Fashion is dealing with recent changes due to the metaverse. It is an inevitable cause that we as consumers must adjust our style within the virtual world. Fashion, as we saw it, is no longer the same. Today, the metaverse remains on trend, allowing us to create business opportunities that complement direct selling as much as the traditional selling we already know.
Instead of sticking to a regular routine and questioning what to wear today, we now have the ability to make the decision of who we want to be at that moment and what we want to show in the metaverse. It’s amazing to imagine how, through our avatars, we will be able to experience that world.
Web 3 and Fashion
Dressing in the metaverse takes our routine to another level in order to express our personality, not necessarily in a logical way. You choose! The Internet has influenced so much of our lives, and it continues to evolve. This is evident in the way we shop for clothes, at the same time, social media has changed our own style. However, Web 3 has arrived to totally transform how we perceive fashion. This means that dressing up will be a matter of choosing the shape (be it human, animal, thing or otherwise) that represents us at a particular moment in time, then adorning and accessorising the avatar with garments made by designers free from the constraints of the physical world.
Multiple tech start-ups are being formed to shape the fashion of the future. While we find ourselves in a new digital era alongside augmented reality (AR) and/or virtual reality (VR), fashion has begun to take part in it, adopting a new marketing model which sells and designs pieces for avatars. The metaverse has yet to be explored, but it is bringing new challenges and opportunities for fashion.
In line with the above, today the phrase “the future of fashion is circular” is becoming a reality, with sustainability and responsible practices becoming more visible and relevant every day. On the other hand, responsible consumption is accompanied by virtual reality and the experiences that come from it. So while time is running out, fashion is going digital.
The Metaverse as a Business Opportunity for Fashion
The metaverse is a new form of business, considered a trend that is gaining momentum, bringing with it a great contribution to the fashion industry. This is evident in the diversity and details that are achieved in a digital fashion production. For example, within the virtual world we can appreciate formats such as audiovisual pieces, 3D animations made from start to finish, static images and sensational scenarios. All of the above exist in the metaverses that are in operation such as Sandbox and Descentraland. Platforms such as Youtube and Twitch, as well as the social network Instagram are indirectly promoting this virtual marketplace in fashion. We can take as an example Imma, a virtual influencer and model of Japanese origin, a robot that would work with brands instead of
celebrities and human influencers to generate interaction with consumers. Imma is a computer-made person that looks truly realistic to our eyes. Similarly, different avatars developed by CGI ModelingCafe (Computer Generated Imagery) such as Lil Miquela, Bermuda, Blawko, Shudu, which drive the metaverse worldwide.
It is worth noting that the metaverse is not such a recent trend as generation Z has been used to the virtual world for several years. For example, the video game Fortnite allows children and/ or teenagers to obtain cryptocurrencies (V-Bucks) to buy multiple products such as pieces of clothing (called skins) and/or fashion accessories in order to customise their avatars, open for a limited time in the online shop. There is also the possibility to participate in virtual shows and concerts organised by famous artists such as Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, J Balvin, DJ Marshmello with their respective skins with limited stock.
Luxury brands are launching collections of virtual goods for Fortnite. One of the latest fashion brands to collaborate with Fortnite was Balenciaga, creating a metaverse that allows you to experience the fashion experience digitally. Balenciaga is a good example of how a luxury brand that is reluctant to enter e-commerce and without online sales, tried something new in the digital sphere and managed to position itself in the market. In addition, it launched its own video game called “Afterworld”, in which fans can now try out the latest collections in a virtual and
sophisticated way. On the other hand, the Nike brand pioneered the sale of virtual products in this video game in 2019. As did Louis Vuitton with its capsule collection for the video game League of Legends, which subsequently launched its own video game on Android called Louis:The Game, an interactive app with 30NFTs integrated for the consumers of the future.
Meanwhile, at Roblox’s Gucci Garden Experience, virtual handbags were paid for with a currency called Robux, with consumers spending an exuberant amount of money buying virtual Gucci
handbags, paying more than the originals. The event allowed players to walk around and interact in an area with exclusive Gucci products. There was also a limited time to purchase the virtual items, however, after the launch, Gucci handbags were resold at higher prices, such as the Gucci Dionysus bag or the beige Gucci bee logo bag.
