Consumers will embrace avatar influencers as never before, while identity politics will make designers rethink their customer base.
In the face of New World Disorder, fashion will become serious in 2018. With greater transparency comes an increased understanding of the polluting nature of the industry.
As consumption of apparel continues to rise – fast fashion shows no signs of abating – designers will have to take responsibility themselves to nd new materials that can meet consumer demand while addressing fashion’s carbon footprint.
The questions of identity and demographics will also come into play in the coming year. Fashion retailers and brands will begin to use avatars as a way not only to offer quicker customisation, but also to ensure a presence in digital environments such as virtual reality and gaming – because how you dress online is becoming as important as how you dress in the real world.
With the desire for attainment driving fashion consumption, there will be a move towards making fashion more accessible. This does not mean being cheaper or more throwaway. Instead, it is about designers creating long-standing civic activations that benefit their communities as well as consumers supporting designers with a different point of view, from emerging markets such as Africa.
Although the idea of space travel has long influenced fashion, the increasing speed of climate change will prompt a new wave of designers to look for material suitable for the galaxies as a way to solve problems closer to home.
Maurizio Montalti, a designer whose projects often revolve around design for space, sees his work as a way to find solutions to terrestrial problems. ‘What really starts my research and fuels my enthusiasm is the possibilities of creating tangible solutions for our world, which we should cherish before creating other issues on other planets,’ he says. ‘It all starts with the idea of validating the potential of introducing technologies and materials to a market as suitable alternatives to traditional synthetics.’
Montalti’s Officina Corpuscoli collaborated with design consultancy Our Own Skin to create Caskia/ Growing a Mars Boot, a conceptual boot that is made by growing funghi spores using human sweat. At its heart, the material exploration has an environmental aspect since this boot ‘if discarded, simply becomes nutrients and so isn’t polluting’.
Industry Innovator: Telfar
Big idea: By designing the uniforms for White Castle employees across the US, Telfar Clemens is using fashion to enact social change in a more permanent way.
Why it matters in 2018: Identity politics will continue to inspire designers to reconsider who their customers are, and how making clothes can be more than simply making a fashion statement. For genderless fashion line Telfar the collaboration is not a one-off activation, but a comment on the future of fashion as more egalitarian.
Avatars as brand ambassadors will come into their own in 2018, with more brands using avatars as spokesmodels. For fashion brands, this means considering their clothes not only in the physical realm but how they are rendered digitally.
Lil Miquela, a digital social media influencer with more than 450,000 followers on Instagram, has already shown the potential marriage between fashion and avatars when she modelled a dress from New York-based fashion brand Area in a social media post.
Avatars will not only be used as marketing tools, but also as a way to offer greater customisation for online shoppers. The news that in October 2017 Amazon acquired Body Labs, a company that creates true- to-life 3D body models, signals the growing omnipresence of avatars. ‘Being able to create highly realistic 3D models of the human body is essential for making meaningful progress in areas such as personalised shopping, autonomous vehicles, mixed reality and smart homes,’ says Eric Rachlin, co-founder and chief technology officer at Body Labs.
While still a relatively small player on the global fashion stage, African fashion will attract more interest globally thanks to the proliferation of the internet and a new wave of designers who are re-interpreting local culture.
Brands such as Super Yaya, Kisua and MaXhosa are all exporting their African heritage through modern designs. ‘The industry is growing fast and although it still faces some very real challenges in terms of infrastructure and funding, it’s beginning to reach a wide audience of fashion-conscious consumers,’ says Helen Jennings, editorial director of Nataal, a global media brand dedicated to celebrating contemporary African fashion, art, music and culture.
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