Could the Future of Fashion Be Virtual??


Fashion and technology have a long interwoven relationship. For centuries, clothing was simply a utilitarian product that helped to protect our dignity and keep us from exposure to the elements. Garments were typically made out of animal products like fur, leather and wool, and colours were not much of a consideration. 

A little later, along came the industrial revolution and made mass production possible. New machinery like James Hargreave’s Spinning Jenny and Edmund Cartwright’s Power Loom helped with the mass-production of cotton fabrics. This meant that people could buy different outfits for different occasions rather than having to make all of their own garments. 

Then the first half of the 20th century saw the creation of synthetic fibres like Nylon, rayon, and polyester. This new technology helped to inspire the fashions in the second half of the century, with the psychedelic colours of the 1960s and 70s, the shell suits of the 80s, and the tracksuits of the 90s. 

In more recent years, fashions have been driven by other developments in technology. In the 2000s, wearing white headphones was in vogue thanks to Apple’s release of the iPod, while in the 2010s, bigger headphones became the hottest items. At the same time, watches have gone from tools for telling the time to fashion accessories used to show off your wealth or tech devices that do many other things that a traditional timepiece wouldn’t. 

But a new technology is currently being hyped up that could completely turn fashion on its head. Known as the metaverse, it is a virtual environment that combines the internet, virtual or augmented reality, and existing communication and social media tools. 

It remains a somewhat abstract concept today, but some commentators in the tech and fashion industries believe that the metaverse could revolutionise what we wear and how we do so. 

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is theorised as a new iteration of the internet that is made up of “persistently online 3D virtual environments”. Instead of loading up a chat window to speak to a friend, you could both come together in a VR metaverse environment to interact with each other through your avatars. 

One of the easiest environments to understand it in is gaming. Currently, people play with each other online through avatars and characters; this interaction could be expanded from battle royales to more social activities. Fortnite has already started this by hosting live concerts in its Party Royale mode and it looks to be expanding this even further. 

In the metaverse, online casinos could also do away with their menus to create a more immersive experience. Today’s platforms typically already offer their customers hundreds of different options from classic table games like blackjack to modern video slots like Big Blue Bounty and Big Bass Bonanza. A metaverse casino would build on this by creating a VR environment akin to a land-based operation, where players move about the space to choose which games they want to bet on. 

How could the metaverse change fashion?

In games like Fortnite, players can already pay to customise their character’s appearance. It has proven to be an incredibly popular way for people to express themselves. 

Source: YouTube

Some experts believe that this could be moved into the real world with the creation of an augmented reality metaverse. While people may wear more basic physical garments IRL, AR would allow users to see the latest fashion items on their bodies instead. 

The existing scarcity that is found in high-end fashion could be retained by using the non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that have become hugely popular among crypto communities in 2021. NFTs prove ownership and keep a track of how many units of an item have been created, helping to create demand for these digital items and prestige for owning them. 

One of the biggest challenges that fashion faces at present is sustainability. Current solutions like using organic or recycled fibres can cut the environmental impact of clothing products by reducing the amount of water and energy that is needed to manufacture them.

However, using digital garments and not making a physical product at all could slash CO2 emissions by as much as 97%. 

A Viable Option?

The metaverse remains abstract and hypothetical today and it’s taken around 30 years to reach this point. However, with companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Sony all working on products and services for a metaverse world, virtual fashion could be closer than you might initially think.