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Fri - 11 Mar 2022

Metaverse, NFTs, gaming – a new digital wave in fashion!

For many, fashion is a dream world, a space to explore and express yourself. Fashion is incredibly powerful, fashion is culture. We all engage with some form of it daily.

But for the real fashion fanatics out there, we know very well how quickly our love for fashion can unravel. Your closet starts growing and growing until it’s bursting at the seams. It seems our hunger for fashion has only grown over the years, current generations engage with fashion through endless mediums. How can something that seems so physical be translated into a digital space?

When did the virtual fashion movement start?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in the last two years. While the concepts of digital clothing, virtual spaces, mixed reality, gaming, NFTs have been thought of as just ‘a work in progress’, the biggest fashion brands, to our surprise, showed us how the fashion industry can evolve and flourish outside the physical product.

We had our first look at where things were going in 2018 when the first AI influencer, Lil Miquela, created by an L.A.-based startup Brud, was introduced to the industry – and, more significantly, the AW18 Prada show that she ‘kind-of’ attended. Shortly after, Tommy Jeans XPlore collection launched with integrated Bluetooth microchips which blew our minds. Suddenly, clothes were more than just a physical item to wear; they became a tool to collect our data and analyze our behaviour. From that point, the ‘meta fashion’ era began.

Virtual shopping kicked off first

We could have sworn we would not be here to witness big brands like Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton creating their first virtual fitting rooms around 2019. It was amazing to see how, for the first time, consumers digitally engaged with every piece of apparel, rather than having to rely on their imaginations to envision how a garment appears and, more crucially, how it would look on them.

This concept is wrapped around the ability to digitally see, touch, and feel items as if you were in the store. Arguably, COVID 19 only accelerated this shift in the industry, as we were thrust into a digital world almost overnight.

Gaming world hit Gen-Z right to the core

As people started spending more time in the virtual world, big luxury brands scrambled to figure out how to reach their target audience in an entirely new space. Around 80% of Gen Z’s reported playing games in the past six months. Brands had found their way in… The gaming industry provided these brands with a new way to revolutionize how young consumers interact with fashion brands.

First, Balenciaga debuted its Fall 2021 collection via a gaming app, and the brand famously collaborated with the video game Fortnite to create a series of “skins” for the game’s characters. Their “skins” were priced at 1,000 V-Bucks (the currency used on Fortnite), equivalent to about $8.

Others quickly followed suit. Stefan Cooke, a London-based design pair, collaborated with The Sims 4 to create clothing for the game’s Modern Menswear Kit.

Gucci took it a step further and came out with a digital sneaker made exclusively for online spaces. These digital trainers could be tried on using Augmented Reality and even worn on digital images shared on social media. When purchased through the Gucci app, consumers were able to download an in-game downloadable version of the trainers, which could be worn by avatars on the virtual reality social platform VRChat and the online game Roblox.

NFTs are the real deal here

Outside of gaming the gaming world, NFTs – also known as non-fungible tokens, use blockchain technology to verify ownership of digital assets – have allowed digital fashion to be monetized more broadly. NFTs can be anything digital (such as drawings and music), but much of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art.

The year 2021, of course, marked a true moment for NFTs, as luxury houses like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Burberry launched exclusive drops which were sold out within seconds.

The sale of the ‘Iridescence’ dress by Fabricant was a watershed event in digital couture. The unique garment is a traceable, tradeable, and valuable piece of digital art that was auctioned via Portion in a first-of-its-kind blockchain transaction and was sold for $9500!

Now, you may ask what is the point of NFTs when you don’t own a physical product? Well, many Gen Z users appreciate virtual items more than physical goods; thus, NFT’s and their importance lies in their value. You can make as many copies of a digital file as you want, including the art that comes with an NFT. However, NFTs are intended to provide you with something that cannot be duplicated: ownership of the work (though the artist can still retain the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical artwork).

And it all joined in Metaverse!

When you connect all the dots, you get a much, much bigger picture. In 2021, many of us first heard the term “metaverse” when Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s rebranding as “Meta” and their metaverse demo video.

It is conceptually defined as a combination of technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and video in which users “live” within a digital universe. To put it quite plainly, it is envisioned as the next generation of the internet, providing a more immersive and 3D experience. You have a digital persona called an avatar in the metaverse who can seek out experiences similar to what you might do in the real world – you can shop, eat at restaurants, and go to concerts.

Although metaverse is still under wraps and it is yet to be revealed exactly how it will look, there are some versions of it through virtual platforms like Roblox and Fortnite.

gucci metaverse

Gucci was testing the waters of Metaverse with its exclusive drop, a digital version of Gucci’s Dionysus bag. The bag was worth more than the price of the physical item when it was sold on Roblox’s platform for about $4,115. Other luxury brands, such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton, have collaborated with Blankos Block Party (Burberry) and Beeple Creations (Louis Vuitton) to release NFTs associated with video games.

Facebook gave us a hint about a potential collab with Balenciaga on the launch of Metaverse with a recent tweet ‘Hey @Balenciaga, what’s the dress code in the metaverse?’ We are awaiting Balenciaga’s response, they definitely want to keep us in the dark for now.

And while we are still wrapping our heads around this concept and figuring out how they work, it is certain that the fashion industry has begun a journey of reinvention of how the customer will interact with a product. And for us Gen Xs, Gen Zs and Millenials, this is just a pure work of art. Still, the question remains – will the virtual beat the physical? We’re going to leave that to future generations to decide!