“Forget business as usual, we want business unusual”: This is The Fabricant, and This is Why You Should Care

Featured above is the Beta test of LEELA that runs until May 3rd – “a 3D digital fashion platform that could revolutionize the experience of wearing clothes”. Follow this link to explore LEELA’s capabilities and further understand the interactive potential of The Fabricant: digital.fashion 

 

The Post-Coronavirus fashion industry will be completely transformed…you’ve read about it, heard about it, and seen endless posts about it, but has anyone actually established a tangible outline for this reconstruction? 

Every fashion executive, designer, publication, and social media platform continue to acknowledge the problems at hand. They constantly make predictions about the future of digital dominance, sustainability, and new forms of customer engagement. As companies cancel their production orders overseas and fill storage rooms full of wasted inventory, there is a global search for an innovative leader to spearhead progress.

 Imran Amed, founder and CEO of Business of Fashion, proclaimed that 114 billion garments of clothing are made each year globally, as the industry has been focused on a “high quantity of cheaper, lower quality items, worn for shorter periods of time”. There is a desperate need to limit excess waste and eliminate the status quo of seasonal collections, which is further emphasized by BoF’s Zoe Suen: “An estimated £10 billion (around $12 billion) of clothing has accumulated in warehouses during the UK lockdown”. The statistics are there. The next step is acknowledging a model for fashion companies across the world… 

The Fabricant, www.thefabricant.com, is an atypical, yet extremely innovative digital fashion house, defining the intersection of fashion and technology. Located in the digital fashion capital, Amsterdam, their company’s mission is to revolutionize traditional fashion into a digital-clothing based industry in which their creations can be traded virtually. Propelled by a passion for sustainability, The Fabricant is breaking material barriers: “We waste nothing but data and exploit nothing but our imagination”. The expert team harnesses the unlimited potential of technology to produce digital couture, innovative virtual experiences, and 3D narratives to truly showcase themselves as the leaders of interactive, sustainable fashion; their creations are truly unbelievable, as you forget that everything on their website has never been physically manufactured. After exploring The Fabricant’s unique blog, I was moved by the following statement: “No airplane was boarded to scout a location for the shoot. No fragile environment was compromised in the name of a marketing plan. No catering truck was marshalled, no sample garments delivered, and no styling team was kept on hand ‘just in case’.” They are revolutionizing the traditional supply chain, and I needed to learn more.

Ever since COVID-19 forced the fashion industry to realize the need for change, The Fabricant’s mission has finally begun to be recognized. There is an intervention brewing amongst fashion leaders and companies that will transform the future of fashion as we know it. I was inspired to contribute to the growth of The Fabricant’s digital empire, as it is clear that they understood the inevitability of a sustainable clothing revolution. So, I sent an email through the website’s contact page expressing my deep interest in their purpose and vision, and I requested the opportunity to conduct an interview. I was extremely fortunate to have received a response from Adriana Hoppenbrouwer, Partner & Commercial Director at The Fabricant. Our email chain consisted of enriching questions and detailed answers that I could not be more excited to share with the MASH community. 

Did The Fabriant face any difficulties during the initial development and launch of digital fashion house? How Much of a risk was this launch in your eyes? 

“The Fabricant was founded on the 1st January, 2018, with a mission to ‘show the world that clothing does not have to be physical to exist’. Though this was only a short time ago, when we first talked about what we were trying to achieve, it was assumed we were talking about a futuristic concept – as if it was something from science-fiction. We were ahead of the industry’s thinking and mindset and there was no conversation around the possibilities of digital-only fashion, so we had to create one.

We are pioneering the vision, steering the dialogue and paving the way. That said, we are creating a new sector of digital only fashion by connecting leading brands, creators and users. Without a joint effort, change will not happen fast enough.”

What was the source and structure of initial funding? How sustainable is your revenue stream?

