Going from a Material World to Virtual in Fashion

Image of colorful fabric

{As we navigate this ever-evolving landscape, we decided to have a little extra fun with this article. We hope you enjoy the musical playlist that “just so happens” to align with each section. Find the playlist at the bottom of the article, grab a coffee or beverage of choice, push play, and read on}.

Material Girl – A Material World becomes A Digital World Black and white images of a 3D constructed mannequin.
The world is changing every day. Some changes we are ready for and are eager to embrace, while others can be a challenge to get one’s mind around. Growing up professionally in the garment industry in a time that celebrated material joys, the business-focused very much on the physicality of clothes. The touch, the feel, the idea behind the experience of wearing a garment motivated the wearer to purchase.

Since the rise of the pandemic, the material world shifted, as did our clothing. Working from home and the rise of virtual interactions (or as I like to say Zoomtopia), accelerated transitions that were already underway in the apparel industry. From our physical needs of comfort, to a consumer demand that never stopped, to need to accommodate a new digital realm, technology is paving the way to new opportunities in the industry through the digital world.

With demand on the supply chain increasing in tandem with the industry pressure on quicker lead times, 3D design had already provided the ability to virtually realize concept to reality, accurately and quickly. The impact of COVID accelerated the importance of digital design as the metaverse became more of a daily reality, especially as this form of technology is taking on more shapes and forms. From video gaming, to zoom, to fully immersive digital worlds, there is a lot to learn to become masters of the metaverse and this article breaks down some fundamentals to get you started.

Close up look of a projector lens, with pink and blue tones. VR Killed the Radio Star – Virtual Reality
Although Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are becoming more common vernacular today, these terms and concepts originated in the late 50’s early 60’s. Once foreign terms, “Non-Fungible Token (NFT), Metaverse, Crypto Currency” actually date back ten to thirty years, leading one to ask “why haven’t I heard of these until lately and what does it have to do with fashion?

The acceleration of these technologies fueled by a more significant dependence on digital platforms has thrust these into the forefront of many conversations, both in media and conversational circles. It’s an exciting prospect for many that we can untether ourselves from a specific nation’s currency or, for that matter, our restrictions geographically and enter an alternate world filled with opportunity, community, and reduced restrictions imposed by society.

Video Games – From Gaming to Fashion A portrait of a women with a gaming controller in her hands. She is wearing a pink dress and pink headphones with cat ears attached to them.
Most theorize that the gamification of all things will evolve to having a personal avatar that you can bring with you not only to multiple gaming platforms, social media websites, video meetings, augmented reality, but also virtual reality landscapes. This alternate digital “you” will need to represent your persona in the new digital frontier, and for that, you will need “things” like clothes that would match your characteristic DNA. The sudden dramatic growth in the market for these demands is being met from new burgeoning designers to couture brands reacting to demand.


I Look Good – Dressing for Any Environment Editoral photo of a women in black and white stripped pants and a white shirt. The background is a seafoam green with a neon sign that says "good vibes only"
The evolution of apparel and the new VR landscape will follow suit, perhaps not entirely replacing complete physical reality, but certainly dramatically changing the way we interact with people, places, and things. As we spend more time digitally (zoom, skype, don glasses, or headsets) in an augmented environment, we will spend more money in this new space to enhance or align our appearance to reinforce our own unique digital self.

Apparel has long helped to establish a portion of that outward appearance we project to others and the brands, colors, fabrics, and styles we choose are our outward cues to others “here is something about me” – casual bohemian, outdoorsman, athlete, business professional, fashionista, for example. People have grown accustomed to being able to represent themselves in the physical world, naturally, they would have the same desire virtually. With the rise of the digital world, it is easy to see the opportunity for brands to realize success in this new realm.

A women with two money coins over both her eyes. The background is blue.Money, That’s What I Want – The Fabric of New Currency
It can be shocking for some to learn that digital clothing already generates millions of dollars and that no doubt 2022 forward will explode as all digital platforms supporting Avatars grow. With speculations like those of Morgan Stanley predicting the metaverse presenting a $50 billion opportunity for luxury goods over the next decade, this begs the question – are we moving into the matrix and losing our sense of the “real world”? No doubt, for some, this will be their reality for hours of the day, but for the masses, this will become part of the fabric of our daily lives. Just as smartphones have augmented our ability to recall information and connect to other humans globally at a ubiquitous level.

