Fashion, one of the world’s most archaic industries, is ripe for a digital revolution. It isn’t a question of if this revolution will happen, it’s a question of how.
It’s September 2020 and I’m home alone, surrounded by unworn clothes, my social life sustained by screens.
Scrolling through Fast Company, an article catches my eye. It’s an interview with Gucci’s CMO Robert Triefus titled “Would you spend $10,000 on a virtual dress? Gucci is betting on it.”
Intrigued, I read on, then begin a frantic search of Google, Instagram and Tik Tok for anything I can find on ‘Digital Fashion’. Two hours later I emerge with an epiphany:
Fashion - one of the largest and most innovation-averse industries is about to undergo a digital revolution. And this revolution holds in its arms immense potentials for positive change.
The fashion industry is renowned for its injustice. In 2020, the top 20 brands captured close to 100% of the industry's profit; erecting near insurmountable barriers to entry for new designers. These barriers - ranging from the high costs of garment production, to the need for approval from an illuminati of ‘tastemakers’ - render the fashion industry not only stale but socially damaging. And for the lucky few who do manage to vault these hurdles, few are fairly compensated for their work.
Digital Fashion, defined as ‘any worn garment produced in the digital realm’ holds unbridled potential to rip down these walls for a new generation of creators.
With little more than a computer and some software skills, designers can create collections for a fraction of the financial (or environmental) cost of their physical counterparts. Rather than needing to be in Paris or New York, and appeal to major editors, they can distribute designs digitally through social media sites and gaming platforms. And finally, with web3-enabled business models, creators can innovate on compensation to assure fair pay.
With this revolution in mind, I founded This Outfit Does Not Exist; a content platform catalyzing the industry shift that 4.5 billion social media users, and 3.4 billion gamers, showed me to be inevitable.
Over the past 18 months, our community has grown to over 15,000 members, spanning trad fashionistas, NFT nerds, and everyone in between. We’ve been featured in global news sources such as VOGUE, CNBC and Vox, and had the privilege to work with global leaders in fashion, tech and crypto.
At the same time, the wider Digital Fashion industry has blossomed. Everyone from Burberry to Balenciaga has begun experimenting with digital design and distribution, and an outcrop of new Digital Fashion Houses have entered the space.
However, when it comes to the revolution I originally envisaged, we still have a long way to go.
Despite the size of the crypto-art market – some $40bn in 2021 – and that of the physical fashion market – valued at $2.5tn in 2021 – web3 fashion engages less than 0.01% of consumers.
In my eyes, this is a result of two challenges: 1) a restriction around Digital Fashion’s utility, and 2) a Digital Fashion community with constraints.
Digital Fashion buyers want to express who they are, and to own their digital clothing. Yet in the current system it's hard for them to do both.
For those who want to use Digital Fashion to express who they are, platforms like Fortnite (80.4m MAU), Instagram (2.2bn MAU) and Roblox (220m MAU), give consumers the ability to interact with masses of others, yearning to self-define.
However, the items bought on these platforms are not owned by their buyers.
As a result, those who consume Digital Fashion on the web2 platforms which solve for social interaction, are limited in their ability to use their digital clothing. Restricted in how they sell their Digital Fashion, gift their Digital Fashion, and unable to wear their digital garments cross-world.
This is similar to having spent thousands on an amazing outfit but having to keep it inside the mall.
For those who want to own their Digital Fashion, marketplaces like OpenSea allow digital garments to belong to the buyer, meaning they can be freely worn, bought and sold, and that their existence is delinked from the platforms they were bought in.
However the majority of these goods cannot be used to self-express.
Resigned to a wallet optimized for 2D JPEGs, with no integrations allowing these clothes to be worn, the majority of web3 Digital Fashion, whilst ownable, is rendered useless in its roles of identity and expression.
A common ground between web3 projects and fashion brands is the importance of community. Yet right now, this is where the commonality ends.
While democracy-driven and ethos-empowered, web3 is infamous for its complex language, jagged user experiences, and crypto-bro conversations. #TRADFASHION, on the other hand, though maximizing aesthetics and user-engagement, has a reputation for being both hierarchical and restrictive.
This emulsifying combination results in the trad fashionista’s reluctance to engage with our digital world, and with digital natives seeing ‘fashion’ as a repellent and unrelatable concept; despite what they might spend dressing their avatars…
Combined, the challenges above result in a capped ecosystem. One which discourages talented designers from making the transition to Digital Fashion due to fears of financial insecurity.
DRAUP’s mission is to confront these challenges: maximizing the value of Digital Fashion for both its creators and consumers, to enable the revolutionary impact I originally envisioned.
As a result the DRAUP platform will consist of three components:
Today, I’m over the moon to announce that my team and I have raised $1.5 million to seed this vision.
Led by Variant Fund, alongside some of the foremost experts in crypto (TCG Crypto, FLAMINGO DAO, NEON DAO, GMoney, Cozomo de’ Medici and Ashleigh Schap), fashion (Ian Rogers and Trevor McFedries), and consumer tech (Andy Weissman, First Minute Capital and Amber Atherton) we’ll be working to make this vision a reality.
As my next-phase begins, I’m actively searching for collaborators inspired by defining what fashion can become in its new digital context; particularly those who are technically skilled. If this sounds like you or anyone you know, please do get in touch
Finally, my deepest thanks to everyone who has supported me this far, and followed This Outfit Does Not Exist as it has grown. Regardless of your crypto, or fashion, know-how, I’d love you to join my new DRAUP community, so I can build for you and with you.
I can’t wait to show you what’s to come.
- Dani Loftus, Founder & CEO, DRAUP