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When virtual fashion stands up to the physical world

By Julia Garel

21 Jun 2021

Fashion

Image: The Fabricant

In the press and across social networks, the subject of virtual fashion is becoming increasingly more popular. But are these non-physical clothes the future of fashion? And where exactly can you find them? To find answers, FashionUnited took a look at the latest collection of Amsterdam-based digital fashion house The Fabricant.

On its social networks on April 16, The Fabricant unveiled RenaiXance, its new limited-edition digital clothing collection in collaboration with digital sneaker studio RTFKT. The drop was launched on The Dematerialized, an online authentication marketplace created in 2020 by Karinna Nobbs and Marjorie Hernandez. The RenaiXance drop sold out in just ten minutes.

Prices for the collection, which could be bought using Ethereum (ETH) cryptocurrency, ranged from 0.1 ETH (about 325 euros) for jewellery to 5 ETH (about 16,294 euros) for a complete look and limited to one copy.

A pioneer in the newly-forming virtual fashion market, The Fabricant sold its first digital couture dress at an auction in New York for 9,500 US dollars (more than 8,300 euros).

As the name suggests, the new RenaiXance collection is inspired by the 16th-century Renaissance, mixing the theme with inspiration from the video game world to create seven separate outfits.

Buyers were given a code to transfer their new digital clothes to online virtual reality social platforms such as VRChat and Sansar.

All of the pieces were designed with a "digital centre of gravity", which allows the garments to drape fluidly, and gives a fall similar to a physical garment, says fashion magazine Mode in Textile.

RenaiXance: a collection to explore ‘our beautiful human complexity’

On its blog, The Fabricant speaks of the extended possibilities of expression that virtual fashion offers, comparing it with the physical world and its material fashion, which it considers more constraining.

“Like the original word, RenaiXance means to rebirth, pointing to the fact that in the digital world we can be reborn time and time again, transforming daily to express multiple selves,” the company says.

The Fabricant highlights the issue of gender and the possibilities offered by technology to explore “our beautiful human complexity”. The X in the collection's name, RenaiXance, ties in with this topic. “X is also a foundational presence within the human condition: each of us shares the X chromosome, regardless of our chosen gender expression. It is the genetic thread that unites us, sitting appropriately central within the word RenaiXance, suggesting movement in any direction,” the company says.

“Like the original word, RenaiXance means to rebirth, pointing to the fact that in the digital world we can be reborn time and time again, transforming daily to express multiple selves.”

The Fabricant goes further and makes the presentation of its digital collection look like a manifesto. By allowing the buyer to break away from the physical reality, it offers the possibility to free them from the diktats of traditional masculinity. “People across history were required to adopt masculine symbology to hide their assumed vulnerability, or were persecuted if they crossed invisible lines of what was deemed gender-appropriate behaviour,” it says.

“With RenaiXance, RTFKT x The Fabricant presents the idea of what could be if we reimagined possibilities. What if historic signifiers of femininity replaced those of masculinity, and what new expressive potential does it give us?”

So the expressive power of clothing seems to be multiplied here. According to The Fabricant, the RenaiXance virtual collection allows for the rejection of what it calls conformist structures of physicality, calling further on its buyers to “finally become what we have always had the ability to be."

Earlier this month, The Fabricant once again launched a drop based on the idea that digital fashion allows us to break free from the shackles of the physical world. Called Re-veil, the collection consists of three virtual headpieces.

In a statement, The Fabricant said the collection highlights a digital environment as a place where “the boundaries and limitations of the physical world are removed, allowing for a more open, fluid and creative self-expression”.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English by Huw Hughes.