explain. Many fashion brands have begun creating virtual outfits and accessories that can be worn by your avatar in the metaverse, or by yourself in a photo, or simply digitally tried on. Now, imagine being able to change your outfit in a photo, and have it fit you perfectly. It may sound unrealistic, like something from a science fiction novel we study at Gympl, yet, during the COVID-19 pandemic of the last two years, this phenomenon has become a reality.

An increasing number of agencies and brands now specialize in these fully digital clothing creations using 3D software. Fashion giants like Gucci, Chanel, and Versace can create digital clothing for influencers and/or their avatars. The GCDS brand even created its own all-digital fashion show, with prestigious guests including Dua Lipa and Chiara Ferragni presented as avatars, wearing the house’s digital designs. Other more-savvy brands have based their entire creation on digital fashion, successfully pushing the boundaries of culture. This is the case with brands like Republiqe, (which describes itself as the first label based solely on digital fashion) or Tribute (a Croatian company that makes “contactless cyber fashion”). E-commerce websites are also making it easier than ever for shoppers to purchase items without ever having to see or touch them in person. Instead of ordering an outfit on-line that may not fit, and having to return it, you can download the outfit and let your avatar try it on for you.

Of course, all of this is possible because social media has primed us for dressing for a digital audience rather than a physical one. When you think about it, people have been applying filters on their Snapchat or Instagram for years, so the need to control our image has become a part of our mainstream culture. Digital fashion is simply an (un)natural extension of this. This trend might feel futuristic, but as one fashion executive noted, when you “stop and take a look around, you realize it’s already here.”

Digital fashion may have originated as a response to the pollution the textile industry creates, but I struggle to see how digital fashion will help us as human beings. I am worried it will only encourage people to spend more time and money on social media instead of interacting face to face with others. Also, the value of good quality clothing might go down, as people might no longer appreciate the craftsmanship and seam precision that designers can offer. Instead, they will spend hundreds of dollars on something only accessible in the virtual world. And they will not be alone. In fact, virtual fashion is predicted to be a $3.5 billion industry in 2022. As this figure suggests, it probably won’t be long before we are downloading more Christmas presents than we are opening.

Halina Bellova