People Are Buying Digital Clothes Because That’s a Thing Now

They’re like skins in games, except for real people.

By Romano Santos

November 3, 2021, 10:56pm

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The latest in fashion is not made with threads and textiles, but with pixels and programs.

Digital fashion makes everything traditional fashion does — shirts, dresses, pants, hats, shoes, and accessories — but none of it is tangible. Instead, customers “wear” digital clothing through augmented reality and digitally altered photos.

People have been putting on digital accessories through social media filters for years, and the gaming skins market — where players of games like Fortnite purchase custom outfits, or “skins,” for their avatars — is estimated to be a multibillion dollar industry. Then there’s Facebook’s recent announcement about its plans for a metaverse. Though it sounds strange and futuristic, the merging of the digital and the physical is happening right now.

Now, designers are creating more reality-bending digital fashion pieces for people to don as ways to express themselves and push creative boundaries. Digital fashion, one might say, is getting a little more real.

Dhanush Shetty, a 22-year-old product manager based in San Francisco, said buying digital fashion was strange at first, but it was easier, cheaper, and felt more ethical than buying new real clothes.

“Usually, when you buy clothes, you have to consider the fit, how it would look in pictures, and, sometimes, how ethical the purchase is. I don’t need to worry about being ‘too big’ for digital fashion or whether [it] was made in a sweatshop,” Shetty told VICE.

Shetty said he purchased his first few digital fashion pieces on DressX, a company that was launched in August 2020 and now sells their own designs as well as collaborations with various digital designers.

DressX customers can try the digital clothes through augmented reality. If they decide to purchase, they upload a photo of themselves to the website or app then, in one to two days, receive the photo with their digital fashion piece professionally edited onto their bodies, ready for posting on social media.

“Our goal is to give every person their digital closet,” said DressX co-founder Natalia Modenova.

She and co-founder Daria Shapovalova are based in Los Angeles and previously worked in the fashion industry, where they saw a number of problems they wanted to solve.