THE FALL OF DIGITAL FASHION & CRYPTO AS A RESULT
Because fashion drives crypto. Fashion drives what is cool. And crypto no longer needs a ride anywhere, crypto is tired of your time spent on screens while you are still forgetting where you stored that precious private key. Seriously, below is your guide for the growing hype and its decline. Change word fashion to crypto in your head and you will get where I am going with this whole narrative.
Screenwear is out, innerwear is in. That is the fact. Noone really cares about what you wear on or behind the screen, while everyone is affected by what you choose to wear within you, in other words, what is your emotional and mental health wardrobe. In this review we will not unwrap this idea yet but will give you clear examples of what is actually going on in the digital fashion world. Spoiler: a hyped-up digital waste generating mess that is affecting everyone’s mental health and how to be careful and hyper intentional when you are getting yourself into the space of digital fashion. And crypto. Because fashion is everything, even crypto. Which is scary and true.
This article was written in June 2021, alongside with this crypto fashion mega piece and edited & completed in December 2021 when I felt it was finally time to share it publicly. I took me a 6 months long sabbatical from fashion to focus on crypto narrative building to confirm the thoughts shared here are still relevant. I am not planning to come back to the crypto fashion world babysitting activities, but wanted to make sure that this piece is published.
Here is a bonus secret YouTube video I created to pair with this article.
Ok dear friends it is time I am more blunt and honest with you than I have ever been. It took me a year and a half (now two years!!) to write this piece and I am not even joking. The energy required bring this piece together took that long to process and it is finally ready to be expressed. I thought hard about this topic, trust me.
Let’s start outside of fashion as an intro, simply because I am TIRED of giving you existing examples from the current state of folding, hurting, dying fashion world.
If you are in your thirties like me and had multiple close (and perhaps romantic) relationships in your life, you know how it works: the more you date, the better you know who is a better fit for you, the faster you guide yourself towards a type of person who you are more attracted to and faster you filter out people who are not a great match. For some of us who have trained ourselves in the dating games, (I see it similar to sports competition) we only need a split of a second to feel if that person of interest and you have an exciting potential together. You just know, because with experience, your eye gets sharper, your intuition becomes clearer, your decision-making process becomes faster, you become a superhuman of Self and you know and claim your best currently existing in your consciousness match immediately. Same with relationship between me and fashion tech. I know my match when I see it. And in 2019 it was Newlife. I won’t go into all the details, but for those of us who know the story behind Nataliya.ai and my work on Newlife you get it — I want to give you no more data on that at this point. All I can say I clearly is that I have met a perfect fashion-tech match for my fashion identity. For now.
Back to the dating version of me to continue with my intro: I have been playing in all forms of dating in the fashion & technology worlds since my early teenage years: played at top costume ateliers at the gentle age of 13, during fashion weeks in Moscow at VIP zones I experimented with being a 14-year-old PR bitch bouncer, worked backstage as a turbo dresser, played my own lead role as a designer, production specialist & stylist, experienced being an archive manager, assistant, researcher, and editor in magazines such as Vogue & emerging epic online publications, experimented as one of those early wave bloggers, launched my own online store, sales & PR showroom, and MULTIPLE fashion tech startups, led designer sales & PR for most badass emerging global brands, explored multibrand, multiplatform buying, engaged in designer collaborations for customization start up, explored 3D visualization technology when it was sooo, so primitive, did buying and planning at top multibrand stores in NYC, did merchandising in top brands, led technology teams and managed 2000+ brand integrations at the most impressive marketplace, consulted numerous brands on tech implementations, helped develop innovative, conscious business models and advised technologists on emerging fashion market opportunities, developed tech implementations for responsible & circular fashion movement, hosted and featured in top industry podcasts, co-organized conferences, led monthly industry insiders events series on the future of the intersection of fashion, tech, and consciousness, created media content strategy for blockchain technologies in fashion and lifestyle, modeled circular fashion systems implementations of shared wardrobes with political leaders and developed a visual language of new life merch and ignited implementation of the future of