For fashion fans and everyone else, 2022 will be remembered as the year the metaverse went mainstream.
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced the corporate name change from Facebook to Meta last October, the writing was on the wall. A virtual wall, of course. Soon after, all signs of a cultural tipping point came – a wave of Super Bowl commercials for cryptocurrency exchanges (LeBron James for Crypto.com, Larry David for FTX), Metaverse jokes and sketches. saturday night live, And the release of Snoop Dogg’s first music video set in the Metaverse, featuring a digitized avatar of rap mogul smoking blunts and chilling in his “Snoopverse,” a virtual world he’s creating online (early access passes that cost $2,000 a pop). Is).
Fashion designers are taking note. Troubled by fashion’s ongoing sustainability problem, and more recently supply-chain issues, labels are looking for something uplifting. “In the real world, the possibilities are limited,” says designer Philip Plein. “The Metaverse opens up a whole new frontier.”
Plein, whose luxury brand now accepts more than 20 different cryptocurrencies at its online and brick-and-mortar shops, recently dropped $1.4 million to buy virtual real estate in Decentraland, a popular online platform that Enables users to create an immersive 3-D metaverse. Experience. They built a 120-meter-tall virtual skyscraper to host Metaverse Fashion Week, or MVFW, the world’s largest all-digital fashion event, to be held in Decentraland over four days in March.
Unlike Fashion Week in real life, MVFW was free and open to the public, featuring avatar models, animated runways and after-parties, featuring over 70 brands including Karl Lagerfeld, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Cavalli, Etro, Dolce and artists were involved. and Gabbana, Estée Lauder, and Selfridge, plus digital-native makers—makers of virtual, not real, fabric—such as Ouroboros, Futius, and The Fabricant.
“By their very nature, brands expand and create their own universe,” says Plein, noting the entry of fashion designers into home decor, hospitality, automobiles, and more. In the metaverse, he suggests, a “luxury-brand zoo could be a hospital, [even a] State with its own cryptocurrency. ,
The fashion industry has been dipping its pedicure toe in these waters for a few years now, whether we’re talking metaverse (virtual reality headsets and alternative 3-D environments accessed through online platforms), wearables (digital clothing that your avatar wears on those platforms), non-fungible tokens (aka NFTs, a kind of collectibles)
in the form of digital images, video, or audio files), or cryptocurrency (the digital dollar used in the metaverse to buy wearables, NFTs, and more).
Last year’s auction at Christie’s with Gucci NFT, the first ever auction for a luxury brand, fetched $25,000. A “Baby Birkin” NFT inspired by the famous Herms handbag (it shows, in animated form, a translucent bag and a fetus developing inside) was created by two Los Angeles artists, not the brand, and sold at auction by the major generated discussion. for $47,000. Paris Fashion Week offered NFTs to select guests. Burberry, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton followed. Nike bought virtual-sneaker outfit RTFKT and partnered with Roblox (a Metaverse platform) to create its own immersive Nikeland. Adidas bought “land” for its own space in the sandbox (another Metaverse platform).
“We are living in a time when technology continues to blur the lines between our physical and digital lives,” says Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, head of MVFW at Decentraland. MVFW attracted 108,000 unique attendees. They strolled through science-based places, some in fanciful disguises bearing wings, dragon heads, illuminated ponytails and twinkling lights. In another hoodie or gym shorts.
Such democratization fuels enthusiasm for the metaverse.
“Very few people have access to this crazy luxury world in real life,” says Sofia Sánchez de Betak, whose Chufi brand is usually sold at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and The Webster. “It’s a must-have for many. There’s a way to get a glimpse.”
Chufy created a virtual pop-up shop for MVFW in the fashion district of Decentraland. It looked like a tony shop along Paris avenue Montaigne, but boasted a geisha print exterior and floating mannequins and 3-D waves.
For Sánchez de Betak, the metaverse feeds a new kind of wanderlust, and a fervor reminiscent of the days when places like Cuba or Myanmar opened up widely to tourism. “It’s like traveling in another dimension,” she says.
There are definitely kinks in the metaverse. Currently, Metaverse technology differs on each platform, so Fab NFTs purchased on one site cannot be worn on another. And the environmental cost is a matter of debate – proponents insist that virtual fashion can quench our appetite for fast fashion and help save the environment. Naysayers point out that the cryptocurrencies underpinning all this activity are tied to blockchains, the digital ledgers that verify these transactions, which require banks of computers and large amounts of energy.
Still, a designer can dream.
“We’re on the lookout,” says Sánchez de Betec. “For the generation already in that world, we’ve just been saying hello, trying to figure out what it’s about.”
This article appeared in the June 2022 issue penta magazine.