Taking garments into the digital landscape is an evolution in the fashion industry that is and will continue to develop. Apparel companies have long lamented about the seeming inequity of the tech companies who quickly and inexpensively create digital copies of their software, grow and scale largely profitable companies. Meanwhile, while garment brands and manufacturers must scour the globe finding ethical, affordable, quality labor bases and relationships, manage long lead times, and today’s insane shipping and logistics issues to get to market, with ever decreasing profit margins. Embracing technology, we now have an opportunity to utilize our technical knowledge around garment aesthetics, form, function, and expertise in our segment to step into the technology sphere as part of or in entirely our portfolio.

Opportunities, Let’s Make Lots of Money – From Design to NFTA 3D animated images of three pink trees. The ground is water. The image has a blue, pink and purple hue.
No longer hampered by the expense of the traditional design process, designers can jump into 3D design with many of the amazing programs available today. Browzwear and Clos 3D provide some of the easier user interfaces, while Optitex is available for the more experienced technical individuals. Once designed, it’s a matter of developing or supporting the existing brand’s presence by partnering with some of the current partners to convert your designs to sell on the NFT marketplace.

The process is really not all that complicated, once you decide on your preferred marketplace, just be aware of the fees when you walk through the process to convert your art to an NFT. Options in the NFT marketplace include Open Sea, Rarible, and Mintable, are among several sites available to sell designs. A quick overview of some of the strengths:

Open Sea is the world’s first and largest marketplace for crypto collectibles and NFTs. It has a simple process to help quickly convert your designs into a sellable NFT (a term known as minting). The platform does not require great technical knowledge nor coding expertise.
Rarible lets users create INFTs without paying upfront gas fees and requires no coding knowledge, making it simple to use. With community-driven features, it is supportive for those who prioritize profits and royalties from secondary sales.
Mintable is supportive to traders who desire to buy and sell assets to earn cryptocurrencies.

Among the marketplaces, the more common cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Bitcoin are widely accepted. To buy, sell, and trade on these platforms, familiarizing yourself with cryptocurrency and having a crypto wallet (Coinbase, Trust Wallet, etc.) to manage your digital coins will be important as you move down this path. Simply connect your wallet to a specific platform that suits your needs and expense level, set up an account, and start exploring opportunities.

Marketing clothing NFTs will no doubt evolve as the applications for these expand. As with any technology staying abreast of these ever-evolving applications are important. The market and opportunities for your product will continue to grow, as the continual newness and communication expands your awareness.

Pixel image of the earthPixels of Me – Creating on a New Level
I have always said that we live in a connected world. Country to country, the apparel industry is interlinked. This interconnectivity is now ever-expanding as we embrace the digital realms.

Clothing has long served mankind’s desire to represent who we are in physical interactions. Now, as we explore relationships in the metaverse, the desire to represent one’s mood, aesthetic, and persona will continue to carry forward into this digital sphere.

There will always be a need for our industry to design and produce beautiful garments, however, the metaverse now brings an exciting evolution to the industry. In addition to alleviating some of the current global supply chain issues, clothing made of pixels has the advantage of having fewer textile and fabrication limitations, opening the door to new possibilities. Remember, it’s evolution, not revolution. With a few small steps, you too can become Masters of the Metaverse.


California Dreamin’ – About the Author, Bret SchnitkerImage of Bret Schnitker
As an industry apparel executive for more than 30 years working in all facets of the sector, Bret has had the unique experience to do in business in 70 countries, working with artisans and experts worldwide. Having been in over 1000 factories that employ 200,000 people, he cares deeply about the value of the opportunity this industry brings to developing countries and its people.

Founder and CEO of Stars Design Group, a fashion design, and production house, he believes in fostering an environment of innovation and evolution to stay ahead of the rapidly changing business climate. With offices worldwide and a network of 67 factories globally, Bret helps clients (brands and retailers) solve garment initiatives and production goals, regardless of category or country.

Uniquely Saint Louis based, with its historic legacy in apparel and new focus of innovation, Bret is invested in the blend of talent and technology to develop solutions that serve the demands of the consumer base, while supporting social and environmental goals.


Additional Credits & Playlist:

Spotify Playlist 

Youtube Playlist

A special thank you to the artistry of the following musical artists for providing inspiration around this conversation. Dancing is encouraged.

Material Girl – Madonna
Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles
Video Games – Lana Del Rey
I Look Good – Chalie Boy
Money, That’s What I Want – The Beatles
Opportunities, Let’s Make Lots of Money – Pet Shop Boys
Pixels of Me – Finding Lost
California Dreamin’ – The Mama’s and the Papa’s

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