Virtual Closets: 3 Things to Consider before Meta-Shopping

As fashion ventures into the metaverse, let’s discover how choosing colorful pixels over manufactured fabrics may – or may not – lead to more sustainable choices.

 

It’s Saturday morning. You plop down on the couch in pyjamas and a cup of coffee. Grabbing your VR headset, you flip on the screen and immerse yourself in the virtual Fashion District of Decentraland, a shopping boulevard in the metaverse reminiscent of New York’s Fifth Avenue.[1] You spend the afternoon with your avatar friends, browsing designer shops, talking with personal stylists, and eyeing that one-shoulder minidress for the upcoming Metaverse Fashion Week. But before making your purchase, experts recommend weighing these three considerations before buying into digital fashion.

 

Waste no more

Virtual clothing carries a much smaller ecological footprint compared to the environmentally polluting effects of real fashion. Today, apparel production accounts for 92 million tons of discarded textiles per year. This is equivalent to 60 garbage trucks dumping clothes in landfills every minute.[2] On the contrary, digital fashion uses 3D renderings to design and produce clothes, prints and accessories, sidestepping pre- and post-consumer waste. A recent report suggests that to make one virtual white t-shirt requires no raw materials, no water and 99% less chemicals.[3]

 

Good riddance, emissions

The launch of meta-collections may also offset the industry’s heavy carbon footprint. Fashion is currently responsible for 10% of the earth’s CO2 emissions. This number will jump to a quarter by 2050 if nothing changes.[4] By forgoing resource extraction, air travel, packaging and disposal, a digital-first outlook offers substantial environmental benefits. The Fabricant, a virtual fashion house, recorded a 96% drop in emissions for its 2020 branded 3D collection.[5] “Digital fashion is an opportunity to redefine business models and build a more sustainable, progressive future” explains Natalia Modenova, a pioneer in virtual design.”[6]

Hidden downsides

Although the untapped potential of meta-shopping remains optimistic, there is a drawback to the emerging trend. The metaverse is an energy-hungry technology dependent on power-consuming datacenters. Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and cloud computing are building blocks to digital expansion and require intensive resources to operate. A 2020 study predicted that if 30% of gamers moved to cloud gaming platforms today, CO2 emissions would skyrocket by 30% in the next seven years.[7]

 

Yet, innovative companies are shifting towards more sustainable horizons. Flow, a blockchain developer, discovered a ground-breaking method that uses significantly less energy than a Google search or Instagram post.[8] Digital fashion may not be the panacea to earth’s climate crisis, but there is hope for a greener future. “The metaverse is here,” quotes Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, “and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it – from the factory floor to the meeting room.” We’re all eager to see what’s in store.

 

References

[1] “Will Brands Buy into a Virtual Version of Rodeo Drive?” Business of Fashion. Available at: https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/technology/will-brands-buy-into-a-virtual-version-of-rodeo-drive/

[2] “Fast Fashion is Still a Big Threat to Our Environment — Here’s What Needs to Change.” Vogue. Available at: https://en.vogue.me/fashion/fast-fashion-2021-statistics/

[3] The Comparative LCA of Digital Fashion and Existing Fashion System.” Imperial College London. Available at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a6ba105f14aa1d81bd5b971/t/5fa3da036d618612a18b5703/1604573714045/RAW+Report_v2.pdf

[4] “How Carbon Might Go Out of Fashion.” BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20211105-how-carbon-might-go-out-of-fashion

[5] “The Fabricant Sustainability Case Study.” Peak Performance. Available at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a6ba105f14aa1d81bd5b971/t/60f02393161c06605439c270/1626350486918/The+Fabricant+Sustainability+Case+Study+-+Peak+Performance.pdf

[6] “Is Digital Fashion Really the Industry’s Eco-Friendly Saviour?” Dazed Digital. Available at: https://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/53877/1/digital-fashion-clothing-industry-saviour-climate-sustainability-the-sims-avatar

[7] “Calculating the Future Environmental Impacts of the Metaverse.” Verdict. Available at: https://www.verdict.co.uk/metaverse-environmental-impact/

[8] “New Findings from Deloitte Canada Reveal Minting an NFT on Flow Takes Less Energy than a Google Search or Instagram Post.” Flow website. Available at: https://www.onflow.org/post/flow-blockchain-sustainability-energy-deloitte-report-nft

 

Author: Naomy Gmyrek