The conversations around the metaverse and fashion are multi-layered.
As you know, Milan, New York, London, and Paris are major fashion week capitals of the world. But in the era of technological advancements, many industries have evolved and one of them is Fashion. A various growing roster of smaller start-ups like Copenhagen to Shanghai and Stockholm to Tbilisi are joining the major fashion week capitals. And how can we miss the trendy and latest “Decentraland.” A virtual reality/augmented reality platform that hosted the first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week. This article features why metaverse fashion shows are the big bummers to the industry.
The conversations around the metaverse and fashion are multi-layered. On one end, there is the sustainability factor: brands can reduce their waste by producing clothing digitally. (While that’s good on the surface level, it’s worth noting that digital clothing created in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, can actually have a substantial carbon footprint: a single NFT carbon footprint can equal two months of electricity usage for a single resident, for example.) Then, there’s the matter of building a bigger fanbase, one that’s pushed brands like Balenciaga and Gucci to capitalize on digitally-native communities to promote and sell their collections. As mentioned above, there is also an effort to democratize the industry even further, beyond the fashion capitals and invite-only fashion week events.
Last week (from March 24 to March 27), around 50 brands brought their virtual collections to the platform’s new Luxury Fashion District, which has been modelled on Paris’ Avenue Montaigne. Virtual real estate company Metaverse Group purchased the 6,000-square-foot plot last November for a record US$2.4 million. The event was free and open to anyone with an Internet connection, and unlike traditional fashion weeks, no tickets or private invitations were needed.
Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Estee Lauder, Etro, and Roberto Cavalli are among the top fashion brands that participated in the metaverse fashion show. They presented digital clothing (for avatar wear) on virtual runways and sold a mix of NFTs and digital pieces from their Decentraland stores.
Tommy Hilfiger further detailed that it partnered with Boson Portal, a metaverse marketplace that offers a “virtual lifestyle and cultural playground located in Decentraland.” The announcement on Monday notes that a Tommy Hilfiger store will be located within Boson Portal. Interestingly, the items from the Tommy Hilfiger store are purchased as non-fungible token (NFT) assets, but owners can redeem the NFTs for “physical products delivered straight to the customers’ door.” But if this all sounds good then what made metaverse fashion shows the big bummers to the industry?
When joining an event on Decentraland, the process can be very slow, confusing, or not work at all. Upon arrival, sometimes the music might not be playing, or multiple audio tracks are playing at once. Plein learned that in the metaverse, one needs to start the music before guests arrive. Otherwise, if the DJ starts afterward, and people don’t reload their browser, they might not hear the music.
Aside from logistical issues, a major criticism is the low-level graphics, compared to other digital fashion items. Newcomers who are attending on desktops with limited hardware could feel slightly deflated by the look of the world. Organizers say this is largely because everyday computers and Wi-Fi sometimes aren’t powerful enough for high-fidelity experiences.
Digital fashion items, specifically, are limited to a low number of polygons, meaning that the textures and details of clothing, especially individual items, are severely limited. Designers with high-fidelity 3D versions have to dramatically simplify the aesthetics to translate into Decentraland.
There’s also the notion of evaluating popularity based on how many avatars are in space. Because Decentraland drops people in multiple different realms to keep from overloading a space, not all participants are visible. These are issues that will improve with time. The space is still being built, and like the first versions of web pages, people will build on top, improve and create something that gets better over time.