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Virtual fashion is beginning to take the world by storm, allowing designers to become even more flexible and creative, designing whole new worlds devoted to fashion and breeding a new era of imagination. But with the fashion industry proving to have one of the biggest effects on climate change. how vital is digital fashion in protecting the environment?
Digital fashion is the exciting next step in making the virtual world a reality in more peoples’ lives. Companies are beginning to design clothes that are exclusively digital, similar to ‘skins’ in the gaming industry which involves giving makeovers and fresh appearances to player characters.
There are more and more fashion houses cropping up in the industry now more than ever, including Fabricant, Auroboros and Republiqe. The latter of which is the world’s first fashion brand that is exclusively digital. This contributes to the creation of a fully sustainable fashion alternative that is as fresh and exciting as the physical fashion.
This is the next step from the virtual features that have already begun to permeate social media. Snapchat, Instagram and more recently Pinterest have a host of filters that allow users to express themselves in new and imaginative ways. Virtual fashion simply takes it one step further from conception through to the final product. Helping the fashion industry to creep ever closer to that haven of sustainability.
This isn’t to say that traditional fashion is falling out of favour. Digital clothes can’t yet be worn in the physical world but social awareness about climate change steadily rising. People are examining the fashion industry’s effect on the environment more closely. Digital fashion thus presents itself as a strong and appealing option for those looking to become more eco-friendly.
Like any industry, the digital world leaves a carbon footprint but its environmental damage is less impactful, making digital fashion more environmentally friendly. A study carried out in January 2021 showed that there are 4.66 billion people on the internet, with a significant overlap in mobile internet and social media. That is a huge potential market for digital fashion, increasing the possibility of an eco-friendly society.
Popular materials such as polyester and nylon are produced using fossil fuels, making them a lot more harmful to the environment than using natural materials like wool and cotton. Furthermore, many textile factories run on coal and water, while oil is used in shipping and delivery. Add it all together, and you’ve got a veritable cocktail of negative climate change as well as an industry doing serious damage to Earth’s limited natural resources.
Virtual fashion circumvents most of these problems. With digital clothes, you don’t need to worry about synthetic or natural fibres as it’s all pixels. This allows users to enjoy fashion without worrying about the environmental impact. Cotton, for example, is made with 20,000 litres of water per kilogram, further proving the inevitable unsustainability of fashion if the industry continues like it is.
There will be very little requirement for textile factories as well, with fashion production occurring in a virtual space, resulting in the reduction of coal usage. Protecting natural resources increases the sustainability of fashion and helps the industry to be more socially conscious.
Travelling is an integral part of keeping the physical fashion industry running, with buyers driving to shops and delivery drivers transporting clothes and materials to factories, stores and homes. This releases inconceivable levels of pollution into the atmosphere, with one of the biggest causes being shipping.
Digital fashion ensures less energy is consumed which in turn reduces the level of carbon and other toxic emissions in the atmosphere. Carbon footprints are much easier to not worry about when clothes are available at a simple click of a button. A typical car on average, produces about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide, while the production of a t-shirt produces 7.8kg of carbon dioxide. In comparison, a digital t-shirt has only 0.26kg of CO2.
Naturally, this isn’t an instant cure for the problems of the fashion industry. But it does go a long way to encouraging businesses and customers into being more mindful of pollution and finding ways to become more protective of the environment.
By definition, fast fashion is the phenomenon in which people buy outfits and only wear or keep them for a short while before going out to buy more, creating an expensive and ultimately unsustainable cycle. This has led to an increase in shipping and in clothing production. It takes 683 litres of water to make a shirt and fashion production is one of the leading causes in producing carbon emissions. Recent modern trends are proving to be increasingly harmful to the environment and it shows few signs of slowing down.
Digital fashion is an easy way to cut down on resource use and reduce waste. Many social media users buy outfits to wear in an Instagram or Snapchat post and then leave them to gather dust at the back of their wardrobe. Digital fashion provides a sustainable way of utilising these one-and-done outfits, vastly mitigating the impact on the environment. No copious amounts of water are used, no shipping is needed and less waste and pollution is released into the world.
Clothes are at their best when they simply exist to support or enhance a statement a person is making, used exclusively as a personal enjoyment without any harm to Earth’s already fragile climate. Digital fashion makes this vastly easier, allowing people to express themselves without environmental consequences.
Labour is a significant and unethical element to the progression of the fashion industry. Workers are forced to work long hours for little pay, sequestered up in unethical situations and poor working conditions. Regulations that are supposed to protect workers are instead harming them with labourers in Second, and Third World countries often paid below the minimum wage.
Taking the fashion industry digital solves some of the ethical problems. Digital fashion has less of a need to exploit workers as large production groups aren’t needed to bring the clothes to fruition. This helps to ease the stress and pressure labourers are put under and make digital clothes ethically beneficial. It helps to lower accidents in the workplace and ultimately makes fashion into a happier and healthier environment.
Fewer factories would mean fewer workers as well as less pollution and less toxic emissions from labourers having to drive to work. The digital fashion industry is an easy way to protect people while also raising awareness amongst the general public pertaining to the industry’s troubling ethics.
Digital fashion at the moment is not overly accessible to those who haven’t got some wealth to their name. Social media has begun to bridge the gap through the inclusion of virtual experiences that allow users to sample the industry but overall, the virtual world is blocked by a paywall. The Fabricant’s digital dress, Iridescence, for example, sold for $9,500, a pretty hefty price the average customer wouldn’t be able to match.
Increasing the accessibility of digital fashion would go a long way towards making fashion more environmentally friendly. More affordable mainstream options will encourage more people to experiment with the digital world and start to increase the sustainability of fashion.
Sustainable digital clothes are slowly becoming the future of the fashion industry. It encourages the reduction of waste and pollution and is overall healthier for people and the environment. There’s no drop in quality either. The clothes are just as attractive and well-made as their physical counterparts, just with an extra helping of creativity to make this eco-friendly option worth your time.