In 2016, the world learned about Lil Michele, a virtual influencer created by Brud co-founders Trevor McFadris and Sarah Decoe. The girl, who looked quite realistic, but existed only in 3D, performed two main functions: social (she talked about feminism, harassment and transgender rights in posts) and marketing (she did it in Prada, Moncler and Marine Serre clothes). At that time, digital artists were redrawing the already existing clothes for Lil Michela, thus drawing attention to the collections and increasing their sales. Today, when many think about the problem of overproduction and overconsumption of fashion products, artists depict things that, on the contrary, can be bought, tried on and shown exclusively online.
How it works?
Virtual clothes are dresses, suits, jackets, skirts and other wardrobe items presented in three-dimensional, three-dimensional, and sometimes even animated form and created using special digital programs (for example, CLO 3D or Marvelous Designer). Such things can be worn on both a digital influencer and a real person. To do this, the artist needs a photograph of the customer in tight clothing, over which the designer is superimposed. This process is similar to playing paper dolls or the Sims.
The process of applying digital clothing to a photograph of a person © aliexpress.ru
Why do you need virtual clothing?
According to a 2018 survey by Barclays Bank, one in ten shoppers purchases items solely for content creation. After that, the novelty, at best, returns back to the store, at worst, it clutters up the wardrobe or goes to a landfill. Against this background, virtual clothing acquires not only an entertaining, but also an ecological aspect: it is cheaper, appears faster, exists in more limited quantities and does not harm the environment. Moreover, the digital image can be made using shapes and textures that are unrealistic and difficult to carry in real life. For example, with an iridescent hologram, expensive crocodile skin or bulky designs, as in the Craig Green collections.
Why did virtual clothing become popular during quarantine?
The first examples of virtual clothing appeared several years ago, but it attracted large-scale public attention precisely during the world lockdown. The reason is obvious: physical stores were closed, online delivery of clothes was delayed for days or even weeks, and people imprisoned within four walls began to post many more posts.
However, recently, digital images have become popular among not only consumers but also manufacturers. Due to the suspension of offline outlets and a decrease in the general purchasing power of the population, they suffered significant losses, and due to the closure of borders and, as a result, the lack of import of accessories and fabrics, they were unable to release new collections. Virtual fashion made it possible to demonstrate them in 3D and sew only those models that would buy one hundred percent. Indeed, in most cases, the work of a digital designer is based on real-life patterns.
1 of 5 3D lookbook Alena Akhmadullina © press service 3D lookbook Alena Akhmadullina © press service 3D lookbook Alena Akhmadullina © press service 3D lookbook Alena Akhmadullina © press service 3D lookbook Alena Akhmadullina © press service
Who was the first to make virtual clothes?
Cat Taylor, better known under the pseudonym Cattytay, is considered the pioneer of digital fashion. The founder of the Digi-GXL project, which brings together and advocates the interests of intersex, transgender and non-binary people who specialize in creating 3D animations, has been developing digital imagery since 2015 (at least that's when the first thematic posts appeared on her Instagram). But it does this mainly for marketing purposes - for example, for the appearance of three-dimensional images in interactive showcases or in advertising campaigns of global brands. Kat works with A-Cold-Wall *, Balenciaga, Vetements, Off-White and Alexander Wang, while she does not sell her own clothes and shows them quite rarely.
The first collection of digital images for sale was released by the agency Virtue, which in this way tried to draw attention to the newly opened online store of the Scandinavian brand Carlings. And it did it very successfully: according to Carlings brand manager Kiki Persson, the customer response was "extremely positive", and according to Nowfashion, the brand's revenue in 2018 amounted to € 120 million, including thanks to its experience with virtual clothes. A yellow coat with an imitation of crocodile skin, relaxed jeans with a picture of a zipper and oversized sweatshirts with a warning “I'm not a robot” cost € 10-30, including the application on the customer's photo. In the fight against the same type of content, Carlings released each item in the amount of only 12 pieces.
