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Is virtual reality fashion’s next frontier?


Alongside the rise of CGI influencers and virtual models, including Miquela, Bermuda, Shudu, and Imma, fashion brands have started making virtual clothes. For a few years now, cutting-edge designers at the forefront of the movement, such as The Fabricant, Happy99, Carlings, and Cat Taylor (DIGI-GAL), have been pushing the boundaries on what is tangible, creating virtual items that are rendered on real or hyperreal bodies. It’s a concept that very well may be the biggest fashion trend of 2020—apart from sweatsuits. With people spending more time indoors this year than ever, it’s no wonder interest in style that lives solely in the digital realm is gaining serious interest.


As more brands jump on the bandwagon, digital innovation is growing: Price On Request, an IRL clothing brand based in Croatia, has started selling “upcycled” digital clothing during COVID-19, while months ago Hanifa staged a live 3-D fashion show on its social media platforms. Marc Jacobs has partnered with @AnimalCrossingFashionArchive to bring six of the brand’s favorite The Marc Jacobs pieces to the game. Designer Sandy Liang even hosted a digital pop-up that featured her latest collections and signature styles, bringing offline awareness to the nonprofit Give Directly. With brands already tapping into the space with smart and enjoyable user experiences, someday not so far off, virtual fashion could turn a real profit.


Then there’s the rise of TikTok, which is now launching its own version of digital fashion month, live-streaming two shows a week, including Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. From DIY tie-dye to the cottagecore aesthetic, this is the platform’s first official foray into fashion. With the platform’s popularity (and virality) growing bigger each day, this is a solid confirmation that virtual clothing is something people in the fashion world and beyond should be paying attention to.


Why? “Entering into the digital world offers a sense of freedom that has yet to be fully experienced IRL,” says Rachael Gentner, pattern and graphics editor at Fashion Snoops. “As our external and internal anxieties collide in a 2020 storm of unpredictable chaos, these virtual escapes become a safe place where fantasy offers a synthesized yet oddly warming embrace of comfort.” Gentner’s Animal Crossing character gets an outfit update often unlike her real self. After seven months of quarantine life, she, like many of us, has found herself feeling less inspired to dress up for the Zoom calls taking over her schedule.


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