Previously, I’ve been the first one to claim the many positives of digital fashion. From its minor impact on climate change to the many ways it could help reduce clothing waste, digital fashion has always been the number one saviour for the fashion industry and therefore, in my mind, the future of fashion.
While not everyone stuck at home has been delving into the crafty world of do-it-yourself (DIY) fashion, new gens certainly have. Could DIY fashion, and not digital fashion, be the future of the fashion industry?
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on the fashion industry. Designers and big fashion brands have been forced to rethink their whole production strategy, and some have struggled to quickly adapt to this new normal. But the situation has also proved to be a new source of creativity.
As Lucy Maguire explained in With Gen Z under lockdown, DIY fashion takes off for Vogue Business, “By tapping into the creative energies of a new generation, brands can build a new kind of customer relationship with potential for the long term.” This doesn’t mean that Prada has encouraged customers to cut their own patterns and create their own iconic Prada headband, but more that brands have resorted to DIY ways in order to interact with their customers.
Instagram tutorials and challenges were marketing strategies that, until recently, were mostly used by smaller brands with minor reach. But since the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to stay indoors, bigger companies have started using these marketing strategies, too. For example, Alexander McQueen, Dior and Ganni are three brands that encouraged their Instagram followers to participate in different crafty challenges, such as embroidery customisation, sketch or style home shoots.
New gens have clearly stated their desire for uniqueness, and what better way is there to offer it to them than by teaching them how to apply creativity to their favourite brands’ garments? Furthermore, new gens have a strong affinity for ethical brands—upcycling is something that they expect from brands.
Clearly, Dickies saw an opportunity in selling and giving away its deadstock fabrics. As Maguire wrote, this aimed “to establish connection with a burgeoning audience that, in lockdown, is looking for hobbies.” Speaking to 22-year-old Bianca, I asked her about her shopping habits and whether she values ethical brands and the message they promote: “I definitely do care and I try to shop as sustainably as I can. For instance, I tried to not shop at Amazon during quarantine and see if I could buy the things I need locally.” As for DIY fashion, Bianca shared that as much as she wished she could create on her own, she is “incapable of using my hands but did ask my mum to make me a bag from an old pillowcase.”
But what about digital fashion? Is it going out the window? While some might believe the crafty way is the only option for a sustainable future, the Institute of Coding (IoC) proved them wrong in its new three-part IG TV series. In the third episode titled How Can Digital Tech Make Fashion More Sustainable?, Karinna Nobbs, founder of A Hot Second, shares her experience with tackling the issue of the lack of sustainability in the fashion industry and how tech can be a solution.
Screen Shot spoke to Nobbs about digital fashion and what relief it could offer the fashion industry: “We really need to think about how we can make digital fashion more accessible to diverse and forward-thinking digital natives. They’ll no doubt be the ones at the coalface of these changes, so we need to remove some of the barriers to entry in order for it to truly progress.”
Could the COVID-19 crisis accelerate the fashion industry’s shift to digital fashion, as it has done with DIY fashion? Nobbs certainly thinks so: “100% yes, as both brands and consumers look for alternative ways to experience fashion whilst having a more minimal impact on the planet. So now more than ever is the time to encourage the next generation of fashionistas and show the various opportunities that lie in digital fashion. With COVID-19 creating an accelerated shift into digital, we’ll see an even higher demand for coders, software engineers or programmers from all backgrounds, with a specific eye for fashion.”
That being said, it is highly unlikely that DIY fashion will fully replace digital fashion. It seems that we’re entering a new era in fashion where both will coexist and create the well-needed shift the fashion industry needs.
New gens are crafting a new approach to consumption. DIY fashion lets them create and participate in the process, while also offering brands the opportunity to deal with deadstock fabrics and to appeal to the younger generation. Meanwhile, digital fashion has the potential of teaching consumers a more sustainable approach to fashion and its infinite possibilities.
“We are now seeing the rise of DIY digital fashion, which is very exciting,” shared Nobbs. What’s certain is that the future of fashion looks promising—can we just skip forward?