Discover more from Fashion Strategy Weekly
Fashion's Digital Divide: A Chat with Louise Laing of PhygitalTwin
FSW talks to Louise Laing, founder of PhygitalTwin, about digital fashion, fashion's overproduction problem, and fashion's digital-physical future.
Fashion’s overproduction problem has many possible solutions. One of them is to use digital fashion to more accurately allow for cost-saving measures like on-demand production and better supply chain management. Up-and-coming designers, in particular, often struggle to establish cost-effective product merchandising models to take their designs from creative conception into reality.
Enter Louise Laing, founder of PhygitalTwin, a tech-first sustainable marketplace that transforms digital garments into physical fashion on demand. Louise’s company is easily one of the strongest use cases for the metaverse as a creative marketplace of new imaginative designs that PhygitalTwin then translates into real wearable garments.
Recently, Louise and her team collaborated with two young creators, Web3 designer Julia Blanc of BlancdeBlanc and digital artist Stephy Fung, to bring their digital designs to life. Each designer then showcased their designs in a runway show during Digital Fashion Week London, as part of London Fashion Week.
FSW sat down with Louise to learn more about her work and her vision for a more sustainable fashion future.
FSW: What inspired you to start Phygital Twin?
LL: I got into PhygitalTwin because of my extensive experience in the fashion industry, working for brands like Burberry and Shrimps. Over the years, I witnessed a significant issue in the industry – excessive waste, including leftover fabric and unsold clothing. The problem intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, with brands accumulating massive amounts of surplus stock. For instance, H&M was reported to have a staggering $4.3 billion worth of unsold clothes in 2021.
Around the same time, digital fashion was gaining traction because physical events like catwalks and showrooms were limited. Given my background in product and operations, I saw the potential to use digital assets as a solution to reduce costs and minimize waste in the fashion industry and on-demand as a solution to overproduction. So, after extensive research into the market, PhygitalTwin was born with the mission to democratize the fashion industry, breaking down barriers to entry, and allowing creators to have their fashion collections at a low cost, sustainably, leveling the playing field in fashion creation.
FSW: How does your platform help designers create efficiencies? What about brands?
LL: PhygitalTwin is revolutionizing fashion design by offering a platform that significantly enhances efficiency for both individual designers and established brands.
Our platform integrates state-of-the-art 3D design tools that are pivotal in creating efficiencies for designers. These tools allow designers to craft and visualize their creations in a digital environment. This not only expedites the design process but also drastically reduces the need for physical sampling. With these tools, designers can see how their designs will fit and drape in the physical world without requiring numerous physical samples. This means quicker decision-making, fewer iterations, and substantial time and cost savings for designers and brands.
One of the standout features of PhygitalTwin is our commitment to sustainability. We employ a unique approach to fabric and printing that offers significant benefits in terms of efficiency and environmental responsibility.
We use neutral fabric as our starting point. Unlike traditional fashion, where various colors of fabric are sourced and stockpiled, we maintain a stock of neutral fabric. This reduces the complexity of fabric sourcing and minimizes waste. Brands no longer need to manage and store a multitude of colored materials, which can become obsolete or go to waste.
Furthermore, we employ a waterless pigment printing process that directly applies the print file to the fabric. This eliminates the need to match prints, a time-consuming and often wasteful process in traditional fashion. There's no more cutting around patterns to ensure alignment, which further reduces material wastage.
Additionally, we print-on-demand, meaning we only produce what is needed when it's needed. This prevents overproduction, reduces storage costs, and minimizes the risk of unsold inventory – a significant concern for brands. The result is a more cost-effective and environmentally responsible approach to fashion production. Working capital is significantly reduced and cash flow issues are solved.
In summary, PhygitalTwin empowers designers and brands by streamlining the design process through 3D tools, reducing the need for physical sampling, and offering sustainable fabric and on-demand printing solutions. This not only drives efficiency but also aligns with the growing demand for sustainability in the fashion industry, making it a win-win for all stakeholders.
FSW: Is there a right balance between physical and digital when it comes to fashion, particularly for creative designers?
LL: The fashion industry's balance between digital and physical elements is an ever-evolving concept. Digital fashion provides a platform for experimentation and avant-garde creativity, enabling digital designs to simulate you being on fire. Yet, the tactile and sensory experience of physical clothing remains irreplaceable.
At PhygitalTwin, we're at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of what's possible in this dynamic balance. For instance, in our recent collaboration with Republique, a renowned digital fashion house, we've embarked on a groundbreaking journey to translate their intricate digital creations into tangible couture pieces, a first of its kind that is being showcased during Paris Fashion Week. These couture garments are nothing short of exceptional, with some pieces comprising over 200 meticulously crafted pattern pieces. They represent the pinnacle of creativity and craftsmanship, offering an unparalleled fusion of digital innovation and physical couture. PhygitalTwin offers a new dimension to fashion that demonstrates the right balance and limitless creativity of the digital world with the tangible beauty of physical luxury and extravagance.
FSW: From your point of view, what is fashion’s biggest challenge when it comes to sustainability?
LL: The fashion industry accounts for 10% of worldwide carbon emissions and 4% of all freshwater extraction globally and 30% of clothes made are never sold. Time to market is sluggish, 3 months plus and long lead times means you can’t react quickly to the market.
FSW: What is the future of fashion innovation and Web3, digital fashion, and buzzy things like the Metaverse and AI?
LL: The future of fashion is on the cusp of transformation, with the Metaverse, AI, and digital fashion poised to play pivotal roles. While the Metaverse is still in its infancy, it holds immense potential as the next-generation shopping destination. Imagine a future where you can seamlessly try on digital fashion items with your avatar before committing to physical purchases. The physical purchase is then only made on-demand following the interaction with the digital. Creating no waste.
Digital fashion is finding a burgeoning audience within the gaming world. Games like Roblox are at the forefront, allowing players to showcase unique digital outfits and skins for their avatars. This crossover between gaming and fashion is redefining creativity and self-expression, offering designers exciting opportunities to craft trendy digital fashion pieces, monetizing through new revenue streams.
AI is another driving force, exemplified by platforms like MidJourney. While it's not an immediate reality, the future holds a promise where AI tools democratize fashion creation. Creators from diverse backgrounds, who are not traditional designers and maybe can’t draw that well, now have the tools and the ability to design innovative collections, leveling the playing field for innovators. We are at the precipice of change and PhygitalTwin is here to pioneer the transformation in the fashion industry.
Thanks for reading FSW. Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.