The metaverse has now become a subject of interest to fashion brands. Many big brands have discovered how to leverage the mix between metaverse and fashion after noticing its massive potential. Read on to learn about the metaverse, its relationship with fashion, and big fashion brands that are already leveraging the mix.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse can be loosely defined as hyper-interactive digital environments where people work, play, socialize and shop. Experts describe the metaverse as the next evolution of social connection, offering a 3D virtual reality universe where users from all over the world are present at the same time.
The metaverse made of interactive, digital spaces is a natural evolution of technology. They reflect the ever-increasing amount of time that consumers spend online nowadays. Metaverse, using advanced technologies of augmented /virtual reality along with 3D capabilities, can create human ‘avatars.’ The avatars can then be part of a virtual world where people relate and interact, watch movies together, hold meetings, shop, carry out financial transactions, buy lands, and even feel each others’ touch as sensory vibes.
Even as the metaverse itself is in its early days, there is plenty of interest in its massive potential. Nowadays, it seems that the fashion industry has taken a significant interest in the metaverse. Fashion brands are now looking to leverage opportunities present in the metaverse, one of which is to engage young tech-savvy customers.
Target demographic of the metaverse and fashion in the metaverse
The metaverse aims at supporting a generation that never goes offline, having avatars in a virtual world where they can fully express themselves. Generation Z, popularly called Gen Z, is the target of the start of the metaverse. In 2020 alone, Gen Z spent an average of 8 hours online per day. According to research, Gen Z spends twice as much time on socialization in digital spaces than in real life.
Frank Fitzgerald, founder of Pax. World – a platform that allows individuals to create their metaverse, noted that the younger generation, especially those individuals who see their digital representation as being an integral part of their social identities, is the key demographic for digital fashion. Fitzgerald said that while older generations(30 and above) might find it challenging to understand the notion that the metaverse represents, he has reason to believe that over time, more people will come on board.
How the relationship between metaverse and fashion came about
Over the last two years, the fashion industry suffered due to store closures, work from home, and limited movement of workers and consumers, leading to a sharp drop in fashion consumption. This circumstance pushed fashion businesses and brands to switch to digital channels to sustain their brand. These brands have realized that as we progress into the future, there will be an increased dependency on digitization. Hence acquiring futuristic technologies has become a top priority.
In essence, the COVID 19 pandemic has triggered an acceleration in the development of digital tools and products, given the drastic drop in in-store purchases and the increase in e-commerce orders, supercharging participation in digital worlds. Now, the metaverse has become a prime target of fashion brands.
Presently, the digitization of the fashion industry and the adaptation of fashion in the digital era enable fashion brands and businesses to attract and connect with customers from all over the world. New adaptations of fashion to the metaverse have begun from the top of the pyramid. Luxury brands are presently tapping into what seems like the beginning of a digital revolution, creating digital garments solely for people’s virtual identities. An example of a luxury brand is the Italian luxury brand D&G’s ‘Genesis Collection’ which implemented the buying and exchange of NFTs digitally into its design.
Relationship between metaverse and fashion
Personal expression is essential to Gen Z. The ability to express thoughts, opinions, and oneself is a commonality in this generation. Fashion happens to be one of the three most important ways by which Gen Z seeks to express themselves. Now the question is, does that carry over into the digital world? Chances are, it could. Because of this fact, fashion brands are seeking to be more present in the metaverse.
Gucci’s chief marketing officer Robert Triefus said, “there are more and more second worlds where you can express yourself.” He continued to say, “[But] there is probably an underestimation of people who want to express themselves in a virtual world with a virtual product, through a virtual persona.”
Nowadays, the evolution of design technologies has dramatically improved, allowing designers creative and seemingly limitless creative freedom in their designs. However, most of these clothing can’t be worn by people in the physical world. Here, the metaverse comes into play. An avatar, which usually represents physical people in the digital universe, can wear any clothing irrespective of type, fabric, design, or use. The metaverse makes it possible to experiment with designs, creating lavish wardrobes way grander than what could be possible in the real world. Furthermore, these digital clothes are in the form of digital collectibles or Non-fungible tokens, NFTs, making them freely tradable over open NFT marketplaces and adding to their long-term value.
The metaverse exposes companies and fashion brands to seemingly limitless potential. It allows businesses and brands to have a borderless presence that transcends physical limitations, create brand awareness globally using digital means, and retail “phygital” clothes, all while providing convenience to their customers. Consumers, on the other hand, enjoy many benefits as well. They can try out clothes from digital world virtual stores using their avatars at their convenience, time, and place and maintain their ownership on the blockchain forever.
