October 11, 2022
Written by: Amé Raaphorst
Improving the physical, through the digital.
Inflatable scarves, glass shoes and fiber-changing jackets are becoming the new standard with the rise of digital fashion. All practical and societal limitations are eliminated, giving us the freedom to experiment with different ways of self-expression. It gives us the opportunity to explore our identities since we don’t have to conform to a certain size or gender. We can change our digital self every day and even every minute if we want to. If done right, digital fashion has the power to create a digital world that is accepting and inclusive at its core and where diversity and self-expression are celebrated. Think of it as a digital utopia that functions as a role-model for our physical word.
For some of us, digital fashion is still a relatively vague and techy concept that is hard to grasp. When we remove the physical body from fashion and replace it with digital identities, the utility of fashion seems to change. Because why would you need fashion in a world where you do not even have a physical body to dress, right? Well, times are changing and we expect digital fashion to become just as important as physical fashion in the near future.
Fashion’s true essence: self-expression
In order to understand the value of this evolution of fashion, we have to start at the beginning. The initial motive for people to wear clothes was, and still is, to cover up their bodies. However, in contemporary society, fashion is much more than just body coverage. It is a form of non-verbal communication through which every individual expresses one’s identity, either consciously or unconsciously. So, where practical considerations were the primary reason for wearing clothes, those same practicalities have now become boundaries to be able to fully express oneself.
Self-expression is an existential need for us as human beings and is underwritten by the ever-increasing volume of the global fashion market. We don’t buy those limited-edition sneakers because they have such a comfortable footbed. We buy those sneakers because they are a form of self-expression and function as an exterior translation of our inner-self. That item tells a story about you that you choose to share with the world. It might for example tell people something about your interests, your background, your values or your feelings. It might even provide you with a sense of belonging to a certain collective or community.
The elimination of physical limitations
Digital fashion enables us to fully explore, experiment and create our own identities without stumbling upon physical boundaries. A scarf is for example a practical fashion accessory that is supposed to keep you warm. With digital fashion, this practicality is eliminated and the scarf turns into a fashion statement, which is again a form of self-expression. The practical utilities on clothes, such as pockets, can be removed and replaced for purely creative design-based elements because who needs pockets in a digital world? With the destruction of those physical elements, a new world opens where everything you can imagine can be created. In terms of materials, you could think of fluid metal, woven water or electrifying energy fields to dress yourself.
Unlocking the potential of digital fashion
The digital world is one that is rapidly developing, yet still young. Metaverses are being built, NFTs projects are being launched and brands are opening their first virtual stores. There is a huge potential to shape this world into an equal, inclusive and diverse one and now is the time to reflect upon the world that we want to create and where we want to spend our time. Successfully balancing both worlds is what will create long-term value on an individual as well as a societal level.
Setting the right intentions
The starting point of fashion is, and always will be, our physical body and we should honor this connection. Nevertheless, the time we spend online can be much more valuable and creative than it currently is. Due to emerging technologies, far-reaching connections between an increasing number of people can be made within the blink of an eye. That same technology therefore enables us to discover, express, share and connect with each other on a much larger scale than before. So, if we cherish the use of these technologies and set our intentions in the right direction, the digital world can become a place of acceptance. Once this inclusive digital environment of experimentation and self-expression is thriving, we expect our physical world to become a better place as well.