Along these lines, Gucci Town is another example of Roblox’s new digital destination within the video game sector. It is a game that takes place in a Piazza, which is an open square whose spaces will inspire users to create their own digital personality along with their tastes, ambitions and creative ideas, going beyond the real world. Unlike the first immersive Gucci Garden Experience which was open for 2 weeks with a parallel exhibition of the Archetypes of Florence exhibition, Gucci Town will be a new permanent virtual world in the Roblox metaverse.
Other luxury brands such as Christian Louboutin, Dior, Valentino and Marc Jacobs have also been seduced by video games through collaborations with gaming companies. In this way, these brands created their own virtual space to develop a fashion show in the metaverse and present their latest collections. All this is now at our fingertips, playing and earning coins in the virtual world that can later be used to redeem virtual items to customise our avatars.
Metaverse Fashion Week
The first edition of Metaverse Fashion Week, organised by the Decentraland platform, was held on 24 March, demonstrating the great adaptability of fashion brands to the virtual world. While the pandemic has accelerated the use of new communication channels, this has led to the fashion industry going digital along with its collections and services. Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Guo Pei, D&G and more than 60 participating brands, artists and designers were part of the immersive experience.
It is worth noting that Decentraland’s Fashion District has neighbourhoods with built-in fashion shows and pop-ups, as well as the Luxury Fashion District, the Rarible Street, the Cash Labs Gallery, the Fashion Eden, the permanent Flagship Stores, the Threedium shopping centre, including lectures led by digital fashion experts, Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs), the metaverse and Web3.
This edition is considered historic for the fashion world, which combined firms from the premium and luxury fashion sectors, alongside other digital native brands, who organised the presentation of the latest fashion collections both physically and virtually. It was conducted like any other Fashion Week, with presentations, conferences, digital catwalks and after-parties held on different stages in Decentraland. They showcased fashion in every possible form, from fashion shows to retail experiences, fashion in the form of art, photography, film, even fashion beyond imagination.
But it doesn’t stop there, there will be an upcoming Metaverse Fashion Week in September which will seek to confront the physical world with the virtual world, making them work with each other. In addition to the accessibility that is intended to be shared for this edition, this digital experience will later use software available for Mac and Windows.
Influence of American Fashion and African Fashion in The Digital World
Here is a brief update on the countries that have already entered the metaverse to develop digital
Ethical footwear brand Biion Footwear entered the metaverse by launching its 2 NFT shoes in collaboration with Doodles NFT Art: Biion x NFT Doodles #2753 Paradise and Biion x Doodles #2753 Classic Paradise. Also, one will be able to get a pair of these shoes in physical form upon purchase of the NTF digital art token.
In addition, The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto launched its latest collection of shoes called “Entitled Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks”, showcasing frontiers of footwear in the 21st century and beyond: from innovative designs, new aesthetics, with more accessibility and sustainability, to digital shoes found in the metaverse.
At the same time, there is a young designer in the metaverse called Monica Louise or Monica Quin, who designs and sells garments in the digital world working hand in hand with the Zepeto platform.
Richmond-based garment Factory is creating garments for the metaverse as well. In this way, the fashion-focused NFTs give designers the opportunity to share their inspirations in the virtual world. A few months ago they announced the launch of a digital wearable design service, bringing fashion designs to NFT products, being a complementary service in the metaverse for their customers. Together with the support of Vancouver-based Sevin Kasran, whose brand has been very popular thanks to Kevin Hart and NBA player Malik Monk for their unique and colourful character through their garments. So their digital wearables are a great proposition to reach more users in the virtual world.
The company Meta will soon launch its first virtual shop with designer clothes for avatars (Meta Avatars Store) such as Balenciaga, Gucci, Thom Browne and Prada. In order to show off designer clothes on social media and in the metaverse, the avatar will be dressed up in a way that has never been seen before. This is an accessible luxury initiative that will eventually be implemented with more fashion pieces, from comfortable, occasion wear, sportswear, to the garments seen in each designer’s latest collections and of course the outfits worn by multiple artists at the last Met Gala. There will be pieces for all styles and tastes.
Brands such as Wrangler, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Levis, Playboy, Victoria’s Secret, Vans, Ralph Lauren and more are trending with fashion. High fashion is in high demand, and with metaverse projects underway, brands are gearing up to present their designs in the virtual world hand in hand with NFTs.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has made a strategic alliance with a group of agents specialising in the development of new actions and solutions for the metaverse, thus beginning to lay the foundations for an original ecosystem of their own, from which they will try to promote both fashion and American designers and firms towards the metaverse. They have partnered with the creative consultancy 5Crypto to develop tools and solutions for the CFDA to implement the new virtual fashion business in the metaverse.
