Fashion’s digital transformation is accelerating. Over the past year, brands have experimented with radical technologies and engaged with new platforms – whether it’s gaming, 3D fashion or virtual models – in an attempt to connect with next-gen fashion lovers.

In this report, global shopping platform Lyst digs into fashion’s newest frontiers. We analyzed how the digital shifts in the industry are affecting consumer behavior by combining search metrics from over 100 million annual shoppers, Google data, social media tracking and press coverage generated over the past 12 months.

As part of our project to understand how digital is reshaping the fashion space, we partnered with digital fashion house The Fabricant – an industry leader in the new sector of 3D virtual fashion that is disrupting the existing fashion system. The Fabricant’s “Iridescence” dress was auctioned in May 2019, where it made global headlines as the first digital couture garment on blockchain, selling for $9,500.

In the sections ahead, Lyst & The Fabricant explore how gaming opened a whole new world of opportunity for brands. How influence in the age of the digital avatar is changing. While understanding digital fashion buyer personas and discovering what the future holds for fashion tech.

Ultimately, our research shows that consumer attitudes towards virtual fashion experiences are rapidly changing in the current climate.

The Fabricant x Alexa Sirbu

What is Digital Fashion?

“Digital fashion is part of a cross-section of disciplines in the digital world, which includes gaming and crypto art. Our digital-only couture creations will never physically exist, waste nothing but data and exploit nothing but imagination.

From a consumer point of view, we are all living digital lives, expressing ourselves in multi-media and virtual realities. When self-expression and the exploration of identity through the medium of fashion exists beyond the physical realm, it allows us to transcend the boundaries and limitations of reality; in the digital environment, we can express our multiple selves and explore new possibilities of who we might be. Digital fashion allows the industry to reduce waste and contributes to a more sustainable fashion future.”

– The Fabricant

Our insights reveal that video games offer fashion brands a new way to keep shoppers engaged. Whether it’s Balenciaga’s “Afterworld” or players in Animal Crossing creating their own digital versions of luxury items for their characters, “the themes of expression, exploration and limitless possibility seamlessly bring these moments together” explains Michaela. Digital allows fashion to “return to the heart of what it was always meant to be: a playful way to explore and express identity and individuality.”

“Screenwear becomes the new Streetwear.”

The Future Fashion Shopper

Gen Zs and young Millennials have grown up in the digital era, blurring reality and fantasy, and developing key characteristics of a digital fashion customer. The Fabricant refers to these customers as “Digi-Sapiens” and, according to Michaela Larosse, “they number around 3.5 billion individuals globally, with more than 55% of the total purchasing power.”

Combining Lyst shopping data with The Fabricant’s customer profiling we’ve dug into the persona of this future fashion shopper, highlighting the four characteristics that influence their purchase decisions.

Digital Native

From in-app shopping and social AR filters to digital fashion, Digi-Sapiens are early adopters of any technology that “upgrades and frees up their existence” explains Michaela. Younger generations evolve in a fluid digital world in which the boundaries between their physical and online lives have converged. When it comes to fashion, they don’t only need physical items to express themselves. “Dressing up their digital self to hang out on digital platforms is real life for them,” says Michaela. In this scenario, “Screenwear becomes the new Streetwear.”

Fashion Activist

From supporting Black- and Asian-owned brands (searches on Lyst for Rokh and Pyer Moss spiked 178% and 99% respectively in the past 3 months) to the rise of genderless fashion (+78%), there is an expectation to be able to self-express, unlimitedly, through fashion in democratic ways. Digi-Sapiens value diversity and inclusivity. Fashion is a reflection of our surrounding culture: “ideas of fairness, justice and ethics are at the forefront of the minds of new generations, and the nature of digital fashion aligns with these principals,” says Michaela. At the core of The Fabricant’s creative approach is a “questioning of fashion norms, such as gender, body sizes and types, and the linear concepts of masculinity and femininity.” Their collections are gender-neutral and aimed to fit all body types.

