top of page
  • Writer's pictureSavannah Bradley

Meet the Founder Building the Future of Digital Couture

“I want to make sure our clothes don't just get tied down to being art pieces or speculative assets. I want to see them used! I want to see them worn!”

 

Joanna Nacif in the Cable Coat


THIS OUTFIT DOES NOT EXIST. You can wear it, collect it, own it — a gown made of desktop debris, a suit made of individual right-swipes — but you cannot feel it. But in a moment where sensory feeling is secondary to visual experience, how much does that matter?


This Outfit Does Not Exist — a blog and newsletter started by artist Dani Loftus — first came on the scene in January 2020, while Loftus worked as a corporate innovation consultant. Inspired by the sartorial discussions happening in the NFT space, Loftus kept an eye on digital fashion as a burgeoning form; she soon left her job, became a founding member of digital fashion investment vehicle RED DAO, and fundraised $1.5 million to build a new project called DRAUP.


Originally conceptualized as a “digitally-native Dover Street Market,” Loftus soon realized that there was good creative meat in not merely showcasing digital fashion brands, but creating a whole brand in and of itself. Guided by the ethos “CODE IS THE COUTURE,” DRAUP uses technically innovative, craft-focused systems to create digital clothing — like replicating the warm, deeply human practices of embroidery and pattern-making — and creates clothes with digitally-native narratives. “Fashion is meant to serve as a commentary on the state of society,” Loftus tells me. “And, as a digital fashion brand, all of our collections comment on digital phenomena.”


Gala Martinez in the Swipe Suit

Savannah Eden Bradley: Each drop — from the Swipe Suit to the Trash Gown — feels aesthetically singular. What’s your thought process as you’re designing each digital garment? 


Dani Loftus: The initial concept behind DRAUP was to embrace the digital nature of the clothing — not to create illusions around it but rather to embrace the new digital medium as core to the clothing itself. So when we create, we begin with a behavior or trend we want to comment on.


With the FEED dress, for example, it's all around universal digital anxieties and experiences (such as our fear of running out of battery) or responses to meme culture. Plus, when we work with artists, we have to also make sure the concepts we choose align with their existing practice and body of work. With REUSE x Linda Dounia, for example, we played off of her AI practice where she saves a ton of visual inputs on her hard drive to train her models, and explored the idea of digital waste as a collection concept.


After deciding on a concept, our process is quite similar to that of a traditional fashion house. We moodboard; [think of] designs, materials, inspirations; and decide which technical systems are best to bring our works to life.


Then, we do sketches — followed by multiple rounds of revision with me, my creative team, and our collaborators if we’re co-creating, before the final stage of digitally dressing our first model and live-tweaking our looks. 



SEB: How is your taste reflected in the work that you’re doing?


DL: I think my taste is reflected in two ways — first, in the wider themes that inspire our collections, and, secondly, in the designs that we create. As the CEO of a digital fashion house, as well as someone who writes about [and] has a history of predicting tech trends, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how the internet is changing us on an individual and societal level. These are the elements I try to comment on in the collections themselves — and [I] love finding news stories or trends that can be used as a design base.


On top of that, I’m obsessed with avant-garde fashion. Melitta Baumeister, Noir by Kei Ninomiya, Thierry Mugler, and more are the people I obsessively look to, and it's this element of avant-garde digital couture that I want to bring into our work.


There are brands that create more mundane digital fashion, which I think is great. However, for me, what made digital fashion so exciting [in the first place] was the opportunity to engage with styles and pieces I’d never be able to access IRL.


The first piece of digital fashion I wore was a metallic gown from Tribute Brand, and I remember how incredible it felt to be wearing the type of work I’d been lusting over, watching videos of [runway shows]. With DRAUP, I want to inspire those emotions in others that wear our work. 


Cecilia Gault in the Feed Dress

SEB: There’s been a lot of talk recently about how personal style — that is, personal style that’s constricted by what can be purchased in a store — is being supplanted by “customizing your avatar.” In other words: each person’s style will one day be specific to the point of invention, with trends as a thing of the past. How do you see DRAUP fitting into that?


DL: I’m not sure I believe that brands [or] trends will ever become redundant. With the amount of clothes that exist now — with fast fashion producers like Shein, the consistent problematic production cycle, and vintage and secondhand pieces — we already live in an age of fashion abundance. Yet we still follow trends and brands because of the innately social nature of fashion — fashion is a tool for expression, affiliation, status — where what we wear speaks to us wanting to conform and belong to a community bigger than ourselves. Plus the obvious clout dynamic.


I think no matter how much freedom of expression we have at our disposal, this will always be true. There just might be more micro-trends and communities to ascribe to. DRAUP-wise, I’d love [for] us to become a brand that really defines the zeitgeist of the digital age and allows for expression that reflects the emotions we feel as digital natives — as well as new sets of aesthetics, design practices, and tools.