1 of 6 The first collection of Carlings virtual clothes © press service The first collection of Carlings virtual clothes © press service The first collection of Carlings virtual clothes © press service The first collection of Carlings virtual clothes © press service The first collection of Carlings virtual clothes © press service The first collection virtual clothes Carlings © press service
Whereas Carlings produces underground-style virtual clothing, Dutch startup The Fabricant creates real couture. This is a deconstructed skirt with an animated pattern, a translucent raincoat, as if made of PVC, and a weightless jumpsuit dress that does not expose the body. The latter, the result of a collaboration with artist Joanna Jaskovski and Dapper Labs, creators of the CryptoKitties blockchain game, went under the hammer for a record $ 9,500. The buyer was Canadian entrepreneur Richard Ma, who decided to present a digital dress to his wife. “This is the first of its kind to represent a new wave that has just emerged. Just as it once happened with the debut works of Marcel Duchamp or Jackson Pollock, "- justified the cost of the outfit Richard Ma.
You can try on The Fabricant looks for free using the new Leela platform. She offers to upload a photo of her face, simulate a figure as close as possible to the real one, “put on” one of several available outfits and take a picture, having previously selected the background. Although now, when it is not yet possible to choose a hairstyle or correct facial features on the platform (the 3D model turns out to be bald, distorted and rather creepy), it is better to order a standard photo in digital clothes from The Fabricant.
Who makes virtual clothes in Russia?
The author of the first sold digital outfit in Russia was Regina Turbina. Her brand ophelica specializes in the production of physical clothing, ideas for which the girl often tests in 3D. “It's easy to understand how the thing will sit, what needs to be changed, what colors and textures to choose. It is very convenient, does not waste extra resources and saves time,”she comments.
At some point, Regina decided to delve into working with graphic editors in order to create directly virtual images and move them on a person's photo. “I found all the information on the Internet, in various videos on YouTube. There is no technical secret at all here. A fairly standard set of applications is used, known to all designers. And most of the time is spent on creating a beautiful, bright design”.
As a result, the girl got digital kimonos, skirts and dresses with abstract prints and a portrait of Anne Boleyn, which attracted the attention of Internet users, including Yandex. Zen media director Daniil Trabun. He ordered from Regina a virtual set of sweatshirt and trousers with contrasting inserts and patch pockets, which was distinguished from the real one only by a relatively low price - 5 thousand rubles.
Many domestic media wrote about an experience unusual for Russia, and Regina herself began to prepare for her first Fashion Week. The general transition to the online space associated with the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine only played into her hands. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was held in a digital format, which allowed ophelica to showcase a collection of real-life clothing, integrating a digital outfit into the presentation. It was almost impossible to identify him in the photo.
1 of 12 ophelica, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © ophelica press service, spring-summer 2020 © press service
A month and a half later, in May, Regina Turbina opened an online store replicant.fashion, which sells virtual clothes not only by her brand, but also by other designers - for example, vintage-like Camilla Gasretova dresses or conceptual Passgoaltriple pillow-sweatshirts. The platform also features physical clothing from AKOA: the brand offers to buy and try on a digital T-shirt, and only then order its tailored version at a discount. The discount is equal to the amount the user spent on the digital model. “We think this is a promising business strategy that can lead the industry to more conscious and environmentally friendly consumption,” says Regina. - Those who only need impressions and a new image can stop at purchasing digital clothes, and those who need a real outfit can pre-order. Someday, brands may not have to make unnecessary things."
1 of 7 Passgoaltriple suit (replicant.fashion) © press service Camilla Gasretova dress (replicant.fashion) © press service AKOA T-shirt (replicant.fashion) © press service Passgoaltriple suit (replicant.fashion) © press service Camilla dress Gasretova (replicant.fashion) © press service Passgoaltriple suit (replicant.fashion) © press service AKOA T-shirt (replicant.fashion) © press service
In addition to providing a platform for sale, Regina Turbina offered to train designers who have never tried themselves in creating digital clothes. For a month of the existence of replicant.fashion, the girl received about 20 proposals for cooperation. Representatives of the National Chamber of Fashion also turned to her for help, who held a two-day Global Talents Digital event in June. Within its framework, both physical and virtual clothing collections were shown, the developers of which were searched for in Russia, Italy, France, Great Britain and a dozen other countries.
