Dress Digital to Impress 

Imagine that you can buy designer clothes as cheap as £15 per item. But on one condition, they are for social media only.

June 22, 2020, Maria Halkilahti

Visual digital representation is becoming ever more essential. From having fun in Tiktok to advancing one’s professional career, an impressive appearance and high-quality visuals assist in building a personal brand. There are over three billion social media users, and many of them dress, decorate and use makeup daily to impress their online audiences. Could digital alternatives for physical products start an era of sustainable fast fashion?   

If you want to know what sustainable fashion in the future is like, and are curious about other emerging changes, try the Futures Platform Free Trial and access a database of hundreds of future phenomena maintained by leading futurists.


The coronavirus lockdown took communication online on an unprecedented scale. Clothing and beauty products’ sales dropped as people stayed at home. Remote work, distance education and growing online presence may affect the long-term consumption patterns in unexpected ways; for example, the need for digitally consumed goods, such as filters and backdrops, or even clothes and furnishing, can grow remarkably.




Digital fashion is an emerging field that focuses on building visual representations of clothing that can be edited on a person in a photo or video. Production and distribution of digital clothes consume far less raw materials and energy than making and delivering physical garments. The limitations for the designs are not the costs of manufacturing, but the imagination of the designer.



There is a market for digital-only fashion and accessories. The price range is vast, from affordable mass-produced garments to expensive one-offs. When the youth brand Carlings launched its first digital-only -clothes collection in 2018, it sold out in a week. In 2019 a digital dress designed by the world's first digital fashion house was sold for 9500 dollars.




Digital clothes do not need to be washed or ironed. The format allows people of every size and shape find perfectly fitting attire for any need, from wedding photos to casual live-screenings in social media.

Digital shoes do not need to feel comfortable; they only need to reflect one's taste. In the future, AI would take care of the tailoring of the garments, possibly even design an outfit according to one's mood and occasion.

Future fashion can be entertaining, experimental, and disposable – without creating waste. Digital clothing not only makes one look great, but it can also make one feel good for being environmentally friendly.




The digital visual imagery includes backgrounds and backdrops for real-life moments and emotions. People already use backdrops to cover messy homes during online meetings, amazing sunsets as backgrounds for travellers, and exciting locations for photoshoots to be shared on social media.

In the future, the authenticity of images may not matter so much anymore, as they are understood to act as a way of communicating one's preferences and identity or please the eye.

Recent research also suggests that the relaxing impact of walking in nature can be experienced just by watching nature videos or photos. These findings could provide potential opportunities for those who can develop the idea further and utilise the psychological effects.

For example, customised or AI-generated background may assist in controlling the perception of the audience during a video conference, thus helping to get one's message through.




The key drivers for these kinds of developments are acceptance of digital as the valuable original and new technological devices that provide seamless experiences between the physical and online worlds.

There already are large crowds who consume or create digital visual content daily. A possibility to play with identities, try new styles and satisfy the need for change are connected with consumption.

The format itself is a minor point. A product presented in social media or the virtual world can trigger an urge for buying if it represents an appealing lifestyle, a fashion style admired by one's reference group or answers one's needs. For the consumer they are alike, and the communicative power is equal: this is me, would you accept me as part of your group




How to promote sustainability in the fashion industry so that it benefits both producers and consumers?


  1. First of all, name brand products could be available at the same time both in physical and digital forms.
  2. Potentially scalable and highly customisable digital clothes can be available in the same price range as mass-produced fast fashion, and they include the potential to personalise and upgrade.
  3. Production processes from design to samples can be entirely digital, and the end products would not be manufactured until retailers order them. Supply chains and social responsibility could be easier to track as the digital workflow creates storable data.


Brands are already visible in the virtual world, social media and games. In the future, driven by technological developments and pressure for more sustainable consumption, completely new innovative collaborations and business models can be expected to emerge.

To be able to seize these opportunities, visionary thinking, adoption of new tools and understanding of human needs are essential.

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