The future of fashion is in the metaverse. And Fashion Institute of Technology's Design Technology (DTech) Lab holds one of the keys.
The cutting edge lab is home to a 3D capture dome that is propelling the fashion industry into the future. Nicknamed "Little Alice," the dome has 64 cameras that fire simultaneously. Through a lengthy process called photogrammetry, the images are combined to make realistic and detailed avatars.
The avatars are entertaining and more than a little uncanny, but hold the potential to revolutionize the industry.
"Really, where it's making a big difference in the industry is in its ability to capture human form very accurately, which means that we can then construct an avatar which is used in the 3D fashion design process," Ferraro said.
This technology is more than conceptual. It's already being used in the world of fashion. FIT's DTech Lab straddles academia and industry, offering students real world experience with big brands, while offering those brands access to technology and the ideas of those talented students. Past partnerships with Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Girl Scouts of America, and more have tackled everything from size inclusive design to sustainability.
"This really gives the designers the flexibility to iterate on creative solutions, while being inclusive in terms of their sizing and design. And then at the same time, promote sustainability by reducing and almost completely eliminating sample production, which is a very wasteful process," Ferraro said.
The fashion industry accounts for some 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions on track to surge 50 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank. And some 87 percent of fiber input used in clothing design and production is incinerated or thrown away. With the rise of fast fashion, sustainability is more important than ever.
But beyond sustainability, machines like Little Alice open the gates to innovations never thought possible.
"Retail and media have been on a collision course for a while," Ferraro said. "There is an integration of core branded entertainment as part of a retail experience that you can buy directly out of. So live shopping is a big part of that. Live shopping with virtual avatars starts to become a development, and that in itself is really a Metaverse idea."
Shopping with avatars in a metaverse-supported, immersive retail experience or clothing that exists as a digital asset in photos and on social media may sound like concepts out of a science fiction movie, but there are already companies like DressX and Flex implementing these strategies today.
Ferraro extolled the possibility of these innovations to "reprogram our desire" and cut down on overconsumption, but he also said the metaverse will never completely eliminate the need for clothing.
"Until we're just a brain in a vat, our apparel is going to be important to us, always important to us," Ferraro said.