Everyone from Gucci to Louis Vuitton is betting big on digital fashion. Here’s why they should proceed with caution

Against a cliffside backdrop with lush greenery, DressX cofounder Daria Shapovalova models an expertly tailored denim jumpsuit with horn buttons and brass trimmings. Made by Soorty, a manufacturer that produces denim for major brands such as Calvin Klein and Zara, her jumpsuit is one of hundreds of thousands of garments made in their factories in Pakistan this year. While research has shown that denim production is one of the most polluting and resource-intensive activities in the fashion industry, Shapovalova’s particular garment doesn’t carry the same weight. Her jumpsuit is purely digital—created through software to be showcased on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Digital fashion has been growing in recent years, and it represents a tremendous opportunity for both designers and consumers. But there’s a real danger that it could repeat many of the pitfalls of traditional fashion, particularly around discrimination and access. Although digital fashion brands are engaging in more environmentally sustainable practices by default, the majority of them aren’t actively addressing the foundational inequalities that start at design and production.

While digital fashion is rooted in gaming, it is going increasingly mainstream. Just recently, the wardrobe options in the vastly popular video game Animal Crossing, for example, got a major upgrade when H&M announced a line of recycled outfits in collaboration with Games of Thrones star Maisie Williams. In short, digital fashion has been given a novel, more mass-market role that is increasingly becoming part of the everyday life of nongamers as well.

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