trade — you name it, I probably missed it, it is still on the list. I dated fashion, tech, and conscious biz dev a lot, non-stop. Never had longer than 2.5 years of relationship with any of these aspects besides my consultancy, Balanced Fashion, which was more of polyamory than a committed, monogamous relationship. I BECAME what we as industry mean under the concept of combining conscious fashion tech, without needing to know how to look like one, I simply embraced my own version of fashion tech with a deep touch of purpose and responsibility (I called it Balanced), constantly evolving and expanding myself and clients I worked with by embodying a notion of dynamic balance, learning to build relationships with the industry leaders and launched & commercially applied trends at their most nascent form — simply because I had a luxury of being the one advising edgiest startups, brands and influential companies on launching those trends. Clear? Should be. If not, read the above paragraph again, slowly. In other words, what you see on LinkedIn is only a micro fraction of all my activities in the fashion tech world which I studied, researched, built, modeled, consulted and taught in from inside out. And I have to say, it is one of the dirtiest, painful, annoying, exciting, sexiest, fun, fast-paced, coolest worlds out there. And it is about to oh so deeply transform…
This what brings me to the topic of the state of digital fashion. In Spring of 2019 I hosted one of my Blockchain fashion tech events in NYC’s The Assemblage, the hottest conscious coworking space where I was a resident and one of the community leaders at, and had the LUKSO co-founder Fabian Vogelsteller and Neliana Fuenmayor, founder of A Transparent Company came to speak at my event on the future of blockchain for fashion, where Fabian uncovered the visions behind the digital fashion as this new hottest trend that we were launching as fashion technologists. It was around the time when the first digital-only fashion garment was auctioned as NFT for an equivalent of $9,500, created by Dapper Labs x Fabricant x modeled by Johanna Jaskowska. Check out the link to the sold item now.
Here is the screenshot I took on Jun 12 2021, just to confirm the page still looks the same way. Where is the item? Tell me. Where?
Where is that dress???
*Clicked on the arrows sign on the left bottom side to expand the view… oh, here it is.
GONE. Hello. To the beginning of the fall of digital fashion. When pixels are gone and what is left is…what… ipfs file paths… nope, just memories… of money spent. Do you even remember how that digital garment looked like? Do you remember how all the physical garments in your wardrobe look like?
Ok, here is a picture I found online for us thanks to the article I wrote back around the same time that garment was sold (yes, it is called the RISE of the digital fashion, because that what I felt when I wrote it and we are still on the upward side of the bell curve of the trend). Thank God this piece of historical writing was saved under the LUKSO Medium blog because my Balanced Fashion Medium blog posts were cleared when my Medium-specific domain was expired and I would have had to dig even harder for it to show you the reference of that first-ever sold digital garment as NFT. So you got the idea of how short-term this relationship of fashion and its digital reflection or should I write on? Too short, ok. Much shorter than physical garmets, as we all have learned so far… we still have to deal with physical waste, while your crypto backed digital waste can be burned just like that. And do not try to tell me that blockchain technology is oh so secure, I won’t buy it. Technology as secure as humans who built it. Humans are not secure, I checked. They die. Fabrics don’t. Got the idea? Again, should I even write on?
I WILL WRITE ON AND THIS IS GONNA BE A TRIP YOU HAVE BEEN CRAVING FOR IF YOU WERE SEEKING FOR TRUTH, SO GET READY, YOU, CURIOUS HYPED-UP FASHION TECH TROOPER.
I advise you to take several sips of deep belly breaths now and stop looking at your screen, look at your hands, perhaps even close your eyes, look inside…contemplate on the question if you really want to spend the rest of your life staring at the screen making sure those pictures and pixels are still there to play around with…
Now I want you to look outside, check out nature if you are lucky like me to live/work where you can SEE nature right outside of your window if you have a window nearby. I am looking just now and typing without seeing the screen… enjoying the nature views outside of my window and feeling much more relaxed and prepared to make my main point: THE FUTURE OF FASHION IS CULTURE.
Balanced Culture. My 5-year long, most committed relationship with Balanced Fashion is coming to an end and we are currently in the process of conscious uncoupling, so I consider this article as a way for me to release all of my attachments to fashion tech and really take a leap of faith towards my new lover, Balanced Culture which brings me closer to my visions of Balanced Humanity, the future of media & public relations enterprise.
Let’s take another breath together… imagine what we mean by screenwear.