“Through our work we demonstrate that digital fashion Is an entirely valid business sector, and we are creating the language to talk about it. Our communications discuss a philosophy around digital fashion that co-exists with physical fashion but eradicates many of its toxic practices – when there is no physical garment being created, obviously fashion becomes much more sustainable. We are glad to experience a strongly positive response from key industry leaders, who collaborate with us in championing this movement.

From a revenue model point of view, we work as a creative house and software house, co-operating with brands by providing the following services:

  1. 3D sampling and lookbooks, presenting collections to sales teams and buyers.
  2. 3D Digital fashion shows and showrooms, where collections can be shown interactively in hyper-real 3D.
  3. Digital narratives and campaigns, to be used in digital channels.
  4. Phygital experiences, interactive experiences across sales touch points.
  5. Digital-only garments, representing a new revenue model.”

How scalable could this digital fashion trend become? Is The Fabricant’s goal more about evolving the industry for fashion influencers since people still want tangible clothes to walk down the street in? 

“Fashion has always been about self-expression. In the era of quarantine and ‘social distancing’, the physical body asks for comfort, while the digital identity wants freedom of expression. More than ever, “screenwear” is becoming the new streetwear.

 As flag-bearers, we practice what we preach. Last week, we launched a Beta test of LEELA – a 3D digital fashion platform that could revolutionise the experience of wearing clothes.

 It is a beta version and LEELA needs more development. But we put our flawed baby out there for scrutiny regardless. We feel this is time for being bold.  For providing solutions that answer to the new set of values and dynamics being nurtured by society in these unsettling times.

 The feedback we’ve received so far from excited and engaged digital fashion first-timers is hugely motivating and insightful.

 Has The Fabricant faced any challenges because of COVID-19 or does the company’s mission put them in an advantageous position for the future of fashion?

“The near global lockdown, and the necessary reduction of physical interactions, has collided with our mission in an entirely unexpected way. As digital advocates we are not immune to the difficulties that surround us, but we feel a renewed urgency to help the industry to move to a more resilient and sustainable position.

In this time of crisis, 3D digital fashion provides solutions in the real world that will increase efficiency, promote sustainability, drive the industry forward, and help to preserve a sector that is long overdue for evolution.”

Sources predict, due to COVID-19, that the future of retail will be characterized by smaller seasonal collections, a greater focus on the essentials, and thus an increase in sustainability: Do you believe that this shift was inevitable, as your intentions as a digital fashion house were established before the pandemic?

 “This shift was already happening but at a much lower pace, championed by thought leaders and a few pioneering brands.

 COVID-19 has opened industry and consumers’ eyes of the current status of things. Cancelled shows and contracts, a massively disrupted supply chain, artisans unable to deliver to deadline, and entire brand HQs quarantined, have led the fashion world to reconsider its mode of operating if it’s to weather future unexpected business turbulence.

 In this situation, 3D digital fashion does not represent a frivolous novelty that can be ignored. It provides solutions in the real world that will increase efficiency, promote sustainability, drive the industry forward, and help to preserve a sector that is long overdue for evolution. Digital fashion is available to help solve physical fashion’s woes. Only time will tell how long the industry is willing to suffer the consequences of holding on to old-world thinking, despite being confronted with shocking evidence that it needs to act now to preserve its entire existence.”

How can fashion companies, particularly those who thrive in brick and mortar retail, take advantage of the changes caused by COVID-19 and adapt to growing digital dominance?  

“For any brand or organisation, no matter what its capabilities, it’s time to review. Make it a moment to instil practices that push for a digital-centric future that’s smarter, more resilient and less wasteful than before.

 Here’s what digital fashion can offer in these difficult business times:

  1. 3D sampling, so sales and marketing teams can continue to operate remotely without ever boarding a plane or crossing a border.
  2. Digital showrooms and fashion shows, where collections can be shown in immersive hyper-real 3D, giving insight into the themes, shapes, patterns, and inspirations behind an entire new season output.
  3. Brand engagement through rich story-telling not limited by physicality.
  4. New revenue streams via the creation of digital-only garments that can be worn in digital lives.”

 

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