Analiese Hardon in the Feed Dress

SEB: On another note: I loved the REDUCE shapewear project and how it questioned the idea of bodily beauty standards. What inspired that drop?


DL: Thank you so much! REDUCE was a part of our sustainability series REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE — a three part drop that consisted of collections that reflected on societal issues that were seeping into [the digital landscape]. For REDUCE, we were really interested in the issues of body image, and the new problems that the digital world has brought about in that context.


We wanted to confront this problem in a way that was humorous and tongue-in-cheek, but also drew attention to the fact we fetishize beauty standards that are literally unreal — the quantity of FaceTune on influencers, the prevalence of filter culture. We chose shapewear both because its purpose is to distort the body and also because we’ve seen a rise of influencer led-shapewear brands, like SKIMS, which we parodied heavily.


We co-created the collection with a phenomenal voxel artist called Patternbase, who is both a textile designer and an OG in one of the first digital worlds called CryptoVoxels. We saw voxels as a fitting fabric focus for this drop, as voxels are what lay at the base of every digital asset and determine what size they take up — and this led to our [campaign] slogan: “Reducing your resolution to help you fit in online.”


The drop ended up consisting of five different pieces with a selection of patterns designed by Patternbase. Our team designed a generative system which decided the shape, pattern, and more importantly the fit of these garments — the latter based around seven different stereotypical body types found in online culture. Important, here, is that because the selection process was generative, the sizing was utterly random — leading to [another campaign slogan]: “Fits as arbitrary as our beauty standards.”




SEB: There’s also something to be said about fashion’s massive collecting market — like sneakers or archival designer finds — which has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Do you think DRAUP speaks to a new kind of fashion connoisseur?


DL: A great question! Yes, I definitely think we do. Digital fashion expands who will want to consume fashion for two reasons. Firstly, because we are no longer tethered to a physical body, which, as we all know, substantially impacts our consumption choices. And, secondly, because the assetization of fashion pieces in the digital market — the fact these can be so much more easily traded and rented out — also changes the game and who wants to participate. 


In regards to DRAUP, something that surprised me was the fact that, last year, the majority of our pieces were bought by men who were connoisseurs of digital art rather than women into fashion. These collectors were fans of the artists we worked with, as well as the artists we co-created our collections with, and began exploring fashion as an alternative asset class. Many initially came to me sheepishly saying things like “As you can tell, I’m not a fashionable person IRL but I really like your work.” That really showed me how much digital fashion opens up who wants to consume [it].


I also think the digital components of our clothes lend themselves to new avenues for collectors — on-chain transparency around provenance; rental with no risk of wear and tear; an evermore liquid market for trading; now shipping, sizing. These are things we’re actively exploring as we think about our platform. 


However, I want to make sure our clothes don't just get tied down to being art pieces or speculative assets. I want to see them used! I want to see them worn! That's the biggest rush for me.




SEB: How do you see DRAUP evolving? What’s on the horizon? Where do you see DRAUP’s longevity manifesting?


DL: One of the most critical — and challenging — things about DRAUP is that we truly believe in digital fashion. Even if we were to create physical pieces, which I don’t foresee in the near future, we would always be digital-first. In this early market, this means that we constantly have to be thinking about who our consumer is and what their needs are.


Last year, our mission was to help seed the concept that code could be couture [and] to elevate how digital pieces are conceived of. We made some real leaps, here, such as attracting an art collector base and having our work sold as the first ever digital fashion piece at Christie’s — but there’s still a lot more work to do.


This year, we’re focused on helping our clothes become culture (and for digital fashion to infiltrate the wider fashion space). With our new collection, FEED, we drop a garment inspired by a digital phenomenon every 1-2 weeks — and while a garment is live, we will dress anyone who applies to wear it for free. The idea here is that momentum breeds momentum. We want to help people understand why they'd wear digital fashion — as well as to get digital clothes all over the feed to spark desire. In just two weeks, we’ve seen over 150 people sign up.


Plus — as is a little-known fact about most luxury brands — accessibility is key. [While] we want to establish ourselves as couture players, people need to feel as if they can have a piece of what we're creating. Last year, we were selling dresses from $2,000 to $4,000, which I think was leaving [sic] people out.


Looking to the future, we’re thinking of ways we can marry our collector and wearer market. People will want different clothes for different reasons and different things from their digital clothes. The educational and storytelling component that we really try to over-index [at DRAUP] is both to help educate people on what digital fashion is and can be — and also to tell the stories around why digital craft should be seen as significant. 🌀


 

Savannah Eden Bradley is a writer, fashion editor, gallerina, Gnostic scholar, reformed It Girl, and future beautiful ghost from the Carolina coast. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the fashion magazine HALOSCOPE. You can stalk her everywhere online @savbrads.

Comments


bottom of page