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Virtual clothing: The Fabricant moves towards sustainable fashion

21 September 2022

Photo: Blickfänger
Gaming and fashion. Two industries that most of us would not put together. But for Amber Jae Slooten, co-founder and creative director of The Fabricant, seeing the fashion world through a gaming lens sparked the dawn of a new age in fashion. The Fabricant has been both nominated for the Dutch Design Awards in 2019 (Young Designer) and took the prize in 2021 (Fashion). With The Fabricant, Amber Jae dives into a new reality in which she hopes to tackle the toxicity of the fashion industry with digital-only clothing.

by: Daniella Down

Amber Jae Slooten started like many millennials: gaming. “Virtual worlds felt like a place of safety, where I could feel like myself.” After graduating from fashion school with a digital-only collection, the importance of creative expression without boundaries didn’t stop there. The freedom that designing digitally brought with it, combined with the desire to create a positive impact in a pollutive industry, led her to co-found The Fabricant, a virtual fashion house based in Amsterdam. The Fabricant fuses traditional garment design with 3D software to design hyper-real, digital-only clothing. 

Constructing an entirely new fashion economy

“Diving into the digital world is essential for thinking about resources and how we go about [making] products,” Amber Jae explains. And she’s right. We are all too aware of the harrowing stories of the exploitation of workers in the fashion industry of rivers being dyed the next colour of the season. “As a young fashion designer, I didn’t want to contribute to that, and I was looking for a different way to express myself without wasting as much material.”  

Amber Jae partnered up with Kerry Murphy, a designer with a film and visual effects background and founded The Fabricant in 2018. “The time is right now,” they believed, for fashion unconstrained by the physical realm. 

“Digital clothing is becoming an important part of digital identity, in a time where virtual worlds like the metaverse are rapidly growing.”

Amber Jae Slooten, The Fabricant

The Fabricant made waves as soon as it hit the scene by selling the world’s first digital-only dress on the blockchain in 2019. The most shocking thing about this was not that the iridescent dress — designed using 3D modelling and motion capture suits — sold for $9500. It was the fact that this dress was the first of its kind to bypass the environmentally damaging production and distribution systems of the fashion industry. Amber Jae: “Clean fashion was born.” And with it, the age of digital brands having real monetary value.

Building the wardrobe of the metaverse

So, how does digital-only clothing work? The design process begins the same as traditional garment-making. Designers start by thinking about colour, shape, and texture and how those elements will come together in a design. But where traditional fashion design calls for fabric and prototypes, designing virtually on The Fabricant’s co-creation platform is an endless way to explore creativity without waste. “You don’t need scissors; you just click control+Z,” Amber Jae explains. “It’s addictive because designing this way feels like a game.” 

Finished designs are sold on the blockchain. They are never worn. Instead, they adorn avatars in the metaverse and get admired as NFTs. Splicing fashion with tech in this way forces us to imagine how garments should be created and experienced. In the eyes of The Fabricant, virtual couture can level the playing field for young designers, bypassing the gatekeepers of fashion and providing more equal opportunities for creators. “In this new reality, a kid in Dakar has as much chance as a kid in Paris of becoming an influential fashion force.” 

What’s next? The future of fashion

In a metaverse of unlimited possibility, what’s next for The Fabricant? Beyond pioneering their RenaiXance of Fashion garment, they are determined to build and share tools so that others may follow in their footsteps. “It’s about moving forward together to change the industry faster,” Amber Jae urges. As well as being involved in digitalising the supply chain of several major brands –– such as Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas and Puma –– The Fabricant is investing in their community. With systems like Twitch, they educate their community. “They are the ones fuelling the soul of what we are trying to do. They see digital clothing as a movement, not a fad.” 

Protecting the future of the planet

The political landscape and climate emergency are forcing change at a more rapid pace than ever before. And for many, that means diving into the digital world for solutions. Preserving the planet seems to be about using less raw materials and more pixels, is the answer The Fabricant gives. When it comes to new technology, openness and a willingness to share knowledge are key in driving the fashion industry — and all the major pollutive industries — to do better. This generation is facing the stark reality that development, up until now, has been at the expense of the planet. There's no way back anymore. The only way forward is to change. The Fabricant has lit the fuse on the future they want to see by enabling anyone to create, trade, and wear digital fashion NFTs.  

The question is, will digital-only fashion catch fire with the masses and set the industry ablaze?