Last week, we were thrilled to host over 200 people from around the world who joined the first Holition Talks Webinar Series - our series of digital events exploring the future of retail in partnership with London-based creative innovation studio, Holition.
While initially planned as a live event, the webinar was the perfect environment to discuss the rise of virtual fashion with our stellar panel: Futurist and Academic Karinna Nobbs, Vivianne Paraschiv (Retail Transformation Manager, Farfetch) and Tim McCourt (Co-Founder & Animation Director, The Line Animation).
“There’s been a bit of a penny dropping moment during a pandemic when people see that, more than ever, we are living our lives through screens,” Nobbs kicked off the discussion. “Consumers and people within the fashion sector now get why digital fashion could be a thing. And that's super exciting.”
Conscious consumption is also helping virtual fashion gain more prominence. “There’s an awareness of overproduction and overconsumption. People see that digital fashion is an avenue to still participate in fashion, but with a lesser impact on the environment,” continued Nobbs.
But what is the appeal of buying a digital garment that you can’t touch or feel? For a lot of early adopters, it’s the novelty that counts. “No one else will be able to own it, there’s an element of having that collector mindset, which is very different to how people usually shop,” said Paraschiv. “It’s something you’re not consuming or wearing every day, right? It’s seen as an investment. And I really feel that there's an element of digital fashion that could be seen as this piece of art that you own as an investment, or just because we think it's super mega cool.”
This type of hype and collector mentality is already apparent in the streetwear sector. The good news? The people queuing for hours to get the latest Supreme drop are also those who spend days playing Fortnite and customising their characters’ skins. “People collect trainers that they never intend to wear. It's more about knowing that you own something of value,” added McCourt.
Digitally-native audiences, like Gen Z and younger millennials, are naturally most receptive to virtual garments. They are also a generation of creators who currently express themselves mostly by creating the reality they want in game environments. And while these kids won’t be luxury shoppers soon, introducing them to a brand that they can afford in the digital space is an extremely smart move.
“I spoke to a teen yesterday who bragged about buying a new skin on Fortnite, and he would never have told me that he bought a new t-shirt from whatever store,” said Paraschiv. “Seeing that excitement was amazing. You realise this is a completely different generation that is already buying digital fashion.”
McCourt, who was involved in the project between Riot Games and Louis Vuitton, confirmed that “When LV created digital skins for League of Legends it let players buy some of the garments in the game, which is really smart. The price difference between owning the jacket physically and owning the jacket as a skin, is thousands of dollars. It allows people to participate.”
So what should brands consider if they want to get in the virtual fashion universe?
Choose your partners carefully. This is a new avenue for most businesses and first impressions count. Is it risky as hell? Yes, of course! Can you devalue your brand? Yes, if your execution is poor. Forward planning, choosing the right suppliers, choosing the right agencies and creatives pays off in ensuring the final product suits the virtual environment.
Test, test, test. Talk to your potential users, understand what they need from a virtual good, where they want it to live and what is the value that only your brand can bring in that space.
Don’t wait. While only a handful of brands are known as early adopters, there’s value in being first. As Nobbs advised, “If there are any CEO and CMOs watching, please don't wait and see what other people do.” These are times to really embrace change and reap the benefits - fast.
You can watch the full discussion here.
Holition and INTERLACED would like to thank our wonderful panel and everyone who joined live. Stay tuned for announcements about our next webinar happening in August. In the meantime, follow Holition and INTERLACED on social media for the latest updates on the future of fashion.