The future of sustainable fashion is digital-first
Fashion’s sustainable future will come from adopting a digital first mindset that empowers designers to create in a way that is future proof. That’s the key finding from a new report by RCA researchers into how the fashion industry can build sustainable careers for the next generation of digital designers.
In a collaborative project funded by Future Fashion Factory, game developer Lockwood Publishing has joined forces with fashion researchers at the Royal College of Art to understand the future of sustainable fashion — exploring how the pandemic has created new opportunities for designers to succeed in a digital sphere and identifying the necessary next steps for turning digital fashion into a sustainable career choice.
At the heart of the report’s findings was the need for the fashion industry to create a consistent pathway for young designers to both demonstrate their potential and be rewarded for it. This pathway would consist of three key elements:
- A model for IP which rewards, not exploits young designers — through clearly agreed royalties and the opportunity to use their designs across multiple platforms
- Defined marketplaces where designers can safely and legally sell their creations — this would protect both the platform and the designer from IP infringement and theft
- A more democratic approach to creative ownership — the report concludes that designers believe individual creators, not major brands need to be rewarded for their creative work and so a model needs to be developed which ensures everyone enjoys the benefit of their creative labour
Key challenges for the fashion industry
The report identified four key questions the fashion industry needs to address to ensure a sustainable future:
- Who owns, monitors and protects rights around digital assets?
- What new frameworks are required to meet the technical, legal and economic challenges the industry faces?
- How do we create and share tools which lower the barriers to entry and allow open access and collaboration for aspiring designers?
- How can digital fashion design become a sustainable career?
Amongst the report’s findings was the importance of the metaverse in both creating these opportunities for creators and the role it will play contributing to a sustainable future for creators, brands and fashion fans.
Oliver Kern, Chief Commercial Officer at Lockwood Publishing said: “This project has allowed us to recognise how we can collaborate with the design community and support them through sustainable digital transformation. As a business, we’re interested in a value chain in which everyone can participate and benefit, but to do that we need to understand more about how that chain will continue to operate in the future.”
Zowie Broach, Head of Fashion at the Royal College of Art said: “Digital design tools are now natural choices for fashion students, while the shift to digital-first design in the fashion industry has been accelerated by the pandemic. There is a new space opening up in the digital sphere with a need for aesthetic and technical skills, and the idea of an economic base that is not in the real is intriguing for emerging designers.”
Dr Dawn Ellams, Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art explained: “ This FFF funded collaborative R&D project has enabled RCA researchers to link insights from cross-sector experts, we have used these to inform the report’s recommendations on the skills, tools, IP and revenue frameworks required to enable fashion designers to work as part of this emerging digital value chain.”