June 17, 2022

How digital fashion saves 97% of CO₂

Fashion is a reflection of a personality, our own choices and preferences, every piece of clothing represent an aspect of us.

“I don't do fashion. I am fashion.” Coco Chanel

The famous quote by Coco Chanel has summarized the fashion industry by the ability to express by clothing and dressing, with the growth of designer clothing e.g. Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and also the rise of supermodels like Bella Hadid and Cara Delevingne, people are adapting to the latest trends in fashion every year for obvious reasons.

On the other hand, consumption keeps getting bigger and bigger with the popularity of visual content and visual media the need for a sustainable way of expressing visually become more demanding. Recently a few technologies have emerged to visualize and enable more interoperability of digital assets which is a key role in changing the way people see and use fashion and how they shop online.

So how is that relevant to digital fashion? What motivates us to start using replacements for physical fashion?

Aside from the already occupied fashion market, the industry is massively polluting. According to the UN, fashion is responsible for 8-10% of carbon emissions, with ~2000 gallons of water needed to produce 1 pair of jeans which is more than what one person should drink in about 12 years since jeans are made from a highly water-intensive plant. Clothing production has roughly doubled since 2000 and about 53 million* tonnes of fiber are produced annually with 70%* being wasted. And Up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year (UNEC).

It is sad to say it is the second-largest polluter in the world right after the oil industry. The pollution that is caused by fashion has started to be avoidable by finding more innovative options starting other than production, which goes to the core essence of the industry such as self-expression and brand experience which both can be achieved without the fabrication of physical garments.

Figure 1: Barriers to delivering sustainability (Archdaily 2022)

Design and creative industry has a significant struggle with achieving sustainability and certain environmental figures, in a research conducted by Archdaily (Figure 1), it found that even in building and construction industry which has more maturity with adopting new technologies than in fashion, the barriers for entry are lower and flooded market with solutions but the main reason is applicable to fashion which is the lack of client demand, however the second reason is not applicable for digital fashion where the cost for adopting digital fashion is way more affordable than conventional product visualization.

Many fashion creators are not aware of how digital fashion can help with the sustainability and environmental footprint when it is implemented correctly. A digital garment can save up to 97% of CO₂ and water up to 4 000 liters per garment. Limitless reasons for how these numbers come into place, besides that it is up to 80% less costly than conventional fashion product development which enables more opportunities and possibilities. With the help of 3D visualization tools and material simulation, it is a matter of time before digital fashion will be the norm to develop and sell fashion products.

The digitalizing trend as a sustainable method of developing fashion products is getting more momentum with possible implementation into the metaverse, which created a whole new business models for fashion creators with specific aim to sell digital assets instead of phygital or physical pieces, and the natural growth suggests more organizational changes of how a fashion product is developed and implemented.

Global events in recent years have forced many fashion retailers to close their doors and move to online spaces or change their business models completely, world has witnessed releasing more digital collections from conventional fashion brands. Fortunately, the audience became more engaged and familiar with digital assets and are willing to accept experiments as it is a new trend and improvisation is welcomed.

The evolving market formed a sandbox to try new interpretations and adopt less polluting and more engaging solutions. The rising digital models like Shudu and Lil Miquela who have partnered with famous brands have played a key role in replacing conventional fashion photoshoots. And today with more brands engaging with the virtual fashion world from virtual clothing to virtual showrooms we see an opportunity to change the dynamics of the fashion industry and secure a more sustainable future in this space.