Let’s take time to deeply think about why we think we need to own garments that do not exist in physical. How long this ownership will last? Where that garment is gonna be stored? How much it would cost me to purchase and to store it? What if I had no access to screens or the internet, would I still be able to see it or transfer my ownership of it to someone else? Would that someone else even want that garment? Especially considering the fact I am struggling to sell some items from my vast and highly curated collection of physical garments? Why do I even have to think about these digital problems that I don’t even have?
Well, surprise surprise. The reason of my decision to break up with technology of fashion is because we as fashion technologists and futurists often create more problems than solutions. We literally make up a problem cases to solve it with technology that we are set to build, while the real problem is not solvable with any technology that is outside of us. But I am not gonna go there right now, just to say this is a consumerism issue. And what digital fashion is promoting? Consumerism. And problems… that come from owning a digital asset. Whether it is a pixelated art piece, or any other piece of NFT. Digital asset. Who needs those? Really, humans. We have gotten ourselves waaaay too far I think. The future of Internet and everything that is posted on it is decentralized and collective, without individual ownership. This is simple and true. Lets not make up new problems anymore please. Whatever I post online, anywhere becomes a public asset. It is my choice what and where and when to share.
if technology gonna be there forever really? Not at all. Please wake up to this simple fact. When there is noone left to keep tech running you will see. Things are gonna start to fall apart faster than you may imagine and that is ok, just get ready for it and invest in crystals. I will teach you how to work with them someday.
Back to the hype.
I strongly believe that the future of fashion is physical, it’s not phygital, as I used to say 2 years ago, before 2020 events hit. Things are going to be much simpler than we may envision, especially when we all collectively get fed up with technology that is presented to us now, which is, let’s be honest, a joke that is not even funny or entertaining anymore. And it is affecting our mental health more than ever.
Let’s circle back to 2019, when I wrote the article The Rise of Digital Fashion. Until today it is one of the most viewed articles I have ever written. It was the time when many of us in the industry finally realized that the fashion industry needed great, great changes. And the blockchainzation of fashion was only in the stage of early development, and in the process of creating language around those concepts. There were a lot of attempts in the edgier sides of fashion to enter the digital sphere. And the idea of blockchain was not as foreign as it used to be for the fashion application, I wrote a couple of deep dive articles about that in 2018, here and here. And when March 2020 hit, we all knew that we had to all go digital to survive imposed on us global narrative. And at that moment I realized: nope. That article that I wrote back in the summer time of 2019 is no longer relevant because we are now forced to get digital. And when you force something, by default, it becomes repelling after some time. Because forcing is the opposite of inviting. Back in 2019 I was excited to invite the readers into the digital sphere of fashion because it felt new and playful, helping direct our consumerism from fast fashion into digital felt like the right step we all had to take temporary to train ourselves to consume less generally. In 2020, many many brands started playing with digital fashion ideas, in 2021 with NFTs and crypto assets ownership… it all became hype. Which is a sign of a FAD. Not a healthy trend. When you have been creating and leading fashion world as long as I have, you will clearly see the difference between fads and trends. Both are temporary btw.
Back to the hype… we started to see marketplaces of digital-only fashion to pop up, selling ‘skins’ for a game that did not actually exist. Well, my way of thinking is that, yes, I used to spend a lot of time on social media, in the first several months of the global narrative of lockdowns, I went live every day. Basically, I went life and channeled my truth I shared what was going on in my life in the present moment, shared authentically, my stories, both on my personal nataliya.ai account and on my balanced fashion professional account and on balanced humanity, which was removed by Facebook at some point in 2021. That insident made me want to stop engaging with any social media. I stopped using Facebook in around January 2021 and I stopped using Instagram in November 2021. That is a conscious decision not to engage in web2 social media, which is extracting our data and using it for commercial purposes. Without our full transparent agreement of what is actually happening to our data. Even thought all of my accounts on social are private and closed, I knew that my data was not mine anymore once it was shared. And even though I did go live, almost every day and saved those live videos as IGTV, I knew that this is a part of a big experiment. I have to say I really enjoyed going live and sharing my truth back then. I would dress up every day, as going out and socializing wasn’t an option I felt was there for me at that time, I would still dress up for these lives and zoom calls. I enjoy dressing up for my digital presence. And already at that point a thought of digital fashion was ridiculous to me because, hey, I had so many things in my wardrobe already that I needed to walk through for my digital presence. At that point I was leading this huge project for Newlife, which was creating merchandising strategy for the whole web3 layer. So all the garments, accessories and lifestyle possessions that I had at home were going to be placed on chain via Newlife nodes as I have been posting photos of all of my possessions. To me, that was the ultimate representation of digital fashion layer. When the digital aspects are the photo and the blockchain technology that is tied to that photo, which comprises an NFT. I was transparently showcasing all the items that I own. And going live was a great way to model all that I shared on Social 3.0 via Newlife. Coming up with my outfits every day for my digital avatar that was as real as it gets was a pure joy to me back then. Putting together new looks and experimenting more than I would experiment in previous times, unless it was Burning Man. I felt like I could express myself freely and openly without censoring myself at all, and really putting on anything that I felt like, feeling great about it and looking epic as well. And at that point I was looking very closely at what was going on in the digital space. I was tracking the most innovative and the most fun creators in the digital fashion space, mostly through Instagram. I was attending meetups that Karina Nobbs was organizing, called digital fashion workouts. I was also deeply connecting with other innovators in the space and researching ways to present this new dimension of fashion.
