The Intergalactic Freedom Dress is perhaps one of the most avant-gard examples of peace visualisation and activism in fashion. It is one of several items created through a collaboration between Vogue Singapore and Vogue Ukraine, designed to ‘spread awareness about Russia’s military invasion’ in February 2022 and to raise funds to support the people of Ukraine.
Rather than being available to buy in physical form, it has been marketed as an NFT – a non-fungible token – a new form of cryptocurrency which has been gaining traction lately. As this article explains, NFTs ‘transform digital works of art and other collectibles into one-of-a-kind, verifiable assets that are easy to trade on the blockchain’:
‘NFTs… are unique and not mutually interchangeable, which means no two NFTs are the same. Think of Pokémon cards, rare coins or a limited-edition pair of Jordans: NFTs create scarcity among otherwise infinitely available assets — and there’s even a certificate of authenticity to prove it. NFTs are typically used to buy and sell digital artwork and can take the form of GIFs, tweets, virtual trading cards, images of physical objects, video game skins, virtual real estate and more.’Jazmin Goodwin, CNN Business: ‘What is NFT? Non-fungible tokens explained’, Cable News Network, 10 Nov, 2021.
The Intergalactic Freedom Dress is one of several items whose creation is owed to this Vogue collaboration. It is a wide-ranging project which has encouraged a variety of Ukrainian fashion designers to create and sell artworks of different sorts in an NFT collection entitled Fashion for Peace, with profits given to the charity Save the Children, to help Ukrainian citizens who have been affected the Russian invasion. The dress was designed by DRESSX and TTSWTRS, respectively a Ukrainian retailer and a Ukrainian brand. It incorporates the elegance and delicateness of a ball gown with more military wear, as half of the bust is designed with a golden, metallic piece, in stark contrast to the rest of the design. This dress thus comes across as somewhat epic, as if a war goddess from a fantasy book could wear it, and as such it raises interesting questions about how peace is being visualised both in and for Ukraine. It designers explain:
“This piece was created during a different time—dedicated to everything beautiful that Ukraine is fighting for and most importantly, the freedom of Ukrainians.”Intergalactic Freedom Dress by DRESSX and TTSWTRS
It is a design that has roots in the past, but it has taken on a new resonance now. Its colours gesture to the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, while the combination of luxury ballroom wear and body armour, partially overlaid on one side of the dress, help to evoke the sudden transition that so many have experienced from civilian to military life. The armour is both protective and bold, hinting at defiance and resilience, while not taking over or obscuring too much of the gown. The fact that the militaristic side of the dress is only a small part of the ballgown perhaps indicates what its designers see in their fellow citizens: the ability to fight, but a much greater inclination for peace and happier times.
The world of meta fashion has undoubtedly opened doors to a new way to perceive fashion, consumerism and market strategies. On one hand, it opens up the possibility of fashion-focused political activism: the purchase of digital clothing allows anyone and everyone to be directly involved in supporting Ukrainians and their efforts to fight for their land and a more peaceful future. At a first glance, this solution might seem more a more sustainable option than manufacturing and auctioning of an actual dress, with the costs of production, deployment of textiles and in-person gatherings that this operation would require. However, one cannot ignore the environmental consequences of using OpenSea, the platform the dress is being sold on, since its carbon emissions have been quite substantial. The role of NFTs in the path towards sustainability is still uncertain, but early indications suggest that NFTs do come with a significant environmental cost. In short, while meta fashion may prove to be a valuable tool of communication and engagement on political issues, such as peace in Ukraine, there remain issues around the use of NFTs as a sustainable solution.
What do you think?
- What does this dress communicate to you? Do you look at it and see an image of freedom? And how might freedom relate to peace? Does this dress get you thinking about peace in any new ways?
- How influential a tool can meta fashion be in raising awareness and generating support for people affected by conflict?
- How important is it that efforts to raise awareness and campaign for peace take account of their environmental impact? Are all attempts at peacebuilding and human solidarity inherently acceptable, even if the good intentions and outcomes of one initiative might be detrimental from another perspective? Can we accept a peace effort that is simultaneously a source of both security and insecurity? What does the perspective we decide to bring forward say about our society and what values we prioritize?
If you enjoyed this item in our museum…
Federica Consiglio, May 2022
You can see the dress in more detail and read about it here: https://opensea.io/assets/ethereum/0x495f947276749ce646f68ac8c248420045cb7b5e/28044905170862471011895530610207388431059470628920297278759826714788913741874.
 “According to an estimate from the end of last month, the popular crypto art platform OpenSea had emitted about 67.8 million kilograms of carbon since launch”, from the article: Austa Somvichian-Clausen. April 20, 2021. “Can Carbon Offsets Make up for the Environmental Impacts of NFTs?” The Hill, The Hill, 20 Apr. 2021, https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/energy/549300-can-carbon-offsets-make-up-for-the-environmental/.
 To learn more about the relationship between artworks sale on NFT platforms and sustainability, see e.g. Davis, Erin. “The Carbon Footprint of Creating and Selling an NFT Artwork.” Quartz, Quartz, https://qz.com/1987590/the-carbon-footprint-of-creating-and-selling-an-nft-artwork/. Also Qui, Jiahui. “What Are NFTs, and What Is Their Environmental Impact?” Earth.Org – Past | Present | Future, 5 May 2021, https://earth.org/nfts-environmental-impact/: “It is difficult to estimate the carbon footprint of minting an NFT because many steps in the process do not have a known carbon footprint, and there are few scientific peer-reviewed studies on this topic. Digiconomist estimates a single Ethereum transaction’s carbon footprint at 33.4kg CO2, while artist and programmer Memo Akten estimates that an average transaction specifically for NFTs has a carbon footprint of about 48kg CO2”.