For fashion lovers, but also for everyone else, 2022 will be remembered as the year when the metaverse became mainstream.
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced the change of company name from Facebook to Meta last October, it has been written on the wall. A virtual wall, of course. Soon after, came all the signs of a cultural milestone – the Super Bowl wave of cryptocurrency exchange commercials (LeBron James for crypto.com, Larry David for FTX), metaverse jokes and sketches about Saturday night live, and Snoop Dogg’s release of the first music video set in the metaverse, with a digitized avatar of a rap mogul who smokes blunts and cools himself in his “Snoopverse,” a virtual world he builds online (early access lapses that cost $ 2,000 apiece).
Fashion designers pay attention. Whipped by the constant problem of fashion sustainability and recent problems in the supply chain, labels are looking for some progress. “In the real world, the possibilities are limited,” says designer Philipp Plein. “The metaverse opens up a whole new frontier.”
Plein, whose luxury brand now accepts more than 20 different cryptocurrencies in its online and physical stores, recently turned down $ 1.4 million to buy virtual real estate in Decentraland, a popular online platform that allows users to build an impressive 3-D metaverse experience. He erected a 120-meter-high virtual skyscraper in time for Metaverse Fashion Week, or MVFW, the world’s largest fashion event in its entirety, held in Decentraland for four days in March.
Unlike Real Life Fashion Week, MVFW was free and open to the public, with avatar models, animated runways and after parties, with more than 70 brands and artists, including Karl Lagerfeld, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Cavalli, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana, Estée Lauder and Selfridges, plus digital original creators – manufacturers of virtual, not real clothing – like Auroboros, Fewocious and The Fabricant
“By their nature, brands tend to expand and create their own universe,” says Plein, noting the entry of fashion designers into home decoration, catering, cars and more. In the metaverse, he suggests, one could have “a luxury zoo, a hospital, [even a] a state with its own cryptocurrency. ”
The fashion industry has been immersing its pediculed toe in these waters for several years, whether we are talking about the metaverse itself (alternative 3-D environments accessed via virtual reality headsets and online platforms), wearable devices (digital clothing on which your avatar wears and platforms), irreplaceable tokens (aka NFT, unique collectibles
in the form of digital images, videos, or audio files) or cryptocurrencies (digital dollars used in the metaverse to buy wearables, NFT, and more).
Last year, Christie’s sold Gucci NFT, the first luxury brand, at auction for $ 25,000. “Baby Birkin” NFT inspired by the famous Hermes bag (this one in animated form, which shows a transparent bag and a fetus developing in it) was created by two artists from Los Angeles, not the brand itself, and caused a lot of noise, being sold at auction for $ 47,000. Paris Fashion Week offered NFT selected guests. Burberry, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton followed. Nike bought RTFKT virtual sneakers and teamed up with Roblox (the metaverse platform) to create its impressive Nikeland. Adidas has bought “land” for its Sandbox space (another metaverse platform).
“We live in a time when technology continues to blur the boundaries between our physical and digital lives,” says Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, head of the MVFW in Decentraland. MVFW attracted 108,000 unique participants. They walked through science-fiction-like spaces, some in fantastic attire with wings, dragon heads, illuminated horsetails, and twinkling lights in orbit. Others in sweatshirts or gym shorts.
Such democratization fosters enthusiasm for the metaverse.
“Very few people have access to this crazy luxury world in real life,” says Sofia Sanchez de Betak, whose Chufy brand is typically sold at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and The Webster. “This is the way many people can see it.”
Chufy built a virtual pop-up store in the Decentraland fashion district for MVFW. It looked like a tony shop along Paris ’Avenue Montaigne, but boasts an exterior with a geisha print and floating dolls and 3-D waves inside.
For Sanchez de Betak, the metaverse feeds a new kind of wandering and excitement reminiscent of the days when places like Cuba or Myanmar opened up wide for tourism. “It’s like traveling to another dimension,” she says.
There are folds in the metaverse, for sure. Currently, metaverse technology differs on each platform, so fantastic NFT purchased at one location cannot be carried at another. And the price of the environment is debatable – proponents stress that virtual fashion can quench our hunger for fast fashion and help preserve the environment. Assessors point out that the cryptocurrencies that support all of these activities are linked to blockchains, digital books that verify these transactions, which require computer banks, and huge amounts of energy.
Still, a designer can dream.
“We’re researching,” says Sanchez de Betak. “To a generation that is already in that world, we just say hello, trying to figure out what it’s all about.”
This article appeared in the June 2022 issue Penta magazine.