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Jiyong Lee is a designer based in London and Seoul with a focus on digital society and sustainability. They graduated with a BA in Fashion Media Practice and Criticism at London college of Fashion in 2022. Jiyong’s work researches and develops critical approaches to the sustainable world that they imagine we should pursue in the world of Web 3.
Re:A:Burberry is the future framework of the Burberry digital collection campaign. A practical approach towards a sustainable digital society that involves a critical practice, putting technology at the center of fashion. This project aims to experiment with the production of future virtual clothes of Burberry, by recycling existing fashion images that are stored in data centers, as a solution to reducing the impact of over-production in the digital world.
Digital transformation within the fashion industry has made it possible to freely move between the physical and virtual worlds, whilst building community, experience, and connection beyond geographical boundaries.
This campaign shows that we need to reconsider current so-called sustainable solutions that rely blindly on technology. It suggests what an effective solution might look like, by adopting a digital learning approach to contribute to a sustainable digital fashion industry. This project offers a new picture of the future of the sustainable digital fashion industry, which has evolved based on the concept of technocentrism. It asks questions about how we should deal with its benefits and drawbacks, and what perspective we should take on Burberry’s automation of the design process. Whilst also highlighting the limitations of the present digital fashion world, suggesting a new approach that combines the concepts of technocentrism and ecocentrism.
Burberry is a fashion brand with a long history. The origin of the trench coats connotes complex historical and topographical characteristics. I believe that exploring how the meaning and appearance of trench coats change in a completely new digital space clarifies the future direction of the digital fashion industry. It offers a conceptual approach to creation based on machine-generated images. It also signals a new era of the trench coat, combining the past and present of a long-established fashion brand.
Re:A:Burberry started by looking critically at the digital industry. Covid-19 has brought many changes. As fashion brands have begun to dabble in the digital industry, the concept of fashion has become more inclusive, personalized, and digitalized. These changes have brought about a social and cultural expansion of the fashion market. Digital transformation within the fashion industry has made it possible to freely move between the physical and virtual worlds, whilst building community, experience, and connection beyond geographical boundaries. Importantly, it has opened up new possibilities for creating a sustainable fashion market. This has been made possible through the phenomenon of technocentrism.
Is digital fashion really sustainable?
For a long time, the fashion industry has struggled to change. However, with the emergence of Covid-19, the digital industry became a catalyst for a new sustainable vision of fashion production and consumption. The changes brought by the pandemic offered a variety of possibilities for creating a sustainable fashion industry, from using scientific technology to create new materials to altering the spaces where fashion can be consumed. However, it is often part of a marketing strategy, rather than an effort to be more sustainable. Followed by this, I concluded that creating digital fashion that will delight the desire for the concept of ‘wearing’ exists only at the level of converting the concepts and consumer behaviors in the physical fashion society to the digital platform.
Therefore, these changes raise certain questions. Is digital fashion really sustainable? Can technological advances solve existing problems? Is it idealistic to think that we can solve the problem by changing the manufacturing process, especially in the era of greenwashing and fast fashion?
These questions encouraged me to try a new experiment by creating a digital fashion circulation model. The key process in digital fashion circulation, or image-to–image recycling, is automation, which is used to overcome the limitations of the existing fashion industry system. The dataset was used by categorizing and blending hundreds of images in VQGAN+CLIP, an application that produces pixelated output images. Using image-to-image translation, I make digital textiles and designs without forming a new image, thereby minimizing the design process, and therefore using minimal space in the database. I also try to automate Burberry images as much as possible to create various designs. This concept can replace some of the pressure on stock (floated images) while at the same time creating a new design that can, in turn, be recycled.
I believe that the future of the digital fashion industry lies somewhere between technocentrism and ecocentrism. Since we cannot ignore the drawbacks of technocentrism, I argue that it is necessary to adopt an ecocentric perspective on the digital fashion industry to solve the problem. Ecocentrism and technocentrism can complement each other in the creating of a sustainable society, with each complementing for the drawbacks of the other. This is why I created the digital fashion circulation model to create a Burberry digital collection sustainably. The model is based on comprehending the dynamics of the sustainability paradigm in order to consider what a sustainable digital fashion industry might look like. It focuses on combining two recycling concepts to realize a development that can change the structure of digital garment production and eliminate unnecessary waste.
The project highlights important points about the awareness of the future of digital fashion industry within the fashion system. In other words, this project will be the future scenario of predicting another pollution problem that occurs in the invisible virtual world, where the recycling process is neglected. To prepare for this, we create a new fashion with only images created from the past to the present by grafting a sustainable recycling process to prepare.