Dutch startupThe Fabricant, a digital fashion house, recently unveiled the world’s first digitalblockchain dress titled “Iridescence.” On May 11th, the one-of-a-kind digital outfit fetched 9,500 USD. The piece will exist exclusively online and was created in cooperation with Dapper Labs,andJohanna Jaskowska (the artist behind the beauty3000 Instagram filter boasting over 500 million uses). The Fabricant’s celebratorial Instagram post reads, "...We actually sold one of our items that has never been physical. Someone owns it now, and will be able to wear it if they choose to”.
Digital couture is a developing sector in global fashion that focuses purely on garments made using three-dimensional fashion design and animation. According toForbes, The Fabricant constructs “digital clothing by employing 2D garment pattern-cutting software and 3D design software.” Additionally, film rendering tools create the “hyper-real clothing.” Basically, it’s a one size Instagram filter of a dress worn digitally by whoever chooses to buy the ‘hyper-real’ design.
Through that lens, people around the world have already been ‘wearing’ digital fashion through augmented reality filters from companies like Snapchat and Instagram, to communicate with their fans or friends. Simple camera filters to adjust the contrast or brightness made way for global sensations like the dog tongues, gender-benders, and you bet I have used the new Billie EilishWhen We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It’s humorous, social, and personalized. Though in their infancy, filters have introduced a new, valuable, self expression.
Additionally because of Iridescence’s marriage to blockchain, the founder of Dapper Labs, Roham Gharegozlou, claims its authenticity is guaranteed because “blockchain assets can’t be counterfeited, [...] the core tech securing them has never been compromised”, and it's open to any developer who wants to build an application.
Free For All
To me the open possibilities are the most seductive aspects of this project. Just imagine, there’s a high school freshman somewhere, right now, learning how to create his first Instagram filter from YouTube, and a millennial working out how she could transform her family patterns into an AR filter for TikTok. Iridescence spells an unprecedented opportunity to work collaboratively, no matter one’s status or location, with resources across the world, safely without having to trust a single entity. This could very well bring on a supercharged revival of the spirit of decentralization in fashion reminiscent of Punk Fashion born of the subculture of the 70’s and 80’s, focusing on unique, one-of-a-kind, individual expression. Collectively I believe the world of digital couture can open up endless creative possibilities in aesthetics, art and design and bring focus to unlikely creators around the world with extraordinary results.
The Fabricant makes lofty claims that digital fashion will have widespread pro-sustainability effects on the environment, stating on instagram "when clothing is always digital, never physical, pollution and waste reduction are non-topics. In this new world there's no such thing as factories, supply chains and sample sizes. There are no delivery trucks to wait for, no clothes to launder and no closets to de-clutter. . . It's sustainable by its very nature".
There are certainly some deserving criticisms made about the unsustainable practices of harvesting natural materials for couture sake. While I have witnessed the astounding landfill-bound aftermath of off-cut materials in design schools and fashion studios, I am not totally convinced virtual products should ever replace the tactile experience. Perhaps it can cut down on the detrimental effect of mainstream fashion’s freight train of 52 micro-seasons, powered by fast fashion retailers like H&M, Forever21 and Zara. With this technology, there is certainly an implication we may see a reduction in garments purchased just for the ‘gram. But what does it mean for digital couture to be integrated into pop culture?
I think it’s worth noting, while our technological developments may have skyrocketed, our genes and our abilities to make meaningful social exchanges have not. The magic of touch, human eye contact, and every physical sense we have evolved to navigate the world still requires attention. I am super stoked on the prospects of digital fashion to birth the design dreams of a remote artist on a celebrity platform, new media or break the boundaries of physics in the virtual realm, however I think some food for thought would be ultimately, what is being sold places a premium on how we look online, divorced from our physical existence. With the growing correlation of “image-focused” platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram being impactful perpetrators of negative mental health and well-being by sources such as the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, (Albeit some upsides including emotional support and self-expression were noted by participants), overall it is strong evidence that even with the knowledge that the majority of social media images are altered, users continue to compare themselves to edited portrayals of beauty. I feel there may be inevitable consequences when we start to identify more with our digital representation, especially when it comes to physical attributes.