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Post-Pandemic Scenarios – XI – Digital Fashion

Nice dress, isn’t it? It has been created by a top designer and sold for 9,500$. The only drawback is that you cannot wear it because it is a digital dress…. Image credit: The Fabricant

Digital Fashion

The FTI’s report presents an interesting scenario on the evolution of fashion: the emergence of digital fashion, flanking the usual one. That this scenario is rot a figment of the imagination can be seen considering that a number of companies, including the big brands, have started to invest in the area.
Gucci, as an example, has created Sneaker Garage where you can select digital sneakers as well as design your own digital sneakers. You won’t be able to wear them but you can have them worn by your avatar on a number of platforms creating metaverses. A further possibility offered by some digital apparel is to use the digital version to create your desired apparel and then have it manufactured by some companies.

This is expected to become more and more feasible and enter into the mass market in the second part of this decade. At that point the value of digital fashion will grow tremendously.

The Fabricant, a Dutch company – see the figure and watch the clip-, is a point in case. Already two years ago they managed to sell one of their digital dresses for a staggering 9,500$. What can you do with a digital dress, given that you cannot wear it? Well, you can place yourself inside the dress and post the image on your social network. The software can customise the dress to get the best fit to your body and it can also animate, using artificial intelligence, a catwalk, or a plan walking and create a video clip of you. It can also start from a videoclip uploaded by you and change those plain sweater and jeans into a fashionable apparel to your taste.

We are already used to create a digital (fake) ambient on Zoom (and several other video conferencing platforms) to make our on-line meetings a bit better (whatever you mean with “better”). Wearing digital apparels is just a further step on the way towards a digital reality.

A 3D full body scanner can take precise measure of your body and create a digital replica that can be used in manufacturing custom apparels. Image credit: Fibre2Fashion

Additionally, consider that the availability of increasingly performant 3D printers should make possible to print your digital dress into a real fabric. At that point you will be able to wear it. I expect that by the end of this decade such printers will become more and more common in department stores. First they will serve the need to reduce stock and yet be able to serve customers on the spot, secondly, they will allow for customisation (in colours and trimmings), third they will be custom made so that they will fit perfectly.
There are already several types of 3D full body scanners (see picture) used in some department stores to “measure” your body. The scanner creates a digital model of your body that is stored in your “fidelity card”. When you look at an apparel in the store a simple scan of the bar code attached to the apparel will let you know what would be the right size fitting you and some apps will even provide you on the spot (on your smartphone screen) the image of you donning that apparel. Likewise when shopping on line, the availability of your digital model can be used by the on-line vendor to display on the screen the image of you donning that apparel and you can see yourself in 3D on the screen. move you around and even see you walking to get a feeling of how you would look like.

A further step is to custom order the apparel, after you have seen it on “you” in the virtual space. Notice that as technology progresses you will be able to see yourself in the cyberspace with better and better resolution to the point of believing you are actually looking at yourself in the mirror. As you move the image on the screen moves along with you (see how AI can be used to animate portraits).

According to the FTI’s report digital fashion will become “big” in the coming years. People will be able to shop for a digital apparel, try it on in the virtual space and use it in the virtual space at (virtual) social gatherings. Of course, it will also be possible to use that digital apparel as the blueprint for producing a real apparel, possible ordering it on line or having it downloaded, and printed, at the nearest mall.

In the next decade, with the growing possibility of manufacture at home, we might print our dresses every morning and recycle them in the evening (no more washing machine and full recycling!) just to print a new dress the next morning after having bought a model on the web as we sit on our couch in the living room. For the gifted ones the dress will be created/designed in house using apps to convert their creativity into a digital model that will be automatically customised to your body using its digital model.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.