What is digital fashion?

Hi! Claire here. Pre-lockdown, I was BOM’s gallery assistant. Social media forays often require me to research the creative practices of BOM programme participants. The background reading for the upcoming Art & Tech Summit, has seen me flying into an expansive new universe of digital fashion, thanks to this event’s inclusion of Damara Inglês,  as an aficionado of digital fashion and a self-proclaimed Fashion Tech Cyborg and Curator of Extended Reality, her creative practice frequently finds itself in that liminal space where the material meets the virtual. In earlier projects, she has employed augmented reality to add a sense of histories lived, to vintage clothing and is currently designing a line of wearables that can be updated virtually, allowing the wearer to upload design changes that can be viewed through digital devices.

For our Art & Tech Summit however, she’s doing something more immediate and urgent. In response to the question, ‘can technology save us?’ Damara will be taking attendees through an augmented reality workshop, creating a digital face-filter. A filter that aims to protect identities during protests, stopping artificial intelligence software from identifying activists on social media posts.

Anyone who is aware of the recent adaptations that protestors have been making in order to evade facial recognition software, will not be surprised that this is a live issue. There’s a good overview of how people have been doing this in real life, in this Business Insider article.

Beyond her current, AI-evading activities, Damara is part of a cohort of designers and future shapers working in an area that is entirely new. I have to say this next bit slowly as it’s still a miraculous thing…..there is an area of digital fashion design, beyond augmentation, where there are no clothes, only downloads.

THERE IS A WHOLE INDUSTRY DEDICATED TO CREATING CLOTHES THAT DO NOT EXIST.

Please excuse the caps lock, being an ex-fashion designer with limited digital skills, finding out that there are successful fashion design companies that have never produced garments constructed from actual fabric, it wasn’t just mind blowing, it was almost incomprehensible.

I get it now though, the commercial and creative advantages are great, at its simplest, digital clothing can smarten up your gaming avatars. On your social media posts, it could have you wearing levels of unparalleled fabulousness. Who wouldn’t want to be seen in say, a spinning tornado-like ensemble of shiny butterfly wings? In film and video there are limitless opportunities to create or amend costume without the hassle of having to actually make expensive clothing. Digitally represented, a virtual runway show can promote a new, in real life fashion range. Prototype trainers can be marketed and sold before a sample is even made. Given that the applications seem limitless, there should also be many future opportunities to use the tech for cultural subversion and art-based interrogation. Given that this is BOM, there’s probably a BOM Fellow working on a digital fashion research project as I type…

If you’d like to have a look at this bright shiny new world for yourself, start by checking out the wonderful Fabricant and while you’re there, download a free outfit and maybe marvel at ‘Iridescence’, their digital couture dress that sold as a collectors item for $9,500 as a blockchain transaction. You know you want one…

Damara is a contributor to 2020’s #ArtandTechSummit taking place Saturday 21 November from 10am. Reserve your free place here.

See More:

The fabric of reality by Damara Inglês and Sutu

Fashion Channel video of Fabricant work