The evolution of fashion on the digital frontier
From the highbrow to the homegrown, fashion is coming to the metaverse in many forms. That may not make much sense at first, but that’s why trooVRS is creating this series on the frontier expansion of metaverse projects, from self-care to sustainability. Today, we’ll start with exploring all things style in our emerging Web3 world.
Fashion of the future
First of all, the digital world is already a place where fashion and style can be displayed for all to see. There’s a deep history of style already present in online worlds, from the simple and addicting process of dressing up your favorite Sim to the incredibly profitable ‘skin’ marketplace for player characters in popular games such as League of Legends, Fortnite, and Overwatch.
Customization is big business in gaming, with Venture Beat reporting that the game monetization firm DMarket has estimated “the skin market is $40 billion a year.” It’s only natural that metaverse developers see the potential for more. This March, an official Metaverse Fashion Week was hosted in the virtual world Decentraland. Major brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Estée Lauder, and more brought their designs to virtual runways. While Decentraland’s technology left a lot to be desired in terms of high-definition fidelity and loading times, it provided some truly interesting opportunities for designers and models.
As covered by Vogue Business, the Dolce & Gabbana models who took to the catwalk were actually digital cats clad in the brand’s signature style. All of the models flew onto stage, “after emerging out of…blooming lotuses, and walked in a vast venue that resembled an Olympics opening ceremony arena with music-coordinated light shows to match.”
It illustrates that this next generation of fashion and style includes not just the digital fashion, but the avatars and setting in which people display the fashion. By incorporating high fashion and style into digital avatars, it both improves the quality of fashion in the digital ecosystem and gives designers an entirely new audience to serve. This is where NFTs come in.
To keep it simple, NFTs are essentially verifiable receipts that prove ownership of unique, digital items. Adding this level of ownership to online life is what makes the evolution of digital fashion possible. NFTs are also being matched with physical goods, so if a person purchases a garment on Fifth Avenue in NYC they can also receive an NFT copy that can be worn by their digital avatar too. The line between worlds begins to blur…
But is this the future we want?
So that’s the what of digital fashion, but how about the why? There is the ecological argument. In a question framed by i-D Vice, “[i]f clothes are being bought largely to be showcased on social media anyway, why not just skip the stage where you buy something super cheap — that has likely caused harm to both the planet and the people making it — and opt for something virtual instead?”
This article also makes an intriguing point that expensive and carbon-producing flights to fashion shows and meetings could be greatly reduced in a digital ecosystem. McKinsey reported that the fashion industry needs “to cut its GHG emissions to 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030.” Needless to say, the industry is not currently on target to do so.
While digital fashion comes with its own environmental concerns, such as the energy cost of running blockchain networks, the benefits should not be ignored. With these new tools at our disposal, why not reimagine how the future might look?
What are the biggest metaverse fashion projects so far?
As both established brands and new voices realize that Gen Z looks to their screens, not just for social media but style, there’s been a veritable race to make their mark on the metaverse. Gucci built what they called the Gucci Garden inside the Roblox metaverse - and McKinsey reports they “saw 19 million visitors to it.” Louis Vuitton collaborated with the acclaimed NFT artist Beeple to create their own line of non-fungible tokens.
Perhaps the most interesting of the larger brand ventures has been Balenciaga. As High Fashion Talk moderator Iolo Edwards explained to GQ, Balenciaga has tapped a very modern vein of internet culture. Their brand makes themselves known “through the intangible side of things,” from episodes of the Simpsons to Kanye West listening parties to, yep, Fortnite. The idea of the “intangible” is the key here. The metaverse and NFT world is all about these ineffable objects and creations which now create our culture. The brands that harness this will win the future.
Yet it’s not only the big names. The metaverse brings in fresh faces with fresh ideas, such as the Croatian Tribute Brand, run by Gala Marija Vrbanic. Vrbanic was a talented designer, but her lack of access to typical fashion-centric cities kept her out of inner circles. Her digital designs changed everything. Vrbanic told Wired, “It's totally unimaginable for something like this to happen to a brand that is not based in a fashion capital.”
Other upstarts include the NFT marketplaces Dematerialized and RTFKT, the latter of which even allows users to design their own virtual products, such as sneakers. This phase still feels embryonic, but for all the wannabe hype beasts out there…isn’t there something exciting about the idea that all you need to produce the next Yeezy is an affordable piece of design software?
Your style is boundless
Like all things metaverse, the beating heart is a personal expression. Sure, a lot of big, corporate names are circling the space like sharks, yet keep the faith. While the physical fashion industry has grown bloated and antiquated, there is another world now. This is why trooVRS wants to sound the clarion call for the innovators and new recruits. The metaverse is not just for gamers or NFT finance lovers.
Fashion and style can be another path into the emerging future of the metaverse. This is a world that needs both visionary designers and creative, conscious consumers, who can help rebuild the future of fashion. Freed from the constraints of yesterday, what can be born tomorrow?