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Fashion in the Metaverse

The world of fashion has been quick to embrace the Metaverse, with numerous collaborations between designers and virtual platforms. In October of last year, sporting brand Nike acquired digital collectibles company RTFKT Studios, filed trademarks to sell branded sneakers in virtual worlds, and launched Nikeland on online gaming platform Roblox, providing visitors a place to create an avatar, complete with Nike sneakers, and play sports in a virtual space. Apparel, footwear and accessories company Timberland followed in Nike’s footsteps, collaborating with Epic Games, creative footwear design studio CONCEPTKICKS, and innovators Daniel Bailey, Zixiong Wei, and Aisha Kujk to co-create ‘Metaboots’ in online video game Fortnite, and in March of this year, Metaverse Fashion Week, or MVFW22, featured a mix of luxury labels, including Paco Rabanne, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro, and digital brands, including Forever 21, DKNY and Estée Lauder, on virtual platform Decentraland. Head of Metaverse Fashion Week and Decentraland Community & Events Producer Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro said the event: “enables major fashion brands to explore this new space alongside the decentralized artists and designers who created this space. MVFW22 will be a moment in time when the fashion world will witness the future of fashion, and how this world will enable them to meet new audiences, advance fashion sustainability, and reevaluate diversity and accessibility in fashion.”

Top model Bella Hadid has recently joined the Metaverse with the launch of CY-B3LLA, a collection of 11,111 non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Each NFT comprises a unique piece of digital art based on a 3D scan of the model. Alongside a certificate of ownership, the NFT comes with perks including access to Bella’s Metaverse mansion, discounts on exclusive brands, access to private digital events, and even access to an in-person meeting with Hadid herself.

The Metaverse will provide a rich new medium and a limitless landscape for designers to create new, digital fashion collections, unlike anything that’s been seen before. A potential taste of what’s to come is depicted in Tad William’s 1996 novel City of Golden Shadow. In one scene, key protagonists Renie and !Xhabbu enter a virtual world called TreeHouse. Inside this virtual world they are greeted by a variety of avatars including “a plate full of eggs and sausage hovering in mid air, with silverware, cereal bowl, and a glass of orange juice orbiting around it like satellites.” This is Prince Ali von Always-Laughing-Puppets, “one of the first truly great designers of simulated bodies.” After examining Renie and !Xhabbu’s avatars, Ali declares that “Somebody must do something about what you’re wearing.” Perhaps fashion designers of the future will prowl the Metaverse, designing new garments for its digital denizens on the fly, and certifying ownership of new digital assets via NFTs.

Fashion houses and department stores will use the Metaverse to house virtual representations of their physical stores. Here they can sell both physical and digital goods, alongside new customer experiences, such as individual, one-off collaborations with designers as part of a ‘You x [insert designer name here]’ offering. High-end department store Selfridges kicked off this years’ Metaverse Fashion Week with the opening of its flagship Metaverse store, which recreates the look of its real-world Birmingham store. And Selfridges aren’t the only ones opening virtual stores. Metaverse marketplace Renovi and immersive shopping experience company Threedium have teamed up develop and build bespoke pop-up stores, enabling fashion brands to promote their new products to Decentraland audiences, New York City-based fashion house DKNY’s store will offer an immersive experience, and luxury reseller Privé Porter will be offering authenticated NFTs of exclusive handbags that can be used in the Metaverse.

As the Metaverse becomes more integrated into our lives, digital fashion, how people dress their avatar (the graphical representation of the user or the user's character or persona) and how we choose to express ourselves, will become as important as fashion in the physical world.

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