Consumers’ experience of metaverse and fashion
Nowadays, most of the latest mid-high-end smartphones have an optical compartment with a very high definition, and some of them already integrate the 3D scanning feature. This feature allows the smartphone to scan and digitally reproduce what has been shot as an avatar.
Presently, this technology hasn’t gotten to the point of sophistication that allows a perfect overlap between the real and virtual body. However, it is developed enough to identify any issue of tightness and to simulate how the garment fits when it is worn.
People can buy digital clothes from luxury fashion brands for as little as less than $10. A 3D virtual clothing technology allows one to overlap dresses bought digital over one’s pictures, which means a person can, in a sense, purchase and wear a Ralph Lauren dress for as little as 10 dollars, which is mind-blowing compared to the actual price of a Ralph Lauren dress in the real world.
Also, digital fashion is way grander than reality. In the digital world, people don’t just wear clothes; they wear imagination.
Fashion brands that leverage metaverse and fashion
Having noticed the massive potential of the metaverse on the fashion industry, several fashion giants have begun making intelligent moves. To understand and leverage opportunities that the metaverse presents in fashion, big brands like Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, etc., have already put sizeable teams in place that are dedicated to exploring, testing, and harnessing the potential of the Web3 space.
Below are a few examples of brands that have tapped into the potential of the metaverse.
To celebrate its 200th year of existence, Louis Vuitton released a video game where players were required to find 200 birthday candles during the last quarter of 2021. Along the way, players were also allowed to hunt for 30 NFTs hidden within its metaverse. Once acquired, these items served as a pass that guaranteed the owners access to various exclusive events and private parties.
Gucci made forays into the digital space with its Gucci Garden in the Roblox gaming metaverse and saw 19 million visitors to it. Gucci recognizes the potential of Roblox, a virtual game with about 300 million players in the digital world. Gucci also recognized the appeal of engaging with and building communities in games and other virtual worlds to the new generation, coupled with the fact that the gaming industry alone is a $176 billion industry, with over 3 billion players from around the world each year.
Hence, Gucci and Roblox launched a two-week art installation that enabled visitors to try on and buy digital products for their avatars. They could then walk through the virtual Gucci Garden space.
Balenciaga too wasn’t going to sit back and watch. The big fashion brand recently joined forces with Fortnite – a popular virtual video game, to sell high fashion “skins,” which are clothing or accessories that players can purchase with real money.
Ralph Lauren partnered with a South Korean social network app, Zepeto, to create a virtual fashion collection where users could dress their avatars in exclusive products or appearance-altering skins. Here, league of legends players could customize the clothes worn by their avatars for $10.
Zara also launched its first collection of digital clothing and makeup on the South Korean metaverse platform Zepeto, in collaboration with the brand Ader Error, a South Korean fashion label.
The future of fashion
The merging of metaverse and fashion can have a massive impact on the fashion industry. It can skyrocket the fashion world into a reality that certainly breaks the bands of physical limitations, taking fashion into an entirely different realm. Frank Fitzgerald, the founder of Pax.World, also believes this.
Artificial intelligence and augmented reality have endless potential for businesses that want to leverage virtual fashion. Technology that allows for 360-degree views has been used to present seasonal collections through online showrooms. Virtual avatars of models have even walked 3D virtual fashion runways.
The involvement of NFTs in metaverse and fashion
Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are an integral part of the metaverse. NFTs are unique crypto assets whose authenticity and ownerships are verified on blockchains and are bought, sold, or exchanged in the metaverse, often with cryptocurrency.
An NFT is a piece of tradable code attached to a digital item, which can be an image or video. A secure network of computers records the ownership of this asset on a digital ledger, and once sold, ownership is transferred.
Karinna Nobbs, co-chief executive and chief experience officer of the NFT marketplace, insists that NFTs are potentially revolutionary, saying, ” This is fundamentally going to change digital ownership, creative structures, the creative economy, and how we view money even. This is bigger than the internet.”
For the digital fashion world, NFTs can be used to verify/authenticate pieces or serve as collectibles in their own right.
Digital fashion assets have the potential to generate significant revenue streams. However, monetization opportunities seem to be contingent on the psychology of scarcity and limited editions driving NFT mania.
Brands and businesses have realized that a business that doesn’t lean towards the future will soon become a thing of the past. Hence, fashion brands and businesses continue to put in continuous efforts to leverage the mix between the metaverse and fashion.
The foray of fashion brands into the digital realm offers unique opportunities in customer engagement, community building, personal expression of customers and even brands, and the potential to rack in significant revenues. While no one can predict precisely how this digital universe will take shape, the fact remains that it provides unique and exciting opportunities for fashion brands and even for consumers themselves.