Can digital fashion save the planet? – by Sian Alexandria Dowdeswell

We live in a technological landscape with an excess of visual stimulation, what we know as ‘real life’ is now blurring into digital reality. Social media platforms like Instagram are entering a period where brands are relying on the platform as a way to be discovered by new potential customers. The rise of influencers are convincing people that we need a new outfit for every occasion, the instant gratification of an Instagram like has become an obsessive necessity. Social media identities are questioned daily, adapting a new projection of ideals. We cannot fight the fact that we are becoming a digitalized society, but is there a way that we can save the planet in doing so?

Through the outbreak of Covid-19 we have seen the fashion industry being taken over by several technological innovations and it has had to majorly adapt, offering us an alternative. From digital boutiques to digital catwalks, we are slowly moving away from real-life, physical fashion. Already brands like Gucci, Estee Lauder and L’oreal offer AR powered virtual try-ons whilst Balenciaga has tried virtual fashion worlds as well as a number of virtual boutiques where consumers can interact with clothing. I believe that the amount of clothing produced today is way greater than humanity needs; digital fashion could be the future of a more sustainable society, the only footprint we leave being digital.

I created a survey in which I asked Generation Z their opinions and thoughts on the future of fashion becoming digital, as well as the influence of ‘Instagram Influencers’ and how this impacts their shopping habits. The results were as follows –

  • 77.4% of Gen Z said that they prefer to shop online.
  • 62.1% of Gen Z are not environmentally conscious about the impact of their clothing purchases.
  • 64% of Gen Z do not purchase sustainable clothing. Some reasons for this were as follows:


‘Not my style’

‘I haven’t looked into sustainable brands’

‘I don’t check if they are sustainable or not, if I like it, I buy it’

‘I struggle to find sustainable clothing in plus sizes’

‘I don’t really care for it’

  • 85.71% of Gen Z think that technology could change the future of fashion. Some reasons for this were as follows:

‘Technology makes it easier to visualise yourself in clothes’

‘Technology is more accessible’

‘We will be using less hard copies of things as they can be stored digitally’

‘More sustainable ways to manufacture clothing’

‘Technology has influenced nearly every part of our lives’

  • 51.2% of Gen Z said that Influencers on Instagram have influenced their purchase choices.
  • 54.95% of Gen Z said that they feel the need to buy a new outfit for every occasion. Some reasons for this were as follows:

‘I feel judged if I don’t’

‘It is nice to have a change of outfit’

‘There is pressure to look good therefore I don’t want to repeat an outfit’

‘I will wear an outfit twice as long as I don’t get photographed in it’

  • 63.97% of Gen Z said that they would be more inclined to re-wear an outfit if it was not photographed for Instagram content and would feel better knowing it is not posted on social media.
  • 59.75% of Gen Z feel as though social media has altered their perspective on re-wearing clothes.
  • 80.1% of Gen Z feel that Instagram Influencers have a negative impact on fast fashion.
  • 56.7% of Gen Z feel excited at the idea of fashion becoming digitalized, whereas 43.3% are scared.

From the statistics shown it is clear that the majority of Generation Z, females in particular, feel the need to purchase large amounts of clothing because of the pressure of conforming to the standard of beauty pressed on society, in particular by ‘influencers.’ This pressure to look good is majorly contributing to throw away fashion and is harming our planet. The impact of social media has altered people’s perspective on re-wearing clothes, as well as making young people more inclined to buy clothing from fast fashion brands as this is seen on public figures. The majority of Gen Z believe that the future of fashion will be linked closely with technology and over half of the people who answered the survey are excited for this change. The idea of digital fashion comes more naturally to Generation Z as we are more comfortable and open to the idea of having online identities and parallel real world. If we keep going in this direction, the generations below us will reach a point where they will see no difference between online and real world, it is increasingly merging. With a world full of unlimited technological advances, fashion could be anything that we make it.

My name is Sian Alexandria Dowdeswell. I am in my first year of BA Hons Fashion Image Making and Styling at The University of Salford. I love image making and styling and I am so excited to be part of the future of fashion and making a change to the industry.

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Photo credit: the quint

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