Fashion 2022: How do designers approach the metaverse?
Imagine a world where your digital identity is as important as your real identity. Where you need assets and goods for your virtual self like money (cryptocurrency), a house (maybe built on Minecraft), and clothes.
As we increasingly live our lives online, fashion brands are betting on the idea that some consumers are already here with the launch of digital clothing collections and collaborations with gaming platforms. In 2022, the hottest trends and most anticipated launches won’t be hitting the catwalk, they’ll take place on our screens as designers explore the metaverse.
The term “metaverse” was coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book Snow Crash. It is a space where humans interact in a virtual environment as 3D avatars.
Today it looks less like fiction as we work, socialize, learn, and spend our free time on the internet, but there is a crucial difference between our lives today and the metaverse.
“I would describe the metaverse as a virtual space that isn’t just limited to a social or play environment. It’s a virtual world where you can, for example, wear the same digital clothes in all spaces. It’s not there yet, but the groundwork has been laid, ”says Kristina Dimitrova, brand consultant and founder of the fashion and tech platform Interlaced.
Much of the groundwork for fashion’s foray into the metaverse has been laid in 2021, paving the way for bigger things to come next year. In May, Gucci Garden launched on Roblox, a branded virtual space featuring rooms themed around historic campaigns and a place to try on and shop for the brand’s limited-edition digital clothing.
In September, Balenciaga became the first luxury brand to partner with the Fortnite video game on a range of character outfits, called “skins”. It also released a physical line of products to coincide with the digital launch.
Dimitrova says that this blurring of the physical and virtual world is something we’ll see more of in 2022. “As a player you can pay for the skins or earn them in-game or go out and buy a real product in certain stores. to wear it in real life. I think we’ll see a lot more brands connecting online and offline worlds like this.
It’s something designer Charli Cohen also explored this year in collaboration with Pokémon, department store Selfridges, and production company RYOT Lab. Cohen created a line of digital and physical clothing that was sold through Electric / City, a virtual world hosted on the Selfridges website that shoppers could explore and interact with.
Cohen’s next venture, which will launch soon, is one more step into the metaverse. “I spent the last year building RSTLSS, a platform that allows artists, brands and their fans to easily create personalized and interoperable Metaverse wearables,” she told Euronews. “Interoperability is going to be a major goal for digital fashion in 2022 – the ability to move your digital wardrobe across multiple games and social spaces.”
Fashion? Probably not
These early experiences in the virtual realm may sound like a gimmick, but there’s good reason to believe it’s more than a passing fad. With Facebook rebranding to Meta to reflect the breadth of its work, which includes building a metaverse, it’s likely to give momentum to brand activity in this space.
Futurist and editor-in-chief of the tech and culture magazine of the future CYBR, James Joseph, explains:
“Think about the size of Facebook, and that’s how they’re growing, and a lot of people are following suit. A lot of people don’t understand NFTs, they don’t understand crypto, and they don’t need it. What will happen is that it will become a part of people’s everyday life without them really knowing it.
Dimitrova explains the attraction of this world for fashion brands: “For fashion brands, this offers another avenue of marketing. The stereotypical player was not the one fashion brands traditionally targeted. You tend to think of a 13 year old boy in his bedroom eating snacks, but in fact many gamers are women and people who have other interests outside of gaming including fashion. so that makes sense. Plus, people who play games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Animal Crossing are really engaged with these platforms, so if you can add value to their experience, that’s a great branding strategy.
Luxury brands at the forefront
Luxury labels have been the trailblazers so far, but the shopping street is catching up. Adidas announced its first plans for the ‘adiVerse’ in November with a loyalty program using crypto badges and land in the mobile game The Sandbox being brand-only – though more details on this have not been released. revealed.
That same month, UK department store John Lewis partnered up with ITV television channel for their I’m A Celebrity gaming experience created on Fortnite to host a branded supply store.
For designers like Cohen, this digital world represents more than just a marketing opportunity, but a further extension of creative possibilities: “Identity has evolved – there is no longer a border between the physical and the digital ‘us’. The streets have become games and social media – and accurately capturing your visual identity in these spaces is as important as IRL. As a designer, I am very excited to strengthen and facilitate this.
As we stay tuned for more Metaverse brand activations that will surely be announced in 2022, some of the most exciting developments are coming from the tech companies themselves. One of the most anticipated launches slated for 2022 is Microsoft Mesh, which will take Teams meetings to a new level by allowing users with VR headsets to appear in virtual worlds and interact with virtual objects.
For fashion, that could mean hosting digital catwalks where shoppers feel like they are there or offering personal shopping appointments where they remotely meet a stylist to show them the latest digital collections.
The metaverse is coming and fashion brands want to make sure you’re dressed for it.