November 14, 2022

Fashion’s Role in the Metaverse

Theren Moodley
Theren Moodley

The fashion industry is running head first into the metaverse

Is this topic the most talked out thing in fashion-tech currently? Probably. Did the first draft of this blog get written a few months ago during NY Fashion week? Definitely. Is it still worth me taking the time to write it now? I'll let you decide.

Fashion is going digital? Not 3D sampling, e-commerce, digital showrooms digital, but Metaverse digital (there I said it....) 🥽

Fashion tech meme
Shoutout to those solving the day to day problems

But before we get into it, there a few questions we need to answer:

What is the point of digital fashion?

Who to hire to build the fashion metaverse?

What is metaverse in fashion?

Is metaverse the future of fashion?

How is the metaverse changing the fashion industry?

Let's explore below.

What is the metaverse?

But first, before we can discuss is the metaverse the future of fashion, or how is the metaverse changing the fashion industry, we need to know what is is.

No one can really say yet, because no one knows exactly how it will play out. The first era of the internet—Web 1.0—facilitated the transmission of information, while Web 2.0 connected people, creating the sharing economy dominated by companies like Google and Facebook. Now, we’re at the evolution of Web 2.0 heading into Web 3.0, which will connect people, locations, and things. And all these people, spaces, and assets can be, sometimes, in a fully virtual environment. It’s not one technology and it’s not one company, sorry Mark.

And while the metaverse can be experienced in virtual spaces, as what’s typically called “virtual reality,” that’s not the only way we’ll experience it.

Msense tweet about meta stealing their logo
M sense 1, FB 0

Fashions Role in the Metaverse

Some would say digital fashion and fashions foray into the metaverse begun when fashion house Balenciaga announced its collaboration with Fortnite in 2021, which was quickly followed by the frankly amazing marketing campaign that centred on the below display in times square 🗽

However that was just the start. What followed was the same Balengica debuting their NYC collection as part of Simpsons sketch, he who shall not be named announcing his own 'evil, not evil, definitely evil version' of the Metaverse, and finally rounding off with a rush of brands, such as Nike patenting their logo in VR.

What we can see therefore brands are moving full throttle into the fashion metaverse, with tie ups with games, lifestyle experiences and meet-ups.

Since then we’ve also seen Adidas invest in the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem and Nike acquire VR and NFT studio RTFKT, proving beyond doubt the next fight between fashion brands with be in the digital, virtual space 💿

What about fashion consumers?

How is the metaverse changing the fashion industry?

Firstly, fashion brands follow fashion consumers. Fashion brands want to get as many eyes on their products as possible, in whatever channel that might be. Be it billboards, TVs, websites, phones and now the metaverse. Where there will be fashion consumers eyes and wallets, there will be brands trying to gain some of that wallet share in that new channel 👛 And this new channel happens to be digital fashion in the fashion metaverse.

D&G virtual collection
D&Gs digital fashion collection

Secondly, we're only just grappling with the on-line to off-life fashion consumption model, but how about meta vs physical? Will there be metaverse only fashion products, experiences and services? History suggests so. For example, a consumer someone recently paid $450,000 to be Snoop Dogg’s neighbour in a virtual world called the Sandbox 🏘

A further point is, what if consumption grows faster in the fashion metaverse than in reality? Which it may well do given societal trends and the time Gen Z spends online. Will brands shift resources to cater accordingly, with brands such as LVMH and Gucci becoming something that closer resembles a fashion-tech company than a fashion house? With fashion companies hiring more developers than designers to build and operate the fashion metaverse. This may seem far-fetched today but just ask brands such as blockbuster how quickly trends can shift.

The fashion industry is nervous about neglecting a community of future fashion consumers. Typically, fashion brands ignore customers outside their highly prescribed comfort zone until they are unable to, in other words, when it's convenient and profitable to engage with these new potential fashion customers.

Fashion now has an organic presence on platforms like Fortnite, where boundary-pushing looks are already part of the experience. In April, for example, a creator named Lachlan staged a virtual fashion show, in which a giant sock monkey hopped on a pogo stick, a banana wore a tuxedo, and a player dressed as Guns n Roses guitarist Slash, only with a chiseled jaw and a chunky blonde bob. Balenciaga, with its September collaboration, merely stepped in to take formal advantage of that fandom.

Homer Simpson walking the runway for Balenciaga
Who had Homer Simpson modelling for Balenciaga in digital fashion?

What’s more, digital clothing is one solution to the supply chain crisis that has put the industry in a chokehold over the past years, while addressing fashion’s sustainability problem.

In the metaverse, you don’t have to physically produce anything 👚

However, if there’s no physical object, what is it that consumers are buying? And how effective will traditional fashion marketing be in convincing audiences to shell out for digital fashion products? Clearly the market thinks otherwise as the examples in this blog show .

The future for digital fashion

I imagine a not too distant future when purchasing a Gucci handbag we'll be given the option of real or meta, the payment will be made using a coin wallet and to quote an old phrase, we might just then, be living in the matrix.

Ready player one?

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