The relationship between fashion and the metaverse is a hot topic. In March this year, the Metaverse Fashion Week was held, on the virtual reality platform Decentraland, which operates within the Ethereum metaverse.
The event brought together “analog” brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana and Elie Saab and more than 100,000 unique users participated in the program.
There were those who found Fashion Week to be a complete failure, with many technical issues. However, Giovanna Graziosi Casemiro, Director of Metaverse Fashion Week, was one of the speakers at WebSummit, the world’s largest innovation event, which took place from November 1-4 in Lisbon.
In several episodes, he discusses the future of clothing and whether we will, once and for all, transfer our look to the digital universe. Is it possible?
The future is already from the past
The truth is that this encounter between fashion and the virtual world is nothing new. This flirtation has been around for over 20 years.
In 1998, designer Thierry Mugler, for example, staged a virtual fashion show, where he brought new technologies of 3D simulation to the world of fashion, based on a partnership with Kinetix.
“This project / presentation was presented at technology fairs at the time,” recalls Fernando Haag, Coordinator of the Fashion Course at FAAP (Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado), from São Paulo (SP).
A few years later, in 2003, the first Metaverse we know arrived: Second Life. As the name implies, the platform has made it possible to maintain a “second life”, but on a digital level.
Brands have recognized the value of occupying this space as well, and American Apparel, Adidas, Nike, and Reebok were just some of the labels that set up shops inside Second Life.
What gave a new impetus to fashion to become more digital, no doubt, was the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 2020, we have seen a boom in the use of digital resources such as filters, which were already popular on social networks like Snapchat, but are becoming even more popular on Instagram,” explains Carol Garcia, teacher of the Fashion Design course at Belas Art.
Designer Gary James McQueen, nephew of the unforgettable Alexander McQueen, for example, has created a show designed entirely in Unreal Engine [programa de modulação 3D] Dress X, a virtual fashion platform, has begun selling digital looks.
Also in this period, Louis Vuitton launched a collection of iconic images for the “League of Legends”, while Balenciaga I invested in the visuals for the players”Fortnite“.
According to experts, the digital medium allows brands to establish a closer relationship with end consumers.
“The pandemic has made them understand that it is possible to expand contact with the audience through digital presentations, as well as allowing brands to enter environments to which they still do not have much access, such as in the metaverse of online games,” recalls Fernando Hage.
According to a report by market consulting firm McKinsey, fashion is one of the three consumer categories Gen Z people care about the most. And where are these young people? In online games, on TikTok, in stories.
“Brands operating in the metaverse are interested in becoming relevant to a new generation of consumers, who are more interested in gaming and social networks than they are in fashion weeks or niche magazines, which have lost a lot of space in recent years,” says Al-Hajj.
Fashion is an aspirational market, operating with values such as identity, creativity, and, in some cases, exclusivity.
These issues are relevant to the metaverse, where users are asked to create avatars that have their own identity, built through physical appearance and clothing used, that stimulate creative and controlled choices and also with the potential to be exclusive to that user,” comments the FAAP fashion course coordinator.
And NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens, in the literal English translation) have brought a new possibility to this virtual fad. It acts as a kind of certificate of authenticity, linked to the blockchain and often traded for bitcoins.
Now, brands can be sure that their virtual look is authentic and, on top of that, you can make money on it. “It facilitates the process of recording transactions and controlling assets in a business network, that is, it is possible to ensure the authenticity of, for example, physical luxury products.”
This does not mean, however, that this is the end of physical clothing. “On the contrary. It is a catalyst for thinking in favor of more sustainable measures, avoiding the production of pieces that will only be used once in the network community and in Instagrammable images, or even used as a pilot for on-demand productions through ex-digital guides,” comments Carol García.
“Corporal clothing has been with society since ancient times. I believe that the way we dress is constantly changing.
The pandemic brought, for example, a significant increase in the importance of comfort and simplicity in clothing, which could also affect the process of digitization of fashion, but this did not eliminate or change the style of products, but only brought new options to the market, ”continues Fernando Hajj.