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“The future of fashion is in the virtual world,” said Cat Taylor and Leanne  Young, founders of the first-ever Institute of Digital Fashion.

Designer Cat Taylor, aka Cattytay, known as the founder of digital fashion (we wrote about her in the article about the History of Digital Fashion), and Leanne Elliott Young, founder of CommuneEast and creative director of the leading digital clothing brand Auroboros, joined forces and founded the world’s first Digital Fashion Institute. Its mission is to revolutionize the fashion industry and make it more democratic, inclusive, and sustainable.

and Leanne Elliott Young, founder of CommuneEast and creative director of the leading digital fashion company Auroboros, joined forces and founded the world’s first Institute of Digital Fashion. Its mission is to revolutionize the fashion industry and make it more democratic, inclusive, and sustainable.

The history of creation

The Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF) was founded in 2020 at the height of the global pandemic. The two industry leaders met at the Dazed conference on the future of digital fashion during London Fashion Week 2019.

Already back then, the two were important figures in the British fashion and art scene, although their career paths had been quite different. Both tried to promote the concept of fashion development in the virtual space, but others didn’t take them too seriously. And, soon as the pandemic kicked in, the fashion world finally realized the full potential of the metaverse.

The Institute of Digital Fashion was “Birthed to re-frame a broken system,” says Catty and Leanne’s manifesto.

According to the girls’ views, the fashion world is faced with a number of serious issues, such as:

  • Patriarchy
  • Lack of diversity
  • Failures in innovation
  • Inaccessibility of fashion weeks for the average consumer
  • Dubious and inefficient means of sustainable development
  • And, most importantly, the global lack of awareness of what digital art is about

All this had spurred the girls to create a new, unique platform to help them tackle these issues.

Goals of the IoDF

“Fashion remains a very hermetic environment, especially if we are talking about the small group that actually makes money from it. We know too many young designers whose collections are admired by the whole world, but who still cannot afford to take the bus home after the show. The metaverse, which has not yet been conquered by well-known brands and corporations, gives them a real chance to make a profit, for example, through NFT,” the girls explain.

A fundamental part of the IoDF’s mission is education. For that, the IRL x URL Academy was founded on top of the institute itself.

In it, the founders share crucial knowledge about the metaverse for free, helping people to understand the sphere they are dealing with, the potential the virtual world offers, and how to become a part of it.

Understanding new technologies and their capabilities are only half the battle. No less important, according to the founders, are business skills, such as finding investors or marketing. Therefore, for helping creators establish themselves in this new area, IoFD has a mentoring program aimed to develop and master those skills.

For example, last year, over £270,000 worth of services and financial support was provided via the academy and various other projects of the Institute to help the next generation of people immerse themselves in digital fashion.

Leanne believes that thanks to the development of digital fashion, there will be many more young and promising designers, and they will be able to create and sell their clothes alongside today’s major brands. And, should that come to fruition, the ‘superbrand’ will no longer be a thing.

Already now, talented digital designers are exhibiting their works, catching the precious eyes of new consumers; if this keeps up, big brands and fashion houses will have to look for alternate and innovative ways to enter the platforms of the Metaverse — all leading inevitably to the Institute.

IoDF projects and collaborations

The Institute of Digital Fashion is currently partnering up with many industry leaders such as the British Fashion Council, Condé Nast, Nike, Balenciaga, and V&A. The organization handpicks brands to work with and develops comprehensive strategies for their presence in the metaverse. Adidas, Alexander Wang, Lexus, Machine-A, Samsung, Selfridges & Co are other big names the IoDF has recently partnered with.

One of the latest collaborations is a luxury wearable NFT collection for ROKSANDA presented during London Fashion Week 2022.

The collaboration brought together IRL x URL. The two creative teams — the digital clothing team from IoFD and the physical clothing team from ROKSANDA — worked hand in hand to bring about something more than just another Fashion Week collection.

The three tenets of the initiative are Watch, Wear, Shop: Watch the show, Wear the AR collection, Shop the NFT. 

IoDF has developed a thorough strategy for the brand: from virtual fitting during the show to buying NFTs on the site. The collection was also the first-ever NFT collection to be available on the luxury brand’s website to buy in pounds sterling instead of cryptocurrencies.

But the very first immersive experience of the sort was presented by the Digital Fashion Institute in collaboration with MACHINE-A at London Fashion Week in February 2021.

Through the use of augmented reality, users were given exclusive access to London Fashion Week and the latest designer collections. To do this, the members of the project placed billboards and posters all over London with scannable QR codes on them.

The IoDF is actively promoting digital technologies in the fashion industry and one of the brightest examples is the virtual product that was offered to the stars on the red carpet of the Fashion Award 2021 in London.

A silhouette metal corset with an accentuated waist, complemented with curls and plumage, was presented there in three colours. To no one’s surprise, it ended up looking spectacular on both women and men.

“The red carpet was a great place to launch it too I think, as a testing ground for speaking about the metaverse. We wanted to question the future of the red carpet – it’s a very elitist space right now, but having a garment that can be worn by people at home as well as the celebs of the red carpet was an interesting duality,” says Leanne  Young.

The girls emphasize that digital fashion can completely change the face of fashion and make it more democratic and inclusive. It will help create a future that is not about selling clothes but is rather about fostering the relationship between the designer and the public. That is why it’s so important that each of us can take part in this revolution.


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