I wasn’t really writing about digital fashion at that point, I was more of an observer and active participants of my own version of what digital fashion meant to me and seeing the mainstream version of it die in my head before it really took off, and even the blockchain innovation aspect of my work with many attempts to connect with Lukso and Lablaco to help model what it means to create a fully circular wardrobe. My fellow industry leaders simply did not want to listen to me. I received no communications from companies I would reach out to regarding my ways of looking at the digital fashion industry. I was simply not taken seriously. Maybe it’s because of all of my spiritual topics that I was engaged in my personal account, or maybe because of my way of presenting that was so edgy and different, and so real life, relevant, not as polished as the fashion industry used to showcase a final product. Anyways, I was ignored by the whole industry when I tried to share my visions of digitalization and blockchainisation of our closets, and very soon I realized that no one actually needs that. A picture of a garment that I own IS that digital passport, we do NOT need anything else. I know for a fact that I’m the only owner of that picture. And when I posted it on Newlife, it becomes an NFT. So it means that I’m a confirmed owner of that piece of merch. I also felt that I didn’t need to like take product shots of each garment. I could take a picture of a set of several garments and say hey, this is a passport for all of these 11 garments, so that the effort and energy invested in creating that digital passport was reduced. And just the fact that I could only take one photo and showcase several garments and put it on-chain was incredible because, you know, energy. It becomes also easier to sell or exchange bundles, collections, not separate garments only. Very simple things, humans, so simple…
It all really inspires me to envision what the future of trade is gonna look like.. Remember that fashion retail & e-commerce hasn’t changed much since the concept of fashion e-commerce emerged with Net-a-Porter over 21 years ago. The layout is still the same. And yes, there are VR/AR companies that are developing more fun and engaging digital experiences for retail. But those are gimmicky, feel like a bad computer game, they’re not user friendly at all. Everyone is just tired of digital life. Noone truly wants to shop online, it is boring.
And what I’m seeing right now with is digital, with the rise of NFTs hype is all oh so temporary. What is gonna stay is not the code that is chain, but a memory of a digital asset and its physical counterpart in a form of a garment, if you are smart and lucky. We’re all tired of digital, please do not deny this fact it is simple and true. We’re all tired of our screens. We’re all tired of each other who are still only connecting online. We’re all tired of looking at clothing online. Clothing is not made to look at on screens, it is made to be experienced in physical. I’m so much more fascinated by wrapping a piece of fabric around my body and being the designer again, being the stylist of my own physical wardrobe. I’m so much more excited to go out, dressed up in a much edgier way than I used to, and see the reaction of people around me, and receive compliments from people for the way that I show up in the physical world. I’ve stopped using social 2.0. I’m still on Newlife, but rarely. I don’t need an avatar. I am the ultimate avatar. And I’ve been deleting the videos that I posted and content that I’ve created, simply because I don’t want it to be seen anymore, I want people to get to know me in real life. Now we are all super overloaded with all kinds of information, we became content for each other, and we are oh so tired of each other. We are tired of the content that we created and shared online. These days, most times I spent offline with myself meditating, writing, drawing, illustrating, visualizing best future scenarios, making food, connecting with my loved ones, being out in the nature, going to museums, going to retail stores, connecting with the business owners, engaging in the local community in person, being out there, not being online.
