Not too long ago, shopping sustainably might have meant sourcing clothes made from lower impact materials such as cotton and buying secondhand. Today, conscious fashion has found an unexpected ally—in virtual form, nonetheless.
Step into the universe of digital fashion. Pioneered by the likes of Amsterdam-based fashion house The Fabricant, virtual garments have found their place amidst the industry’s voracious hunger for newness. Like CGI influencers and AR experiences, digital fashion houses are looking to push the boundaries of design, innovation and sustainability.
To date, the metaverse has seen runway pieces for video game avatars, one-of-a-kind NFT ensembles and a record-breaking US$3.1 million sale of virtual sneakers. Sounds fascinating? That’s because it is. If you’re looking to dip your toes in the world of virtual wear, here are 8 digital fashion houses, some of which are phygital (physical-meets-digital), to get you started.
You’d be hard-pressed not to mention The Fabricant when talking about digital fashion houses. Touted as a trailblazer in the space of digital-only couture, The Fabricant made waves with the sale of a US$9,500 ‘Iridescence’ dressed, designed in collaboration with artist Johanna Jaskowska.
The blockchain transaction was an unprecedented one and paved the way for traceable, traceable and collectible virtual designs. Today, the platform consists of a variety of items like intricate digital headpieces and even celebrity collaborations (hello, Adidas x Karlie Kloss), so if you’re a cybergarms newbie, fret not, as there’s something for everyone.
If you’re on the lookout for a tech fashion house that’ll earn you major cyber clout, Auroboros is it. The London-based label—which counts Kim Kardashian and stylist-DJ Sita Abellán as fans—has carved space for biomimicry-inspired haute couture pieces that propagate on its wearer. Dubbed “nature tech”, Auroboros’s designs take cues from flora, fauna and otherworldly beings.
The label’s site promises customers sci-fi fantasy digital wear, made-to-measure based on a submitted photographer of choice. Shoppers can choose from an ethereal selection of biomimicry bodysuits, neuro necklaces and tendril skirts, all designed with a utopian future in mind.
Millennial babies rejoice: inspired by the likes of early noughtie mainstays such as the Sims, Tribute is the Croatia-based digital fashion collective revolutionising “contactless fashion”. Melding CGI 3D modelling, UX design and coding, Tribute has quickly taken over Instagram with its futuristic and extravagant creations.
While most might already be familiar with the brand’s cyberpunk take on evening wear, it also boasts puffer jackets, flared trousers and an option for full customisation. Looking for a masquerade ball fit for the future? Sorted.
What if we told you you’d never need to buy another graphic T-shirt ever again? That’s the conversation the folks over at Norwegian label Carlings sparked when they first introduced a phygital clothing concept that would allow buyers to purchase just one T-shirt and renew it endlessly with Instagram filters.
In the face of an increasingly lavish and imaginative digital design landscape, Carlings—an initially entirely physical clothing label—now offers a more affordable and everyday option for those looking to dabble in the world of virtual threads. Simply add their Last Statement T-Shirt to cart and head over to the brand’s Instagram page to explore over a hundred different slogans.
It takes a special kind of project to infiltrate a US$79 billion business, but virtual sneaker brand Rtfkt continues to break records. To date, the brand has sold over 600 pairs of virtual sneakers, amassing US$3.1 million in sales. It also counts celebrities like Jay-Z and Elon Musk as patrons and collaborators.
Sneakerheads can bet on a wide display of one-of-a-kind kicks, viral designs and exclusive collectibles in the form of both physical sneakers and their NFT counterparts. Other novelty items include: Doge slippers and metajackets. Prepare to spend a pretty penny, though. With some pieces tagged at US$117,000, Rtfkt owns some of the most expensive and coveted digital designs on the market.
Bridging the gap between covetable digital designs and their collector-worthy physical versions is Happy99, an online footwear label that began as purely, well, non-existent. Armed with the hopes of redefining mindless consumer culture, Happy99’s call to its followers was simply to enjoy the beauty of a product, shoppable or not.
After the brand’s wild success and calls for physical products from fans, Happy99 has introduced mini-drops inclusive of beanies, knit vests and socks that its creators describe as a means of building an identity. This narrative-like approach to consumerism is trailblazing in its own right, with the eventual goal of building a seamless blend of physical, digital and purely ornamental drops.
Known as the world’s first digital-only fashion brand, Singapore-founded label Republiqe, headed by fashion designer and Vogue Innovation Prize contender James Gaubert, has gained impressive traction. Gaubert’s aim was to find a creative counterpart to physical clothing that would also help curb the fashion industry’s waste and ethics crisis.
Today, Republiqe is a notable name in the digital fashion space. The brand has dressed local personalities like Denise Keller and Nadia Rahmat, and offers a range of eclectic and festival-appropriate garb, from puffball dresses to thigh-high boots. All a shopper has to do is choose a product, submit a picture and voila, a dot com look tailored to perfection.
Consider digital fashion store Replicant a one-stop solution to fast fashion. Akin to multi-brand online boutiques, the virtual-only outlet allows users to browse through an impressive catalogue of pieces by a variety of designers and, by cyber fashion standards, at an extremely reasonable price point too.
Its most recent collaboration with start up IN3D takes customisation to a whole new level. Customers will be able to create their very own 3D avatar by scanning their bodies all from the convenience of their own phones and enter an augmented fitting room of sorts. Window shopping? Not anymore.