Beata Wilczek by Olga Urbanek, Berlin 2021Beata Wilczek: Digital Fashion Q&A Manuela Nora Medic February 24, 2022 Artists, Creativity, Interview, Lifestyle, MESSFashion, Sustainability, Sustainablefashion How did you get into the digital fashion industry? When did your interest in digital fashion come to life? I would say that 2 things led to it. Firstly, my work in education and founding Unfolding Strategies. I was teaching a lot about blockchain and digital fashion ethics since late 2019 in the MA Sustainability in Fashion at the Academy of Fashion and Design in Berlin. Currently, the world is shaped by two major forces: digitization and climate crisis. I firmly believe that both should be discussed and analyzed as connected, overlapping forces, not as two distant topics. That is why when talking about sustainability in fashion we also need to look into tech, regardless if we think that it makes the world better or worse. We need to get the full picture. This is why a year ago I founded Unfolding Strategies, a fashion consultancy and education lab for digital, diverse, and sustainable fashion futures. We are passionate about educating and building projects for fashion brands and institutions. And we also want to kickstart important conversations about Digital Fashion Ethics and Sustainability with wider audiences, what we currently do via the Fashion Knowledge podcast, where I talk with guests about Metaverse, NFTs, Culture, Virtual Humans and many more. Credit: Unfolding Strategies, Instagram @unfoldingstrategies, 2021 And the second thing? In my Ph.D. research, I look into phygitals and this led me to an interview with Lukso blockchain co-founder Marjorie Hernandez de Volgestelter in 2020. When we first met with Marjorie at the Soho House in Berlin I had this feeling that “finally something interesting is cooking in fashion and tech”. I worked before with digital art, did a master thesis about “Post-Internet Bodies” at Central Saint Martins, worked with artist and filmmaker Marco Brambilla doing concept development for VR fashion films, loved reading media theory and contemporary philosophy about digital and virtual. But fashion was always very naive with its technological ventures, it was as complex as a Christmas tree decoration. Just think of all the dresses that had some flickering LED lights attached to them and it was considered “tech”. With blockchain and phygitals I could sense a paradigm shift: in how we make, consume and define what fashion actually is. This meeting at Soho House was crucial because later Marjorie and Karinna Grant co-founded The Dematerialised, a fashion NFT marketplace, where I joined them in November 2021. Credit: The Dematerialised, Instagram @thedematerialised, 2021 Let’s talk about your new role then. You were appointed the Head of Sustainability and Social Impact at the Dematerialised. Could you tell us about your work and The Dematerialised mission? The Dematerialised is an experiential NFT marketplace running on LUKSO Blockchain and its mission is to bring fashion and tech together. It is all about taking fashion to web3, making it exciting, inclusive, transparent, and accessible. And my role is to make sure that we are doing everything we can to deliver on equity and sustainability. We are working on various projects and educational partnerships which address environmental, social, and cultural sustainability. You can find more about it on our Discord, where I regularly share what we do. And in Values, you can read the DMAT Digital Sustainability and Social Impact manifesto I wrote. Why is fashion entering the metaverse? People like to stick to their bodily representations in the virtual realm, and as they spend more time online, their bodies need clothes there as well. The overwhelming interest in digital, virtual, cyber, or meta fashion only proves that virtual nudity is not an option. Maybe it shows that the part of the society that gets to be in what we call today the metaverse, either centralized or decentralized, just likes the concept of wearing garments? Fashion offers many affective, emotive, and aesthetic experiences. Most importantly, it allows signifying where one belongs. And as metaverse is all about communities it needs its cultural language. Those in favour of pragmatic and utilitarian fashion choices could say we don’t need digital clothes, but even Mark Zuckerberg showed his (extremely dull and boring) wardrobe in the Facebook/Meta rebrand video. But I am still curious to see nudist beaches and resorts in the metaverse. Because being naked puts a massive emphasis on clothes – through their absence. Credit: The Dematerialised, Instagram @thedematerialised, 2021 Do you think that our way of living in these past two years has accelerated the adaptation to the digital world? Exposing fashion more to digital ways? Definitely. If we talk about digital acceleration in fashion there is much more than NFTs and filters. It is also visible in automated production and mass AI adaptation. And all of these innovations and shifts provoke new questions about inclusion, diversity, and equity. Who creates these new worlds, products and experiences? What values do they promote and represent? Who can participate in them? Who benefits and how? Who is excluded and why? And how do they impact the human and non-human? Is digital fashion still not understood, underestimated? Consumer-wise. It is a new phenomenon, a broadening of the fashion system, something that was native to gaming and now just evolves. As we are watching it grow we can also actively observe and analyze it. Some consider it a neoliberal hell, others as a pinnacle of creativity, and to some, it is a temporary fad. Within the fashion industry, there is an overwhelming excitement and we can see both big and small brands acting on it with extreme speed. Even H&M and ZARA are in, not to mention Balenciaga and Gucci. Data also shows that digital fashion is and will be more and more interesting to consumers. Personally, I think we need to look carefully at digital fashion as a new part of the fashion system and economy. And within my work, I try to make sure that it does not repeat the same mistakes and harmful behaviours fashion has been perpetuating for centuries. I don’t believe in utopias, but if I can actively contribute to different, and by different I mean just, equal and non-racist fashions, then I am happy to be a part of it. Credit: Unfolding Strategies, Instagram @unfoldingstrategies, 2021 Digital fashion is really changing all the traditional views we had till now regarding body types, gender, production, and design alone. Do you think that digital fashion is being more accepting when it comes to exploring different body types or gender? I hope that digital fashion will deliver on this promise. We can already see a massive shift towards genderless fashion and I hope that fashion in the metaverse will be able to embrace plurality. This is something we actively discuss with our clients and partners at Unfolding Strategies. Credit: Unfolding Strategies, Instagram @unfoldingstrategies, 2021 In your opinion, how do you see the fashion world 5-10 years from now? I think fashion will be phygital. Tactility and materiality IRL will be more and more important. Our garments will be active and effective, we will opt for clothes with “pharmaceutical qualities”, that can be regenerative and nurture both body and soil. We will see growing innovation in new materials. The farm logic and locality will be more and more important. And it will easily co-exist with booming digitalization. The narratives and personal histories carried by garments will be explored more and more online and blockchain will find more applications in fashion. We will see many new (and overdue) governmental regulations and policies regarding trade, production, and responsibility. The fast-fashion logic will be rejected by higher percentages of consumers. Fashion will advance as an academic discipline and we will see even more fashion conferences than now. We will continue to live on and off-screen, just as we do today. We will only find new ways for those experiences to evolve. And we need to make sure they evolve with the interest of many, protecting human rights and freedom, standing up for climate justice, and caring for humans and non-humans. I hope to see more care in fashion in the next 5-10 years: IRL, URL, and in between.