For designers, fashion and retail brands, and consumers, the metaverse offers limitless possibilities
The internet is in a state of flux. What began with digital images of disinterested apes, cool cats, and pixelated punks has sparked a revolution that has the potential to change our lives in every way.
When we think of the internet these days, we think of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and a slew of other services. However, this does not depict how the current digital landscape is interacting with our evolving virtual worlds (3D games) and augmented realities. It is as though we’ve been sucked into the vortex by these technologies and we’re experiencing reality in a whole new light.
Our senses have been hoodwinked into new visual and auditory experiences thanks to digital tools. What term best describes the internet’s future? Is there a future with new social relationships and sensory experiences? It’s all part of the metaverse.
Defining the metaverse has become difficult. And while it may appear that the metaverse is best suited to serve the gaming industry and tech giants (Facebook is now Meta) this isn’t always the case.
Any brand can enter the metaverse; and designers and brand managers are now keen on how the metaverse can transform fashion and how fashion will change the metaverse.
As the fashion industry becomes more ingrained in the metaverse, and younger generations spend more time there shopping, socializing, and playing, it’s critical for retailers and fashion brands to understand how to capitalize on the opportunities available.
Shopping Has Gone Digital
Clothing became virtual as brands and major fashion events went virtual in response to the pandemic. I’m not just referring to retailers and luxury brands finally prioritizing e-commerce, though that is an important step forward. Digital showrooms are what I’m referring to.
Consumers can now virtually interact with any piece of clothing, rather than having to rely on their imaginations to visualize how a garment looks — and, more importantly, how it would look on them. They can look at a product from every angle. Rather than relying on a few photos the brand uploaded to the website, they can zoom in on even the tiniest detail. Customers can now virtually try on items by dragging one or more products onto photographs of themselves.
Driving to a store to make sure you’re buying clothing that fits isn’t the future of fashion. It’s not a one-size-fits-all online shopping experience. It’s the ability to virtually see, touch, and experience products as if you were there in person.
Fashion and Gaming: Combining the Physical and Digital
Fashion can be divided into two types as it enters the metaverse: hybrid physical-digital, where clothing can be worn in augmented or virtual realities, and fully digital, where items are sold directly to an avatar.
Learning to blend the real and the unreal will become a necessary skill for fashion designers and brands as they transition into the future.
Similarly, because digital design is likely to attract a flood of creative output, designers and brands must understand how to reach their target audiences while mastering digital tools. And right now, the majority of these customers are playing video games.
Physical collections are frequently accompanied by digital collaborations. In 2019, Louis Vuitton collaborated with Riot Games to create original skins for League of Legends, as well as a fashion collection inspired by the game that ranged from $170 for a bandeau to over $5,000 for a leather jacket. Balenciaga’s Autumn collection was released as a video game this year. They also collaborated with Fortnite to create items that will be sold in stores as well as in the game.
This has already been a smashing success, so much so that digital versions of items are outperforming their physical counterparts. And digital items are much cheaper to produce. Gucci collaborated with Roblox to create a “Gucci Garden,” and a popular Dionysus bag sold digitally for 350,000 Robux (roughly $4k), which is significantly more than the bag’s real-world value.
When you’re scrolling through social media and come across an account promoting a product, there’s a chance the person you’re seeing isn’t even real — at least, not if “real” is defined as being human. Digital “humans”, avatars, are now taking the influencer scene to new heights.
Take, for example, Lil Miquela, who is 19 years old. She appears as real as you or me online, but she’s a virtual influencer created by Brud, a Los Angeles-based startup. At the time of this post, she has over 3 million Instagram followers, which puts her in the company of notable celebrities like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Lil Miquela has collaborated with a number of brands, including starring in a Calvin Klein campaign alongside Bella Hadid. In short, these digital avatars have clout, equal to or exceeding that of real influencers-and they “work” for free. This might be bad news for real influencers, if avatars become just as, if not more popular than their human counterparts.
The metaverse is providing designers, luxury and retail brands, and consumers with limitless possibilities. This could very well be the new reality of the fashion industry, and if you’re not on board, you’ll be left behind.
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I write about blockchain, crypto, NFTs and other disruptive technologies and innovations.