Not forgetting Digital New York Fashion Week (DFWNY) & Metaverse, where fashion tech leaders and renowned digital fashion designers gathered in New York for the first half of Digital Fashion Week New York, which took place from 10-13 February. It featured a combination of digital experience, physical events and digital events with a lot of creative expression from the designers, all under the organisation of the V-Gather platform and Queendom.io.
Alexa Kusulas, digital artist and graduate of the CEDIM School of Design, currently uses the metaverse as an open space where she can push all her creativity, without restrictions of time and materials necessary to take her own brand to another level. Another example is Oswaldo Erréve, who is a mix media creative and finds virtual fashion fascinating, using NFTs and what Web3 offers to promote his passion under sustainable parameters. Without forgetting to mention Covadonga Lara or Cova, who as a Mexican stylist in Web3 has collaborated with Nike in the metaverse, recreating the well-known Air Max in the virtual world and designing clothing pieces for the first virtual capsule of such a collection.
ISTHMUS OF TEHUANTEPEC
Within the Museum of the Future (MUFO) as an immersive experience in which we have the possibility to participate from anywhere in the world, we can find an art museum, which also offers us gastronomy and mixology. Besides having a creative hive with three art rooms, a lunch break with a garden and unimaginable areas, we find a concept store of design and fashion of the future where we can appreciate collection pieces made by local and foreign artists.
A breakthrough was made with the adoption of technology in El Salvador after the adoption of bitcoin as the official currency along with the dollar and the development of Bitcoin City. At the same time, Costa Rica has gaming studios that could develop virtual worlds with a small market that still requires 5G and an Internet service with stability to create metaverses. On the other hand, Guatemala is on the verge of having its own virtual world called Pratzeeland, with its fashion districts, shops and medical establishments under a fantasy theme. Barbados is also opening an embassy in the metaverse and inaugurating the profession of virtual diplomacy in order to promote its culture, investments, business, and make more contacts.
Annaiss Yucra and the Zepeto platform have taken ancestral Peruvian textile techniques to the metaverse. The Peruvian designer is committed to digital fashion after launching her pieces on the Korean virtual reality platform. The designer made public her collaboration with the world of gaming. Such avatars are nowadays new trends in fashion houses. It is worth noting that Zepeto has previously worked with brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
Years ago, digital fashion had its first edition of Brazil Immersive Fashion Week (BRIFW) with multiple brands, designers and guests, being a pioneering Fashion Week in these topics. One designer featured was Lucas Leão, who makes digital pieces such as prints and avatars, 3D films and augmented reality. What’s more, last year he launched his collection on the Shop2gether marketplace. Now, the designer intends to add sensor interaction to his physical pieces.
Likewise, the Renner brand launched its autumn/winter collection with new ideas based on digital. Instead of a physical catwalk, the clothes were paraded virtually through augmented reality glasses, but the clothes were purchased in physical format. Another good example is the absorbent underwear brand Pantys, which launched in the NFT market. Such pieces have a specific use in the real world, at the same time, they have a symbolic value in the virtual world.
The Decentraland project of Argentinian origin, although many do not know it, is already a fundamental virtual platform for the metaverse. Within it, there are events along with its own cryptocurrency, NFTs, cities, avatars, shops, and among them is the fashion sector.
Qurable, the world’s first Web3 Marketplace with exclusive and curated collectibles in NFT format, was also launched. Fashion and design artists such as Cher, Bomparola, Herencia Argentina, Kosiuko, This is Feliz Navidad, Nous Etudions and Helicia, Sadaels, among many others, make up the platform with 7000 NFTs and a community of recognised creators.
There are already some Colombian designers creating projects within the metaverse, such as Karina Ochoa within the digital fashion platform Dressx where she sells her latest collection called Infinito Project, a space that is replacing Fast Fashion extraordinarily. Progress is also being made with the brand Offcorss to give immersive experiences with their pieces to fashion consumers. Even the brand Undergold, which is a pioneer in streetwear fashion, ventured into 3D fashion with the Hyperion capsule collection.
