Most major brands, including Gucci and Balenciaga and Fortnite, have in the past two years released a digital fashion drop.
Yet, despite these signs of mainstream adoption, many consumers and creators still disregard digital fashion, viewing it at odds with its traditional counterpart — and for good reason.
Physical fashion’s value is derived from artisanship, skill, and exclusivity. Digital fashion, in contrast, can be made by anyone and reach a market of millions for little to no cost.
Ever since I started in digital fashion, I’ve reckoned with this dichotomy. I’ve asked myself what Web3 luxury means, and how “high fashion” can exist in a democratized digital world.
This year, I’ve come to the conclusion that clothes created generatively are the way forward.
Defining generative creation
Generative creative processes have been around for centuries, and consist of building systems that automatically create art.
Though generative art does not have to be digital, today it most often uses computers. Creators work with algorithms that define the limits of a collection’s design through sets of qualities known as ‘traits.’ At the time a work is sold, these traits are randomly selected by the program to create outputs that are both unique and unexpected.
If you take the example of generative fashion, a creator might decide that each garment in a collection should have two colors out of a possible six, or be made up of anywhere from one to 25 pleats. They would then go on to design a system that created clothes within these parameters, and at the time of purchase, this algorithm would decide what the item’s qualities are.
Algorithms in the arts
Looking past fashion and into other creative sectors such as art and avatars, generative systems have grown rapidly in acclaim.
Many of the most famous profile picture (PFP) projects create generative traits for digital avatars. If you own a Bored Ape or a Cryptopunk for instance, the way your PFP appears (its body color, style and expression) is determined by a generative system.
Similarly, the Artblocks community has rallied around the concept that generative creation is a true digital artform. With code-based craft seeping into every trait’s expression, this creation process is valued as highly by collectors as the final aesthetic output.
As exciting as developments in generative digital art are, and have been, in my eyes it’s digital fashion where these novel creative processes find their perfect fit.
Since its inception, fashion has functioned as a signaling mechanism. It has been created and consumed to allow us to express ourselves, form affiliations and signal social status.
Until now, fulfilling one of these requirements has come at the expense of fulfilling the others.
If you make your clothes yourself, you might max out on self-expression, but find no one to share your affiliation with. Or, if you’re in head-to-toe Prada, you might flex status with your fits, but lose your identity as an individual.
I believe generative digital fashion enables all three of fashion’s functions to occur at once.
It enables self-expression via its abundance of variety – when it comes to showcasing your individuality, the sheer quantity of possible traits in generative fashion pieces render each entirely unique.
With our latest Draup collection, each of the 648 pieces is made up of 21 traits, resulting in thousands of possible outcomes.
Generative digital fashion provides affiliation in the connecting code – your connections are shown through the shared algorithmic thread that links together the pieces in any given drop.
DRAUP is now open to the public!!
you can now collect one of 648 generative couture pieces designed in partnership with @Nicolas_Sassoon https://t.co/7Xens6elHm #codeisthecouture🩸 pic.twitter.com/ET1vdHvrls
— DRAUP (@pronounceddrop) April 26, 2023
Take PFPs, for example. Although they might look wildly different, each PFP is of the same kin.
One of Bored Ape’s most commended qualities is its connectedness through community. As well as the Apes being recognisable, the NFT in each Ape’s wallet shares metadata with 10,000 others, binding them together as a group.
Lastly, algorithmic rarity conveys status. This is where the element of having a unique piece that’s identifiable as part of a wider collection comes into play.
Due to the large variety of potential traits in any given piece, as the algorithm churns out its collection, some traits will come to be more or less rare than others. This aspect determines the price on the secondary market and creates hierarchies within the wider group.
Today’s code-based couturiers
While generative projects are rife in the art and PFP markets, only a handful of digital fashion projects have so far experimented with generative algorithms.
For 9dcc’s Iteration-02 drop in October last year, renowned NFT collector GMoney collaborated with NFT artist and Artblocks.io founder Snowfro to use Snowfro’s Chromie Squiggle algorithm to generate 1,000 generative T-shirts. Created live at Miami Art Basel, the project’s algorithm went to work right before the buyers’ eyes to create a unique T-shirt with thousands of possible trait combinations.
Wearers bragged about the status value of the 9dcc squiggle on their tees. At the same time, they banded together, connected via recognition of their affiliation with both 9dcc and Snowfro himself.
As for my company Draup, we’re using generative algorithms to create haute couture in the digital space.
With only 14 certified couturiers in the world, couture sets itself apart as the highest form of fashion by creating clothes exemplified by craftsmanship and customization.
In our newest collection, created in collaboration with digital artist Nicolas Sassoon, we use the digital medium to create exactly that – one-of-a-kind digital clothes which, because of their generative production process, are tied together in a larger collection.
Like the projects that are appreciated in the generative art communities, we incorporate craft into our collections, both by the artists we work with, and in the code behind our creations.
Baking conceptual art into each garment, our latest collection integrates fashion-native approaches to design into a digital-first creation system to produce a new type of garment, one that’s closer to wearable digital art.
Jing Meta Insider is the new op-ed from Jing Meta, the latest publication which remains at the cutting-edge of the metaverse, new technological innovations, and Web3. We invite experts from across the field of Web3 luxury, fashion design, and retail to share their insights on the latest current trend, conversation or development making waves across the virtual landscape.