Environmentalist

On Lyst, searches including sustainability-related keywords increased 84% since January 2021, reflecting a shift towards eco-conscious fashion. Sustainability can also explain why younger generations are turning to virtual goods. “Due to the non-physicality of digital fashion, there’s no manufacturing, packaging, delivery vehicles or a waste of natural resources,” says Michaela. For example, The Fabricant x PUMA’s “Day Zero” digital campaign helped reduce water consumption by up to 17.4%. Ultimately, “pioneering a digital fashion sector enables the fashion industry to operate in ways that align with the values of consumers,” concludes Michaela.

Co-Creator

Finally, Digi-Sapiens are creative agents who craft their own self-expression and curate their virtual identity through digital clothing. They understand the power and value of community and are willing to work alongside brands on projects that actively contribute to a more positive future. The concept of “collective intelligence” is at the heart of The Fabricant’s approach. “We are co-creators with our audience, their insight and creative abilities will push digital fashion in the direction they want it to go and the visual expressions they would like to see.”

Courtesy of The Fabricant

Into the Future of Fashion

Q&A

What will be fashion’s next battleground?

Lyst:

Covid moved so much fashion shopping online, bringing an ocean of options to the customer. Lyst sees this excess of access as the new battleground. How can anyone navigate the shopping rack when it just exploded with millions of fantastic options? How do designers stand out and find their new fans? Lyst has the world’s largest fashion listing: we help people find exactly what they are looking for as well as helping them discover new loves and inspiring them. Fashion needs to work for you as an individual. We want to make all this access a really personal and empowering experience. That is our superpower. We spend a lot of time on the technology, but at the end of the day it’s about making it work for each fashion lover as an individual and matching them with something that scratches their own fashion itch.

The Fabricant:

If you haven’t heard these three letters already you soon will: NFT - NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique digital assets that exist on blockchain. They can be collected and traded, essentially behaving like a cryptocurrency, but they take the form of an image or artwork. The Fabricant has a history in this space since we created the first-ever piece of digital couture to appear on blockchain back in 2019, with our couture piece ‘Iridescence’. The global creative industries have recently caught up with the conversation and are buzzing about the possibilities.

We are moving towards a digital future of fashion, does it mean that we will be leaving the physical parts behind?

Lyst:

Fashion’s digital transformation will continue. Lyst has experienced a triple-digit new user increase in 2020, and we expect to see continued growth as consumer willingness to engage and shop online is accelerating. Even though physical shopping is no longer the only option, there are still irreplaceable aspects of it that fashion lovers continue to desire. Fashion brands will win by embracing multichannel strategies, and by offering “phygital” experiences - where the interactions of physical reality and digital are mixed to make for one seamless experience that speaks to next-gen fashion lovers.

The Fabricant:

The omnipresence of digital as a means of connection and self-expression during the pandemic has forced the evolution of thinking on many ideas, which we hope to accelerate further within the realm of fashion. From The Fabricant’s perspective, we are building our business for a future where physical fashion becomes utilitarian in response to our planetary circumstances and the need to preserve natural resources, but the digital environment is where we will let our fashion imaginations run wild. In a non-physical world where all things are possible, we can boldly express ourselves without limitations or boundaries.

What tech can we expect to pop-up in the next few years?

Lyst:

I’m personally really enthusiastic about 3D printing and microfabrication. These couple really well with virtual technologies, using the same scanning technologies, but using them to create custom made and custom fitted items. Imagine having clothes that are made specifically for you and your tastes. These technologies allow things to be made locally with so much less waste and a shipping carbon footprint. It is a whole new way for more ethical and environmental fashion.

The Fabricant:

In the digital fashion world, the future belongs to creators. We are in charge of our own destiny and can bring our ideas to fruition. Right now we can see that smartphone filters will evolve to become a full-body execution, with motion, where you can instantly see yourself wearing and moving in a digital garment. We also imagine digital fashion will transition seamlessly into the physical world, where others can see your alternative digital fashion identity as you walk down the street, through the means of a digitally connected device. These need lots of development but we love a creative tech challenge.