It is reported that “fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output—more than international flights and shipping combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme” (Bloomberg). As well as emissions, the fashion industry is responsible for a huge amount of waste, with production often exceeding the amount that is wanted by consumers (Bloomberg). With the fashion industry being a significant contributor to climate change and the destruction of our environment, it is about time that more sustainable options for our clothing are explored.
One of the avenues being explored by designers is digital fashion. Vice have reported that “Digital fashion makes everything traditional fashion does—shirts, dresses, pants, hats, shoes, and accessories—but none of it is tangible. Instead, customers “wear” digital clothing through augmented reality and digitally altered photos” (Vice). Digital fashion provides solutions to many of the waste issues within the fashion industry, for example the buy, wear once and throw-away pattern of consumption. Founders of DressX, Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova, say that digital fashion “lets people “wear” new and exciting clothes as often as they want to, without the clothes having to be physically produced” (Vice). This means that the consumers’ desires are fulfilled without the mass physical production and waste. As much of consumption is driven by social media at present, digital fashion provides a way for consumers and content creators to showcase a range of looks without possessing each physical item.
“According to a study by United Kingdom-based online banking company Barclaycard, almost one in 10 British people revealed that they have bought clothes online only to wear them once, with the aim of posting a photo on social media, then subsequently returning the purchases.” - Vice
Fashion for Instagram
A brand exploring the possibilities of digital fashion particularly for instagram is Auroboros. The futuristic garments are all designed to measure, being applied onto photographs supplied by the customers, meaning that the garments are size inclusive and waste-free (Dazed Digital). Another brand featured in Vogue, are Tribute, a Croatia-based digital fashion collective using 3D modelling, UX design and coding in their ‘contactless, cyber fashion’ (Tribute). These brands are paving the way for bigger fashion houses to incorporate digitalised fashion into their own lines. Last year, online fashion retailer Farfetch became one of the first to try digital fashion sampling, “digitally dressing influencers to promote the launch of its new pre-order offering from brands including Balenciaga” (Vogue Business). Digital fashion could be a huge step forward in terms of sustainability in fashion, and it is just getting started.
3D Printing Clothes
Another more sustainable option for the future of fashion is 3D printing. In theory, you should be able to use raw materials to print out your desired items on demand (Refinery 29). This would mean that only the amount of material needed to create the item is used, reducing overall waste. However, 3D printing clothes is not as simple as this, as “materials used in 3D printing, mostly plastic, and metal, are not flexible enough” (3D natives). The idea of 3D printing clothing is inciting due to its sustainability and futurism, however it will be a while until this is a reality, as among other obstacles, it will be necessary for 3D printers to become a household feature.
Finally, an exciting development for the future of fashion is the possibility of growing clothes from seeds. In Blackburn in the UK, fashion designer Patrick Grant has been instrumental in leading a project to grow flax and turn it into British-made linen (BBC). The flax grown is then “broken, scutched, hackled, spun and woven to create the fabric linen” (BBC). This process of making linen in the UK would cut down on the emissions which are created from shipping fabric to the country from elsewhere, therefore providing a more environmentally-friendly alternative (BBC).
The Future of Fashion
It is clear that fashion is ready for change, especially as consumers continue to demand better for the environment and technology continues to develop solutions to our throwaway issues. These are just a few examples of future developments in fashion, which demonstrate the direction in which we could be heading, towards a more digitalised and sustainable fashion industry.