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What are the greatest benefits of digital fashion, particularly within your profession?
Digital fashion has no history, no format and no existing template to follow—that’s the beauty of it and that’s why it’s an exciting and innovative place for creativity. We can only be limited by our imagination. Innovation and creativity are endless conversations in the fashion industry. From a consumer point of view, we are all living digital lives, expressing ourselves in multimedia and virtual realities. The expectation is to be able to self-express, unlimitedly, through fashion in sustainable and democratic ways. These are the values that lay the foundation for us as a fashion house.
This concept is fully embraced and celebrated by younger generations who are at the forefront of today's conversations around sustainability, social activism and self-expression. For us as a fashion house, we see ourselves as collaborators with our audience. Their insight and creative abilities will push digital fashion in the direction they want it to go and towards the visual expressions they would like to see. From this standpoint, the very idea of physicality, sizing, trends and seasonality are not relevant. Digital fashion enables anyone to embrace and explore themselves in a timeless space—in all forms, shapes and colours. From our perspective, participation in the digital fashion space is one of connection and creativity that builds community and allows expression beyond the limits of the physical world. We’re committed to facilitating this world, but it is the collective participation and co-creation of the individuals within that will make it something of lasting value.
What do you think is the most promising path right now towards a more sustainable fashion industry?
If we’re looking at it from a technical point of view, fashion brands will have to work actively to reduce emissions from upstream activities, such as production of raw material, preparation and processing. That means doing the proper research and due diligence to develop an awareness of weaknesses in the supply chain and then adopting technologies and methods and pursuing partnerships to create a more sustainable supply chain.
There’s also a change in values that is essential. The industry has been operating in a system characterised by overconsumption and fast fashion. Until these values change, the system will continue on its current trajectory. The Covid-19 pandemic has already seen a shift in values both from the consumer and company points of view, and we can see that consumers are demanding that the companies they purchase from reflect values that are intrinsically connected to sustainability, such as social justice and inclusivity. We think that brands will have to do a lot of honest introspection in order to create genuine impact.
This is exactly what we hope to foster through the digital fashion world—a place for exploration and an opportunity to create an industry where self-expression, inclusivity and participation are part of its core values.
How big of a role and impact does 3D design have on sustainability within these realms of the fashion industry and how can that continue to expand going forward?
3D design can play a tremendous role in helping the fashion industry become more sustainable. Just three years ago it was estimated that the physical fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, which is almost the same quantity as the entire economies of France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. Around 70% of the physical fashion industry’s emissions come from upstream activities such as materials production, preparation and processing.
We’re actively working on case studies to show how digital design can be utilised to improve sustainability. For example, our digital shoe in collaboration with DressX and Buffalo London reduced emissions by an estimated 70%. We’re already seeing big brands such as Coach, Valentino, Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs stepping into the digital fashion world. The hope is that big players in the industry will see the benefits of leveraging 3D technology to reduce carbon emissions throughout their supply chain. Throughout the near global lockdown, we saw a necessary transition from the physical to the digital fashion world as a means for self-expression and creativity. When clothing is always digital, never physical, pollution and waste reduction are non-topics. In this new sector, there’s no need for physical samples, high retail stock levels or size ranges. It’s sustainable by its very nature.
What do you think is needed to push the digital fashion movement more into the mainstream? Do you want digital fashion to become more mainstream?
We’ve worked with brands such as Adidas, Puma, Under Armour and Off-White, to name a few, helping them enter the 3D space and benefit from its sustainability gains, so it’s not an underground movement but a very tangible reality. We will continue to iterate work that captures the imagination of fashion lovers, with concepts and garments that bring the limitless possibilities of digital fashion to life. When we were founded in 2018, digital fashion simply did not exist as an industry, so we went ahead and created it. We intend to continue doing what we do to bring digital fashion to wider attention, and encourage brands to make digital-only products an instinctive part of their offering. As long as consumers remain excited about digital fashion’s potential, brands will change the way they create in order to meet that demand.
What are you most excited about for the future of digital fashion and where do you see it headed?
Unlike physical fashion, digital fashion is a collaborative environment where its audience has as much influence on its future as the brands within it. The Fabricant gives away the 3D pattern files of our garments for free on our website so that digital creators can iterate their own versions of our pieces. We’re always incredibly inspired by their work and we consider our audience our creative peers. This is just unheard of in the traditional fashion industry which favours secrecy and creating brand monopolies above all else. We always try to push against the fashion status quo as we believe in creating a new industry that is so much more exciting and innovative than the existing one. We want to create a digital industry that is truly democratic, where fashion’s creative process is something that everyone can participate in. This is what fashion should be. After all, self-expression belongs to us all.
LEELA, a platform that allows users to express themselves through digital clothing on a photo-realistic avatar of themselves, launched its beta version in 2020. Are there any insights you have gleaned from the beta testing stage, already that you are able to share with us? What are the end goals for this innovative new platform?
LEELA is a platform and space where anyone can express themselves, create their own identity and have a digital fashion experience. When we released our beta test of LEELA a year ago we discovered that the 3D digital fashion community embraced collaboration, co-creation and personalisation to a new level. All of these factors are how we are building the wardrobe of the metaverse, where your self-expression can be limitless as physical boundaries don’t exist. The Fabricant strongly believes that freedom of expression is a core value of the digital fashion world as a whole, and our goal is for LEELA to equip creators with the tools to expand collaboratively as well as to establish a space for anyone to trade their own creations within the platform. Ultimately, we aim to be a part of a digital fashion environment that promotes inclusivity, opportunity and equality for all participants. It is complete freedom of expression. LEELA’s only limitation of self-expression is that which cannot be imagined, which is next to nothing! As long as you can imagine it, you can be or wear whatever you want.
Luxiders Magazine Contributor