Metaverse: is digital clothing the future of sustainable fashion?

Paulina Kulczycki

The “metaverse” is on everyone’s lips lately. Mark Zuckerberg even renamed Facebook’s parent company to embody this virtual reality based future: Meta. Tech bros and Silicon Valley investors alike are talking about the metaverse – some with more scepticism than others. And obviously, the fashion industry seems to be obsessed with the topic. So far, most efforts to create this “metaverse” have been focused on games and NFTs. But it is only a matter of time until virtual reality becomes a part of our everyday lives – both at work and in our private lives. Pandemics and their restrictions force us to explore and express ourselves through new mediums, and the metaverse’s unlimited possibilities are becoming more attractive than ever.

The more time we’ll spend locked outside of our “real world”, the more we will seek to express our individuality digitally. The metaverse seems to offer us the opportunity to create a virtual alter ego – an identity that can be expressed through an avatar and through our sense of (digital) style. A glimpse of this future was recently shared in a demo Mark Zuckerberg shared in October 2021, in which he was able to virtually select his wardrobe for his virtual meeting. It all sounds pretty wacky at first, and kind of cringeable to be honest, but judging how fast technology and fashion evolve, it could soon be common practice. But how exactly can digital clothing be integrated into our reality?

Digital clothing in everyday life

Of course, the metaverse will not be able to fully replace our reality. At least we hope so! We will still operate and interact in our offline world and – one way or another – have to wear real clothes on our bodies. But to what extent can digital clothing make fashion more sustainable? To answer this question, we would like to invite you into a little utopian scenario.

Imagine that in a few years from now, you will be strolling down the streets wearing glasses that allow you to augment the offline world with virtual data from the metaverse. You can see three-dimensional street art on the walls that exist only as NFTs, and you can extend your reality through this limitless virtual world. In this fusion between reality and the metaverse, people could wear sustainable basics in the real world and express themselves in the metaverse through the fanciest clothes, prints and accessories. So in this scenario, our actual style and personality would only become visible in augmented reality, through our digital clothes.

With “AR” (augmented reality), our perception can be virtually enriched with three-dimensional media. This would allow us to bring fashion straight into the digital realm. If this metaverse picks up steam, this could allow us to reduce the actual production of “real” clothes to a minimum, and rather focus on purely sustainable, slow fashion processes. Sustainable minimalism in the real world, extravagant style in the metaverse! This is what the future of sustainable fashion could look like.

Why is digital clothing more sustainable?

If we are even remotely right with our utopian hypothesis, the global production of clothes could be reduced to a minimum, as self-expression and style would mainly be conveyed digitally. Of course, this has the positive implication that the use of resources, raw materials, water, CO2 emissions, heavy metals, chemicals, energy, plastic and waste could be dramatically reduced. The fashion industry could thus be completely revolutionised and move from being one of the biggest polluters and climate crisis drivers to a sustainable minimalist economy.

However, digital clothing, quite obviously, also depends on energy. But the energy required for its production has a relatively small ecological footprint compared to the environmentally harmful effects of real fashion. And even if this scenario sounds more like a dystopia than a utopia for a vast majority of people (especially non-Gen-Zs), we believe that the possibilities in the metaverse can help us to be more creative, playful and confident. All this without short-lived and wasteful fashion that is mass-produced and has harmful effects on people and nature.

Pixels instead of textiles: conclusion

Whether digital clothing can genuinely replace most of real world fashion is and remains speculative. But if the metaverse could help reduce the production of real clothes by even just a fifth, it’d be a massive step towards more sustainable fashion.

So, we ask you: should we, at SANVT, turn our premium basics into metaverse-ready NFTs?! Luckily, SANVT’s sustainable premium basics are minimalist, climate-neutral and timeless – ready for both the metaverse and the real world.