How digital-only fashion brands are creating more participatory models of fashion co-design

Emily Huggard, Natalia Särmäkari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The norms and systems of the fashion industry tend to support a small class of brands and designers creating fashion while the public takes on the role of passive consumer. The rise of digital fashion and a new sector of ‘digital-only’ fashion brands now provides unique ways for consumers to interact with fashion online, from buying wearables for digital gaming avatars, to wearing a digital dress on social media, to investing in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – digital assets based on blockchain technology, bought and sold online. Digital-only fashion brands are reimagining the hierarchical relationships between brand and consumer towards one of empowerment and mutual value via decentralized co-design platforms. Such endeavours allow brands to build community and challenge the ownership and authorship conventions in the fashion industry. Co-design has been widely used by fashion brands as a strategy that promotes involvement from the public/ consumer in creating customized and made-to-order products and experiences. Using established theories of participatory art, an approach to making art which engages the public and communities in the creative process, this article explores how digital-only fashion brands are creating more participatory models of fashion co-design. To confirm and further explore this theory and to consider how a participatory model is achieved in practice, a qualitative case study was conducted on The Fabricant Studio, a collaborative digital fashion atelier. The findings reveal new methods of co-design used by digital fashion brands that allow consumers to design and monetize their craft while retaining creators’ ownership. The application of the theory also underscores the importance of creative control and decision-making in the fashion co-design process to ensure it is truly participatory vs. interactive. The Fabricant’s methods to educate users through accessible platforms contribute to the diversification of co-designers and digital fashion designers in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-600
Number of pages18
JournalFashion, Style and Popular Culture
Issue number4
Early online date25 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • 3D-fashion design
  • decentralized fashion
  • digital fashion brands
  • digital fashion design
  • metaverse
  • non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • participatory art
  • Web 3.0


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