The King’s New Digital Clothes

If your clothes don’t actually exist in physical form, is there any point in wearing them?

I know that we all live our lives increasingly online – especially in the last year – but there are some things that seem to demand to be physical, and clothing is one of them. Sure, we’ve all had less opportunity to parade around in our latest fineries or spend time trying out new clothing combinations before heading out to dazzle our chums at exciting and exotic events, but even a fully online presence surely demands real clothes that look good on you. Digital fashion seems an exercise in pointlessness.

Yet here it is, with online magazine CYBR announcing its new non-existent fashion collection for people living in a fictional space station in an imaginary future. Working with digital fashion platform Replicant, they have come up with a 2021 fictional collection and are boasting about its sustainability and tailoring skills as if these words have any meaning with clothes that don’t exist.

The jump-suit and trench-coat on offer are “made from liquid metal and have edging that emits light, adorned with brushed metal hardware” according to the press release, but of course, that’s nonsense – they’re made from pixels. “You can wear physics-breaking clothes that wouldn’t be possible in the ‘real world’”, continues the blurb, which is all well and good – but frankly, the clothes look like sliver latex or PVC, which might be all futuristic looking but is hardly out of the realms of real-world application. Nothing in the press images convincingly backs up the claims of “physics-breaking”, frankly – you can probably buy similar real-world outfits from fetish stores. And you can’t wear this clothing – you upload your photo and have a ‘digital tailor’ (yes, really) fit it to you, reading for uploading to your favourite vanity-based social media site. Are people going to gush and coo over your imaginary $30 jacket? Time alone will tell, but let’s hope that no one decides to point out that the Instagram king has no clothes on.

Apparently, ” the production of a digital garment emits 97% less CO2 than the production of a physical garment” – well yes, you would think so. It’s also 100% less real, but nevertheless, the press release continues to gush about this as though this is somehow a way forward for reducing the carbon footprint and environmental cost of actual clothing. But unless you are a complete shut-in, then you’re probably going to need physical clothing at some point (and even if you are a shut-in, you might actually like to put clothes on). Digital fashion, therefore, isn’t environmentally friendly at all, because no one is choosing this instead of actual clothing – they’re buying it in addition.

I’ve seen physical shiny outfits that look more futuristic and provocative than these imaginary clothes. The whole idea of impressing people with your cool fashion is, surely, that it is ultra-stylish and makes you look good – being dressed in CGI clothing by a graphic designer is hardly the same. I understand the desire of people to develop online characters and game personas and even to buy virtual costumes and weapons for those characters, but this… this just seems the height of pointlessness.


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