Fashion

DressX – Future of Fashion

Interview with Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova, the founders of the Dress-X, the first international digital fashion multi-brand retailer that carries digital fashion collections from most well-known contemporary brands, born in the physical world, - in digital space.
Reading time 18 minutes

How did you come up with the idea of ​​creating the Dress X project? Tell us the details: when, where, and under what circumstances it was?

Daria Shapovalova: Being based in California and closely communicating with companies in Silicon Valley, we explored opportunities in AR since 2019. After 15 years in the traditional fashion industry, we understood that we want to contribute to its significant shift to a more sustainable, affordable, and digital future. Our team did the research and we discovered that 9% of customers in developed countries only buy new clothes to make a picture for their social media. Although we genuinely share the beauty and excitement that physical fashion creates, we believe that there are ways to produce less, produce more ethically, or not produce at all. We created a new way to shop for content - when every girl has an opportunity to wear any dress she wants to wear, in digital, which is 10 times less expensive than in the physical world. As we spend more and more time on social media (up to 100 million images are uploaded daily on social media), content is becoming a strong asset, as important as our physical belongings.

Natalia Modenova: We launched a series of content-driven pop-up stores in Los Angeles to test our idea in 2019 and came to the conclusion that people enjoy creating fashion content for their social media presence and happily share it. So as a lot of fashion items are used only for content creation (returns after taking a photo in the delivered garment are among the biggest challenges of the growing online retail), these clothes don’t need to be produced - they can only exist in the digital space.

From idea to implementation: how long did it take, and were there any doubts about such an innovative project's success?

Daria: The lockdowns accelerated DressX launch, and the website went live in July 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. We can definitely say that the pandemic made more people grow their online presence and thus made them more prone to use digital fashion for content creation, which once again proved that we are moving in the right direction.

Natalia: It is important to understand, however, that fashion is a high paced industry with intensive consumption, which drives growth and development of the whole sector. We don’t want to stop the economy. We don’t want people to shop less. What is great, with digital fashion consumption can keep on growing (this behavioral pattern is likely to stay in fashion, where newness, uniqueness, and self-expression are the important factors and the driving forces), but the environmental cost of such consumption will be significantly reduced.

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Daria Shapovalova wearing the digital dress by Paskal

What is the core philosophy of your brand?

Daria: At DressX we believe that there are ways to produce less, produce more sustainably, or not to produce at all. At the current stage of DressX development, we aim to reimagine the industry, change the notion of traditional fashion processes, and show that some clothes can exist only in their digital versions.

Our goal is to democratize fashion for the final consumer, giving our clients an opportunity to digitally dress in the clothing they always wanted to wear and get instant verification from their followers on social media. The users choose digital items from various designers on the website, provide their photos to the DressX team, and in up to 24 hours they receive their DressXed assets with the digital clothes dressed up on their photos. What is interesting, by using all kinds of available technologies and embracing the change, we can give an opportunity to become fashion designers to those who do not want to deal with production, but still want to create. We are all aware that production can sometimes be too expensive and time-consuming - now it can be fully transferred to digital.

Natalia: Sustainability is another component of digital fashion we love and place at the core of our business. No water used for the creation or usage of digital fashion, and thus the production of a digital garment on average leaves 97% less CO2 footprint, than the production of a physical garment. We presented this important information in the first report on Sustainability in Digital fashion at Fashion Tech Summit and we constantly consult with the leaders from the United Nations Environmental Program, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Fashion for Good, and Fashion Revolution organizations to deliver the highest quality data and make a real change for the industry.

What was the reaction of the designers who were the first to whom you offered cooperation?

Natalia: The possibilities digital fashion brings for creative expression are endless, making the digital fashion realm very appealing for both 3D and traditional fashion brands. Digital fashion is an opportunity to give a second life to clothes that are absolutely unsuited for being worn in our daily lives - young designers' graduate collections, some high-fashion or couture designs. While such items could be seen as too bright and expensive for our daily lives in the real world, we can look at the clothes in a completely different way in the digital space.

We worked with traditional fashion creatives since day one of the DressX platform, launching designers (for example LVMH-nominee designer Paskal) whose outfits usually cost around $700-1100 worn for less than $50 in the digital format. We now see an even greater interest in digital fashion from traditional fashion brands who want to explore their opportunities in an innovative field with several collaborations being released to date (i.e. our collaboration with Buffalo London and The Fabricant, or our recent digitized collection of the famous celebrity-endorsed jewellery brand Object & Dawn), with more exciting partnerships coming soon. Traditional fashion brands tend to be reluctant in implementing the new approaches, but we proved that there are plenty of use cases and market opportunities, especially for the established fashion houses - from optimizing the influencer marketing campaigns to generating revenue from digital clothing.

1613402299296681 natalia modenova wearing the digital blazer by nina doll
Natalia Modenova wearing the digital blazer by Nina Doll

Now you choose designers, or designers can contact you to collaborate?