2020 and 2021 showed us that enough is enough. I don’t see digital fashion growing much bigger than it has grown already. And then it will decline. Yes, some of those that were first in the market will stay in fashion/culture history books. Skins will be gone. Computer games will evolve into physical treasure hunts and quests. We soon collectively realize that screens hurt eyes and info we get exposed to online affect our mental health, and eventually we will stop and get invited to play in nature and connect with each other in person, just like many of us did in Summer 2020 after months of being locked up at homes. And perhaps we will still be coming back to screens, we would not want to stay in the metaverse for too long. It’s all a fad. And even I didn’t expect that it was going to go away so fast! The end. The fall of their digital fashion, it’s obviously coming, because let’s be honest with ourselves. Neither of us want to spend time on screens, any longer than we already did back in Spring 2020. So, what is the future of fashion? It is physical, fully circular and regenerative. It’s extremely creative. Fascinating. Diverse. And, yeah, it’s not going to be on screens, it’s going to be fully off screens. The AR layer is a fad, we do not need to enhance garments that are already physically perfect. We’re going to keep loving our fabrics that we have already produced as an industry, we’re going to create new garments from the existing ones, we’re going to weave a completely new aesthetic of upcycled products and digital will be only a layer that is just a helping hand for designers to visualize their creations. And yes, some of us will be using these on social media for some time until, again, we wake up to the fact that traditional social media is abusing us and our data. And it’s not healthy for us to spend our time on social media when we have each other to connect with in physical. Social 3.0 won’t stay for long either, mark my words. Digital currency ownership is a bridge to no currency, I have said this enough publicly to make my point. It is oh so temporary.
Now we have whole industry to reimagine, renew, recreate and upcycle, some of us will choose to learn to sew & mend, we will learn to remake what we already have, we will learn to drape and play around with fabrics like never before, generate completely new aesthetical ideas of what garments of the future would look like. We will be connecting in physical again more and we will remember how to touch each other with love and care, and how ridiculous that idea was back in 2019 and 2020 when the rise was really happening for the digital world. But by 2021/2022 we wanted to throw up when we saw digital fashion, we just didn’t want to go there anymore. It’s an obvious fad and I invite the whole fashion industry to stop wasting their time and energy producing technologies that are not actually needed for the industry and focus on reconstructing the physical industry from the ground up. I see a close future where factories will turn into educational centers and support systems for the local communities. The fashion designers becoming visionaries of what’s to come in lifestyle, whole reality creators. The ultimate creators, the community igniters, the ideas connectors, the imagineers. Brands embracing the power of their communities, the humans who believe that our love for beauty and the power of aesthetics are going to lead the shift in our humanity. No longer focusing on creating new, forget digital, forget blockchain. It is all about physical upcycling renaissance. Tapping into what we have already created and working from perspective of abundance and wealth, not digital narrative building into nowhere besides mental health crisis.
I believe in the economy of trust. The economy of authentic exchange. The economy of no screens and no technology to be involved in trade, on local and global scale. I believe in supporting local communities, nourishing local craftsmanship and exchanging skills and wisdom with each other, teaching each other to mend to recreate, to renew, to upcycle. It’s much more exciting to be offline and in community, than to be in online with your digital friends. Yes, the gaming world will continue, but that will be more of like edutainment, and it will be much more intentional, phygital in its nature. The schools will be both digital and physical, balanced. The students will learn to create digital garments, and then will be focused on transferring those ideas into the physical, the digital will only stay as a temporary, fleeting layer.
The layer that will all learn to respect, but won’t let it to overload our systems, as our eyes are not made to look at screens as much as we are looking at screens at the moment. My eyes are tired, and I am not working a full time job I don’t even have to look at screens every day. Balance, humans, let’s learn that. A digital fashion narrative won’t bring us any balance, it will only bring us mental and physical health problems.