The firm 12na chose to specialise in upcycling due to new needs and climate challenges that arose, they are a platform that communicates, educates and digitalises consumers under a sustainable perspective. Mariano Breccia and Mercedes Martinez are behind this initiative that has been working for many years with the metaverse in fashion, promoting a hybrid of virtual and physical fashion within the industry. In addition to engaging with transmedia artists, they are part of an open source design bank that collaborates with Supra, Greenpeace Chile and Fashion Revolution Latin America, thus empowering a virtual metaverse to present and share design tutorials and upcycling techniques from Latin American filmmakers. The Trashumantes project aims to continue developing the first regenerative fashion metaverse for education and activism.
The Electric Factory cooperates with major fashion brands to build the metaverse, participating in projects for Meta, Snapchat, Nike and Niantic, among other companies seeking to develop the metaverse and augmented reality technology in an era of hybrid consumption. One of the sectors with a lot of work for the company is fashion and cosmetics, where users have the possibility to virtually try on items such as clothing, accessories or make-up for brands such as Nike, Mac Cosmetics and Fossil.
Thrill Digital’s ASTRA is the first metaverse created by African creators Alex Delz Erinle and Niyi Okeowo, combining gaming, cryptocurrencies, augmented reality, virtual reality and fashion. In this case, users can win real luxury items just by playing the game and having them delivered anywhere in the world.
We can also mention that designer Anifa Mvuemba presented a 3D virtual fashion show during the pandemic, showing all kinds of silhouettes. This was the beginning of a new way of creating and using digital formats such as live streaming, short films or digital lookbooks.
Several African designers were experimenting with 3D fashion, for example, in the FW’22 collection, the South African brand Rich Mnisi launched a fashion film with an innovative 3D visualisation that was developed by Oliver Hunter.
In line with digital fashion, Cape Town’s Electric South, a not-for-profit entity, seeks to empower talent through technologies that offer immersive experiences to develop underrepresented narratives on climate justice, identity, heritage, colonisation and imperialism. For example, Design Future Labs, which is part of the Creative Economy programme in South Africa for the development of technology in creations of African origin.
Lesiba Mabitsela is another artist and fashion designer who alters the conventions of the clothes he creates, who firmly believes that digitalisation will advance the way we consume products with new educational possibilities.
Idiat Shiole, a 3D fashion designer, has been creating realistic simulations of garments for 4 years. Her Instagram page HADEEART shows her creations as modern hijabs, both formal and casual dresses, within which she uses African textiles that give exclusivity to the digital signature with extraordinary style and patterns. You can find her creations in the digital fashion store called DressX. Another designer who is on the right track is Aisha Oladimeji, a virtual fashion designer from Nigeria who presented her latest collection ECLECTIC to the public at Digital Fashion Week New York for sale as NFTs. She is always open to collaborations and partnerships with other companies.
The online landscape called Ubuntuland by M&C Saatchi, a metaverse by Africarare, is South Africa’s first 3D immersive virtual reality. This is a space that aims to showcase art, entertainment, sport, fashion, technology, creativity of African origin, being a platform for each artist to demonstrate what they are capable of creating.
Meta even created a $50 million fund for XR Programmes and Research to build the metaverse, which encompasses funding for “Future of Africa: Telling Stories, Building Worlds”. In this case, the company is partnering with Africa No Filter, Imisi 3D and Electric South to foster creators who raise African voices and go beyond digital storytelling.
Finally, a well-known African digital agency working to build the metaverse today is Ghana-based BalmLabs by Baboa Tachie-Menson, a fashion-tech startup that supports and encourages brands and retailers to use 3D technology. It works with clients such as DressX, Glemaud, Espion Atelier, Tongoro and African Fashion Foundation.
The future of the metaverse in the fashion industry is shown with more freedom and creative expression as there are no limits for designers and fashion brands. While items are allowed to be tested to gather feedback, it becomes a tool to make their products more securely tangible.
The metaverse will have to find the right balance between the physical and the digital, if it exists at all. But will users have the possibility to use virtual fashion on different platforms at the same time? Not only that, we also have to consider the active costs for the development of good quality digital-only items.
In the metaverse we can become whoever we want, only limited by our imagination. The virtualised universe is here to stay, and events like Metaverse Fashion Week will continue to impact fashion and its consumers with the latest collections of the participating brands in the following editions. No wonder there are no dress codes at the event, an avatar could be wearing Louis Vuitton one minute, and then Gucci or Ralph Lauren the next. Are you ready for such an immersive experience?