Natalia: It is both. While we are constantly being contacted by 3D designers for whom DressX opens up opportunities in a digital space giving them an additional revenue stream for their 3D creations, we can sometimes also reach out and invite brands to join our digital community at DressX, when we see that the brand is really unique and can be a great fit for the platform. Same with the traditional designers. While we are constantly keeping an eye on the potential physical brands to collaborate with, we are very lucky to have more and more interest from the traditional fashion industry with popular brands reaching out to us aiming to expand and grow through the digital fashion realm.

We open up the opportunities for creative people from different creative backgrounds to express themselves using a new set of skills and a cutting-edge vision of fashion. What's great is that creators from all over the world are joining the initiative.

Are your clients mostly influencers and digital creators? Who is your client?

Daria: Our product is used by everyone who has at least one profile on social media, platform agnostic. DressX is built for every person on the planet, not only those people, who position themselves as influencers. Product is indeed popular among people who use Instagram as the platform for work and to express themselves, but also among active travelers and environmental advocates who care about the future of our planet. Obviously, for the influencers, digital fashion just makes the whole process of content creation much easier, faster, and less expensive. At the same time, for travelers shopping digital fashion means saving a huge amount of space in their luggage being able to then enhance their assets with the boldest digital outfits. Finally, for the clients who care about our planet and who are striving to decrease the level of pollution created due to overproduction and excessive consumption of clothes, shopping digital fashion can become a great way to reduce their negative environmental footprint without giving up the thrill of buying new clothes.

We see huge potential here. Digital clothes are something Millennials and GenZ are craving for. The market size of the traditional fashion industry is 1.3 trillion dollars, and digital fashion will ultimately take a chunk of this huge market.

Natalia: Although today's people's digital presence is mostly limited to social media, there is also gaming, video calls, XR (augmented and virtual reality), and other new domains that are growing fast. In the nearest future, digital fashion will become available for wearing, gifting, and trading on many more social occasions, not completely replacing physical clothing, but definitely becoming its integral part and taking a certain market share of the creative economy and digital economy of the upcoming future.

Do you involve celebrities in your campaigns?

Daria: It is not necessarily our goal to involve celebrities in our campaigns at this point, as one of the missions behind the project lies in making the industry more accessible for everyone. We carefully grow and support the community of our digital fashion pioneers, which we consider to be celebrities of their own in the new and innovative field. Nevertheless, we of course are happy to see more popular personalities getting into the topic of digital fashion and wanting to support the idea. Recently, we have been joined by the Italian singer Rose Villain, who made a lot of headlines in the local media by sharing her first digital look, one of the biggest Russian influencers, a YouTuber and singer Sasha Spilberg, who tried on a digital video look by DressX, famous sustainable activist Marina Testino, Ukrainian top-model Alina Baikova, and several space professionals and science presenters, including Kellie Gerardi and Raquel Nuno, who decided to support our recent cosmic collection inspired by SpaceX.

 

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Supermodel Alina Baikova in pants by Nina Doll
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Hannah & Anna wearing Yifan Pu
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Anna Andres wearing Nina Doll

What are the business conditions for cooperation with brands?

Natalia: It is a revenue share model, plus in B2B space we provide numerous services for the brands on our platform, starting from designing a digital collection, digitizing the already existing collection, or providing a platform for generating additional sales, and ending up with digital dressing for brands’ clients, creating digital merchandise, and performing digital influencer campaigns. We have a personalized approach to every single brand working in a digital fashion field together with DressX, and so business conditions would slightly differ from case to case. Right now we are working on the collection that will be presented as a virtual show and will likely go into one of the video games - no more details can be disclosed as of now.

What are the conditions for collaboration with bloggers?

Daria: Our terms and conditions for collaboration really depend on every specific person and the type of collaboration we decide to utilize. For example, we have more and more influencers and bloggers deciding to switch from using traditional fashion for the content creation and go fully digital with us requiring regular digital dressing on a weekly or monthly basis. Others, however, are coming from a purely digital perspective aiming to secure a niche of digitally-native influencers, which is currently only beginning to emerge, and having a lot of creative flexibility in the way they operate.

Overall, while collaborating with bloggers it is important for us to understand that their missions align with our mission. For example, we launched a digital capsule collection with a nuclear power activist Isabelle Boemeke, who uses her platform to educate people on clean sources of energy. This was the most sustainable merch ever made and we absolutely loved it!

What are the criteria which consider your project sustainable?

Daria: It is not a secret anymore that the fashion industry is considered one of the largest polluters in the world. The production and distribution of the fibers and garments used in fashion all contribute to different forms of environmental pollution, including water, air, and soil pollution, while overproduction and overconsumption of the fashion items are among the main factors creating the pollution. Over the last 20 years, the volume of clothing production in the world has doubled, reaching 100 billion tons. Correspondingly, harmful choices have increased in the production and delivery of textile products to the end customer.