Let’s talk a little bit more about blockchain & Web3. So, yes, there are companies that are currently developing something for the digital layer of fashion, tokenizing garments, and all the luxury brands that are trying to get into NFT/blockchain world, without really knowing where to start, and being all over the place, hiring people that have no idea about the industry or how to put together a high quality crypto product. People are trying to get into Web3 without understanding what that layer of the internet really is. It is all a big mess. We all see that it is a huge joke based on hype. We don’t need fashion crypto whatever to make us feel good and whole.
The raising of human consciousness is the answer. Slowing down is the answer. Tuning in is the answer. Connecting with each other deeply and learning to LISTEN is the answer. It’s the ability to learn to trust each other and to communicate with each other openly and freely, and to showcase our skills, negotiate the exchanges based on our skills see our possessions as collective assets, and hopefully transcend the idea of ownership, lead towards the sharing and fully circular economy, where we do not need to say: hey this is mine and this is yours. We can simply unite on the fact that this is ours. We will be sharing with each other, exchanging and constantly so circulating the garments, accessories and all the lifestyle objects that we have. Of course digital assets will stay, but we won’t need to own them. I really believe that investing in the digital assets, It’s a stupid idea. And I am a long term crypto holder and a founding member of Newlife/Newcoin crew. I still believe it is all going to disappear, maybe technology crashes or it would need constant support from those who can no longer support it. Remember, there are teams of humans working on any given technology product. Imagine hundreds of people behind screens, working, helping you see that photo or that interactive piece of garment. Servers consuming intense amounts of energy to store all your digital assets. And once that is shut off, you don’t have that anymore, you’ll have the idea/memory of it, maybe you would even have a screenshot somewhere saved on a hard drive or even a print out of it if you’re edgy, but you wouldn’t have that as an asset when technology is no longer there, whether it is on-chain or not, it will simply no longer exist. That brings me to the future of money and that would be a topic for another article.
So the moral of this whole piece is that ALL technology including digital assets stored on it is going to eventually disappear. But the physical items are not going to disappear so easily, until we train ourselves to create objects with biodegradable materials that will be 3d printed. So let’s go back to the Earth’s side appreciate the traditional crafts of our industry. And forget about the hype of the digital fashion as a beautiful dream we all collectively dreamed of as a temporary experience. Please, stop trying to reinvent the industry and start USING THE INVENTORY THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN PRODUCED. I want to see h&m, zara and other giants to be fully circular by 2023, starting with utilizing the materials that ALREADY EXSIT in their stock and circulating in the market.
In order to create the new industry, we need to redefine prosperity. To me prosperity is acknowledging the privilege of living on the Planet that is still somehow magically alive. That we haven’t extracted everything out of Her. That we found our collective will to stop raping her early enough and set the right examples as an industry that leads culture. STOP PRODUCING. Both digitally and physically. Start upcycling. It is SO, SOOO easy, once you get it.
I believe all companies have to stop production completely for at least 5 years and focus on creatively utilizing the textiles and accessories that have already been produced. After that, focus on developing new textile technologies that are based biodegradable, organic fibers.
Also a fact: nature IS free. Can we make that as our benchmark. How about no more money, start trading textiles and e-waste. I would like to see the industry where we freely trade our creative assets. Let humans who have built the industry assess the true value of new pieces produced.
Sometimes I laugh when I see technologies creating all these tools and new platforms and think about the amount of time they spend on screens, knowing the mental health issues we are facing are caused by our eyes glued to our screens instead of spending time in nature and with our loved ones.
The whole idea of digital fashion is clearly a fad and it pains me to see people taking these topics so seriously and creating companies around the issue that produces more harm than beauty. Trust me, I thought deeply about this article two years, and only now I have full confidence on the FALL of digital fashion is coming faster than we all may collectively understand the meaning behind NFTs. We will soon be ready move on to building inner tools for learning to trust each other without technology being on the way to block us from seeing each other’s truth. The truth is simple: tech generally hurts us, reality is not tech, tech is a tool to train our brain to communicate telepathically and perform magic irl. I won’t go there today, but you got the idea — hopefully this is enough to keep you intrigued on what is to come in Balanced Culture & our work as futurists.
Thanks for your attention. And yeah, no pictures of fashions or brands to spotlight at this point! We are one big brand we call fashion industry and we better clean up our act fast and not get stuck in digital fashion narrative, because crypto assets are not getting us closer to true inner Balance.