Picture this: You upload a picture to your Instagram rocking a bold top that leaves your comment section blowing up. But you don’t actually own this top. In fact, it doesn’t even exist. It was created digitally. This may just be future of fashion, and Instagram for that matter.
Many influencers would admit they only buy outfits so they can take cute photos in them for their feeds. And these days, even non-influencers get less use out of outfits as trends change like the wind. After all, why take up closet space when you can have a look superimposed onto your body instead?
With the ambitious goal of allowing content creators to make the most of their online presence while being environmentally friendly, digital outfits are starting to disrupt the fashion industry. With a growing awareness about the harms of fast fashion, buyers are considering the environmental value of digital alternatives.
“The textile waste generated in the fashion supply chain is difficult to calculate, as most companies don’t record the quantities of waste they generate for fear of being reprimanded for it,” said sustainability and fashion technology writer Brooke Roberts-Islam in an article for Eco-Age. With so much fabric scrapped, a digitalized wardrobe is the eco-friendly alternative to anything physical, especially for those who only plan to show the outfits on social media or be seen in physical outfits once.
Here’s how it works: Independent designers or brands partner with participating platforms like DressX, who have a team of online tailors that edit the outfits onto the photo. Then the edited photo is sent back, ready to post.
“AR clothing,” as Vogue calls it, “refers to the ability for three-dimensional digital clothing to automatically appear on a person as they move in real time.” According to Elle, Scandinavian denim retailer Carlings launched the first digital clothing collection in November of 2018 with the goal of raising awareness of the harmful effects of fast fashion. When purchases were made from the 19-piece Neo-Ex collection, Carlings relied on photo editing to custom-fit the piece to each buyer.
The price of digital outfits can vary widely, usually ranging between $25 and $250. Right now, the primary consumer base is luxury customers, who are intrigued by the concept and open to trying something new. Influencers are also joining in the trend, as they struggle to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive digital space where posting the same outfit twice is a no-no.
Digital influencer Eugenia Gechidjian says that even though she likes the trend, followers will not be seeing it on her Instagram feed. “Photoshopping the outfit is creating a false identity of who you are to others,” she said. “For example, I can’t afford Gucci or Louis Vuitton head to toe. Photoshopping those garments will make it seem like I do, basically catfishing your followers that look up to you.”
Gechidjian also said she believes the trend will not be effective. “I think that in a world where being an influencer is a job, the goal is to be truthfully yourself,” she said. “That way, you’re more relatable. Your followers become your friends and not your fans.”
If you want to try your own digital outfits, you’re not alone. Alexander Heria, a graphic design professor at the University of Miami, said finding out about the trend has made him “want to be all dandy in my own prêt-à-porte digital night-out-outfit!”
While the exact way each brand creates their outfits may be a trade secret, Heria said he thinks they are created using a combination of 3-D and Photoshop software.
Some areas of the industry still may not be ready for virtual fashion, especially as the relatively new soft ware is still being developed and perfected.
Gabriela Rodriguez, a senior at UM, majoring in industrial engineering, said that while the technology is impressive, she thinks the trend was born from the negative aspects of social media culture. “It’s all because of how social media is nowadays,” she said. “People just want to show off in pictures.”
While the idea of creating digital outfits isn’t embraced by all, it may be here to stay. And if you think you haven’t seen it on your feed, think again. Fashion designer Carolina Herrera made one of her runway looks available as a digital outfi t in September, and more brands are set to follow suit.
So before getting outfit envy the next time you’re scrolling, stop to ask yourself: Is my jealousy directed at a cute top or an intangible cluster of pixels?
words_paula santi jost. design_isa marquez.