The fact that the fashion industry is being digitally disrupted along its entire value chain is no news. However, there is one link we long thought was untouchable: the actual product. A dress is a dress and a shirt is a shirt–and we’ll always have to put our clothes on our backs. Chances are, we’ll be proven wrong.

 

The Dutch startup The Fabricant calls itself the first digital only fashion house. Its founder Kerry Murphy believes that fashion does not need to be physical to exist. He introduced his proof of concept at the Fashiontech conference in Berlin earlier this year: the CEO of a blockchain company bought a digital only dress at an auction for US$9,500 to give it to his wife.

The digital dress by The Fabricant sold for 9.500 US Dollars
Photo: X
The digital dress by The Fabricant sold for 9.500 US Dollars

Especially younger consumers, namely Millenials and Gen Z, are already living their lives digitally. Berlin-based creative collective Selam X has created an AR app for Vetements. Animated logos can only be seen through the app when pointed at certain Vetements garments–and be uploaded to social media. Brand value is transferred to the digital space. “With AR you can become the person that you want to be,” says Sebastian Zimmerhackl, creative director at Selam X. Our online personalities become equally as valuable as our offline personalities–and the lines between both start to blur.



This opens new opportunities, not only in traditional fashion and lifestyle related markets. Pre-digitalization, the world of fashion would turn up their noses at most things technology related. E-sports and gaming? Non, merci. Time to drop the attitude.

 

Knut Bergel used to work for the company that built the platform of Lara Croft and is now COO at H4X, an e-sports apparel brand for gamers: “Every subculture, every sport, every music subculture developed their own fashion trends–this is missing yet in e-sports and gaming culture.” By ignoring and not even trying to understand this sector, the fashion industry is missing out on a massive business opportunity–especially with a younger audience that understands and embraces this development as real sports. Brands that are not traditional fashion brands are occupying this sector, such as H4X. Business potential not only lies in dressing the e-sport players and fans but as well as in opportunities in the virtual space. Bergel notes, “E-sports is going to be the future sports of the younger demographic, if fashion wants to communicate and wants to monetize on this demographic, e-sports is probably the right vehicle to join.”

 

Murphy from The Fabricant says, “Brands definitely need to move into the digital space because if they want to talk to their future consumer. They definitely need to be talking to Gen Z because mainly they are so digitally savvy and their interests are more in the virtual space than the physical space. We have a lot of consumers coming up to us who’d rather spend money on assets in Fortnite than in a retail space.”



A brand that has understood this is Moschino. It made a move into the e-gaming sector together with the video game giant Electronic Arts. The Sims is a life simulation game that lets players build virtual identities–and dress them. Not only can the players now deck out in a Moschino collection that was inspired by The Sims, they can now dress their virtual identities in Moschino. According to Andrea Hopelain, vice president of global brand marketing at EA Sports, it has been downloaded 400 million times since its first release in 2000 (speaking of reach and market potential).

 

 

“Brand growth today doesn’t come from just continuing to do the same thing, it comes from new ways of surrounding your consumer, enveloping them in your brand … it’s a new opportunity to reach players and fans on a different level,” says Hopelain. With gaming, users don’t only receive messages and give likes or comments, they properly interact–play–with the brand which opens a whole new dimension of communication.

 

For Gabriele Maggio, general manager of Moschino, it is about keeping up with your customer: “Sometimes you need … to try to find a new formula to match the evolution of the reality.” You need to “put yourself in a discussion with a different industry which are closer to the contemporary behavior of the people in the world.” Fashion can no longer afford to stay exclusive of the world of technology. If your customer moves into the digital space, you need to follow.

The next Fashiontech will take place in January 2020.




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