“The cancellation of physical impressions due to the coronavirus has given the boost to young brands. On the Internet, the laws of dissemination of information work a little differently: a small brand can compete with a giant corporation for audience attention with greater efficiency than it happens in the world of real shows, where everything is determined by budgets, status and brand recognition, - comments the President of the National Chamber of Fashion Alexander Shumsky. “We decided to take advantage of the pandemic and take Global Talents Digital beyond the usual schedule of fashion shows. We plan to hold the event more often than twice a year. We are already working on the August project”.
Despite attempts by the National Chamber of Fashion to attract as many digital clothing designers as possible, there were only eight of the 50 participants in June's Global Talents Digital. “Virtual things are rare. They are not easy to create, they do not appear as often as physical ones, - Alexander Shumsky continues. - From purely virtual collections, you can collect an event once, for the second there is simply not enough content. Also, showing digital designers was not the main focus of Global Talents Digital. Our main mission is to discover new names”.
Among them is the creator of the eponymous brand, Alexander Bayartaev, who specializes in creating physical clothes, but he regarded his experience with digital as "an interesting experiment and the only opportunity to show the collection in a pandemic." He independently photographed and digitized the already sewn models, modifying virtual prints in Photoshop. This is a photo of Charles O'Rear's "Serenity" as a tribute to the Microsoft Windows XP operating system, as well as a cage referring to graphic editors and the alpha channel. “Digital fashion makes it possible to showcase any idea. In addition, you can predict interest and produce only what virtually attracts attention. However, I don’t want to go completely into digital clothing,”says Alexander Bayartaev.
1 of 15 Bayartaev, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © press- Bayartaev service, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © Bayartaev press service, fall-winter 2020/21 © press service Bayartaev, fall-winter 2020/21 © press service
The founder of the Be. Li. Ve brand shares the same opinion. Elizaveta Belinskaya, who transferred the already sewn collection to 3D and showed it on an imaginary catwalk with the participation of digital models. This girl was helped by the digital designer The Digital Mary and the studio from Melbourne Klubb Visuals. “We are still about clothes and fashion business, and not about some kind of creative component. Although, perhaps, in the coming year we will pay more attention to this area. Let's see how the colleagues from replicant.fashion are doing. Of course, digital clothing is the future, we see great prospects in it. This will help reduce overproduction and make fashion more conscious. Probably, in the future there will even be objects with sensors that, upon contact with a smartphone, will transform into something new,”explains Elizaveta Belinskaya.
What is the cost of virtual clothing?
The list of participants in Global Talents Digital included the AliExpress Russia trading platform and the Malivar studio, which developed the avatar of Aliona Paul (she was the ambassador of the virtual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, as well as a model in Alena Akhmadullina's 3D lookbook). The companies presented a joint collection of digital clothing, which went on sale immediately after the presentation. For a translucent robe, an avant-garde dress and a tunic and skirt suit, which will be applied to the customer's photo within six days from the moment of order confirmation, they ask from 3999 to 4999 rubles.
1 of 8 AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service AliExpress virtual clothing collection © press service
“The virtual items themselves were created for a week, the same amount of time was spent on the joint development of the design concept. The most time consuming part is animation for the presentation at Global Talents Digital. It took three weeks. When it comes to computer graphics, there are a lot of variables that affect the complexity and speed of execution,”says Sergey Grechin, Commercial Director of AliExpress Russia.
“One 3D designer is working on the creation and transfer of the model to the photograph. While this is handmade - hence the limited nature and pricing, - continues the founder of Malivar Valery Sharipov. - Pricing is also influenced by platform fees, taxes and other business expenses. In the future, if the process of developing virtual clothing is automated, the cost will increase due to computing power and technology license."
Does digital fashion have prospects?
Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, believes digital apparel will become commonplace in five to ten years. As proof of the huge interest in analog items, he, like The Fabricant founder Kerry Murphy, cites the purchase of a virtual cat in the CryptoKitties blockchain game for $ 140,000. Experts also point out that people are ready to spend real money on fashionable things in computer games: themed like Covet Fashion, which in 2018 had $ 53.4 million in ad-based sales, or shooters like Fortnite, which made over $ 1 billion in 2017 from in-app purchases.
Despite the huge interest in this area, it also has a huge number of barriers. One of them has to do with the need to hire a team to design truly quality, exclusive and impressive digital apparel. Plus, for many, the joy of shopping lies precisely in the shopping and tactile sensations. And the digital world cannot yet replace this.