On the heels of its successful campaign during London Fashion Week, digital innovation platform The Institute of Digital Fashion is on a trajectory to global recognition—and its latest partnership might just be the catalyst for success. But at what cost? Joining forces with worldwide fast fashion conglomerate H&M, the startup has conceived, co-designed, and crafted both a physical and digital collection exclusively for the retail group’s latest Innovation Metaverse Design Story.
The five-piece collection was inspired by the convergence of digital and physical themes, with each garment created as a means of exploring concepts of digital environmentalism. “In addition to the endless creative possibilities, it also allows us to propose a more sustainable and inclusive fashion vision that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world,” Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative advisor at H&M, states on the brand’s dedicated website.
Alongside the cross-boundary capsule, the garments are also available to wear using an AR lens on the H&M app. A campaign film featuring renowned models Kristen McMenamy and Vittoria Ceretti in both digital and physical designs has also been put out.
In the press release, the cofounders of the Institute of Digital Fashion (Leanne Elliott Young and Cattytay) wrote: “We at the Institute of Digital Fashion are excited to partner with H&M on a digital collection that pushes the boundaries of fashion as we know it, breaking free of physical restraints to embrace pure creativity…These digital garments are for every body, extending beyond seasons, beyond gender, and beyond realities, and helping us to consider the planet.”
But with the fast fashion label’s history of greenwashing and false statements, it’s possible that the campaign will be taken with a pinch of salt by consumers. H&M isn’t alone here. Many similar groups have recently been ramping up questionable sustainability efforts. Take Boohoo, which in September appointed Kourtney Kardashian as its sustainability ambassador. The news was, unsurprisingly, met with mass backlash across various social media and news outlets.
Moreover, considering IoDF’s past reputation — known for its strong messaging and environmentalism — it is surprising that it has partnered with a brand that doesn’t necessarily align with its solid values. During its London Fashion Week campaign, the platform plastered billboards across London with the message: “At The End Of The World, Do You Need More Clothes?” As of today, H&M produces over 3 billion designs a year, making it one of the industry’s most prolific polluters. The company was also sued over bogus sustainability claims in 2022.
On the other hand, the partnership might be exactly what the fast fashion industry and H&M itself need as a starting point for future alternatives. The IoDF has built itself from the ground up as a “tool for change.” Could this project signal a shift in H&M’s production strategy and how it plans to keep consumers engaged without the need for extreme consumption? For the IoDF, it hopes that the campaign will challenge businesses to reconsider how the high street retail model operates, as well as open up new avenues for a kinder, more sustainable future in fashion.