Fashion industry is taking a new turn into Metaverse

The major change that Mark Zuckerberg announced regarding Facebook and the platform, that it will now operate as Meta Platforms Inc. or Meta for short, has created a huge resonance in the tech community and now around the world.

There are two sides to every coin and there are now ongoing discussions on the Metaverse, its advantages and disadvantages. Of course, there are major things to be done to reduce the environmental impact; for example NFTs and other virtual reality elements, but one can only hope this will eventually happen across the whole world of digitalization. There are some nice initiatives we will cover later at Nevertheless, in this article, we are entertaining the idea of how the Metaverse might transform the fashion industry and hence reduce the environmental impact of it.

Digital fashion on different virtual platforms is far from new. Since the importance of virtual properties is significantly increasing, digital fashion shows, NFTs, augmented reality beauty and other similar products have gone through the roof.

The fashion industry clearly seems to be obsessed with the vast options the Metaverse has to offer. In Mark Zuckerberg’s demonstration of the metaverse we got a sense of what it would be like: he was able to virtually select his wardrobe for his virtual meeting. At this point, it is difficult to estimate how much metaverse will catch up, but if it does it certainly will bring a change into certain areas of life, including the fashion industry. And, if done right, it has the potential to change this sector for the better.

fashion metaverse

The following statistics, published by the UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, give us an idea of how the fashion industry is destroying our planet:

  • The fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water every year — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
  • Around 20 % of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
  • Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 % is incinerated or ends up in a landfill.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers – which cannot be extracted from the water – are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.

Furthermore, in the fashion industry, there are many underlying efforts causing great damage to ecosystems worldwide as well. For example, the travel taken by designers and buyers when attending major fashion weeks generated carbon emissions equivalent to the Eiffel Tower being lit for 30,60 years or 51,000 cars on the road.

The use of digital wear in the metaverse might create a new path towards sustainability in the field. Digital wear conserves resources, saves time, and reduces energy use and emissions. Plastic waste could also be dramatically reduced. The global production of clothes could be decreased to a minimum, especially if self-expression will catch up in the digital world.

The metaverse is still in its early stages of development, so it is impossible to predict what exact changes it will bring in the world of fashion. Going forward then, the focus needs to be on reducing the carbon footprint of both the physical and digital elements of the fashion industry— minimizing the carbon emissions of servers, finding new technological solutions to data storage, preserving our natural resources in real life, and switching to renewable energy sources all across the globe. The point is to produce garments ethically and sustainably both in the real and the virtual world.

Andrea Nyilas is a Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability Consultant and a Sustainability and Environmental journalist. She holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Central European University, in addition to a Master of Arts degree in Economics from the Corvinus University of Budapest. She is particularly interested in circular economy, natural resource management, and waste reduction.