Natalia: Having done our research we were able to discover that the production of a digital garment emits 97% less CO2 than the production of a physical garment. We also don’t need any water during the production of the digital items (besides the water our team drinks on a daily basis), and thus the production of a digital garment, on average, saves 3300 liters of water per item, which is enough for one person to drink 2 liters per day during 3,5 years.

Moreover, digital outfits can be delivered to any place in the world, without having to waste any CO2 on transportation, which makes digital fashion an easier and way more sustainable option for shopping clothes for content creation. By substituting just 1% of physical clothing with digital garments we will eliminate the annual carbon footprint of the fashion industry by 35 mln tons, which is equal to the total carbon emission of Denmark in 2017. Also, this will save 5 trillion liters of water.

 

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Yulia Fomenko wearing Alena Akhmadullina
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Natalia wearing Fabricant

What were the first feedbacks from your customers?

Natalia: Since the very launch of the project we kept in touch with our clients constantly asking for their feedback and suggestions for the service. We were glad to hear from our first users that they were surprised how much time and money they could save with digital fashion by enhancing their old content for social media instead of producing their content from scratch in physical reality. Some of our clients shared with us that they enhance their travel images - “no need to travel with extra luggage as clothes can be digitally dressed afterward to enhance the quality of my content”. What’s also important for us is that from the very beginning DressX clients wanted to support the sustainability movement in the fashion industry and make a statement by wearing digital items instead of physical ones.

What was the most interesting comment about your project, and from whom?

Daria: We are very lucky to have quite an active user base, supporting the project and actively sharing their feedback and comments with us. It is as interesting for us to read client feedback about the service on the website, in client support emails, or on social media, as it is to read the new features telling about DressX in some of our favorite and most respected media outlets. Probably, some of the most exciting comments were the comparison of DressX to the new episode of Black Mirror turning into reality, calling the platform to be the Farfetch of digital fashion, and putting it in line with Gen Z’s favorites - Rent the Runway and The RealReal.

How to get people accustomed to this entirely new direction?

Daria: By providing the seamless service that DressX will deliver in its future app with the ability to select, wear and save your digital assets in the simplest way possible. At DressX, our tech team is constantly working on improving user experience, developing the new and more automated pipeline for digital dressing, and creating more opportunities for the industry players to express themselves and expand through the digital space. We recently launched our collaboration with the iconic Spice Girls favorite footwear brand Buffalo London, with their classic shoes digitized by the pioneering digital fashion house The Fabricant to be sold exclusively at DressX.

Natalia: We’ve also teamed up with the award-winning artistic photographers' duo Synchrodogs to create fashion content at the intersection of physical and digital, getting DressX first print magazine cover at L’Officiel Ukraine February issue. Digital fashion opens up endless possibilities for the fashion industry, and while more and more players are starting to explore what the digital field has to offer and more users are interested in creating their digital assets every day with DressX, we are on the right track to making digital fashion mainstream.

 

 

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Daria wearing DressX by Nina Doll

What are your plans for the future?

Natalia: Only during the first month of 2021 we were able to:

  • launch a collaboration with the iconic Buffalo London footwear brand with their classic sneakers digitized by the pioneering digital fashion house The Fabricant and made available for the customers exclusively at DressX;
  • digitize and launch the accessories collection of the cult A-list celebrity-endorsed brand Object & Dawn;
  • become the biggest digital fashion platform with almost 800 digital looks currently available on DressX;
  • get DressX digital looks appearing on the cover of the print fashion magazine L'Officiel Ukraine in partnership with the award-winning photographers' duo Synchrodogs;
  • update our Sustainability report with the new data and present it to the Ellen MacAtrhur Foundation and the UNEP;
  • secure a great new partnership that we will announce soon.

Daria: We have lots of ambitious plans for 2021 and the nearest future with the DressX mobile app to be released in the spring of this year, more exciting collaborations to be revealed soon, and more amazing tech to be developed to support the growth of the digital fashion industry.

What are your business ambitions?

Daria: Our big goal is to sell a billion digital fashion items. We aim to replace at least 1% of the traditional physical goods (150 billion items of clothes are produced every year) with the digital alternative for the cases when consumers buy clothing for content creation or their online presence, like calls and online conferences.

Natalia: To give a digital wardrobe, that can be worn in every digital space, to every person in the world. Whilst the ambition is to seamlessly provide a fashion experience to all kinds of users and to ship the digital product wherever the user is in the omniverse. It is still a pretty new concept, so educating the community about digital fashion is key today. Also, what’s important for us is to create a blueprint for the entire industry of what are the emissions in digital fashion clothing vs physical production, how to calculate those, and how to understand the notion of sustainability in digital fashion to recover our planet Earth from the harm humanity made with new, healthier consumption habits. We have a Chief Sustainability Officer in our team who is researching this matter, and we already published our first sustainability report with several others coming up this year once we have more data from our customers.

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