Welcome to Trend Cemetery, a new monthly column in which our Senior Editor Taylore Scarabelli tries to make sense of meaningless micro-trends, luxury fashion and street style in the age of social media. This time, she takes a trip to the metaverse to learn more about virtual fashion.
Last week, a press release appeared in my inbox advertising a new kind of fashion week. From 23 to 27 March, Metaverse Fashion Week will showcase Fall / Winter 2022 digital looks (made with pixels, non-woven) from IRL brands such as Etro, Philipp Plein, Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as those backed by cryptocurrency. virtual “couture” like Auroboros. Hosted by Decentraland, a new virtual world / decentralized website, the week’s events promised to further democratize the fashion world and introduce shy consumers and capital-hungry companies into the metaverse, whatever that means. .
Since the start of the pandemic, the hype about “virtual fashion” has picked up speed. From Prada do-it-yourself fits Animal Crossing, the rise of NFT collectibles (cryptocurrency-backed virtual objects) of brands like Gucci, we’ve seen endless iterations of digital goods designed to resonate with a new wave of consumers whose lives, according to marketing experts and trend forecasters, unfold as much online as they do in the physical realm. For brands, the metaverse is a new market where the sale of intangible assets can create real value. But it’s also a new way to advertise brands through games, not unlike the way leading designers provide costumes for blockbuster movies. Yet the metaverse, as envisioned by companies like Decentraland, whose video game-like platforms hark back to vintage computer programs like The Sims And Second life, it has little to do with how consumers are influenced by virtual worlds today, especially when it comes to fashion.
When I first logged into Decentraland, I was grateful to be a crypto-native. Without a Metamask wallet (a browser plug-in for cryptocurrency transactions), I wouldn’t have been able to create my avatar, or purchase skins, aka digital outfits, to wear to the week’s events. To start, I gave my character a basic, all-black look: a cropped top, ripped jeans, boots, blonde hair, and matrix glasses. My avatar looked trashy, but it was the most “me” outfit I could scrounge from the meager set of freebee’s available (I wasn’t willing to hand over any ETH for the event, a decision I’m happy with in hindsight). After that, I teleported to what appeared to be the most popular event in space, a plaza filled with a mix of avatars decked out in what appeared to be holographic, feather-like Auroboros skins, and others like me, which looked plain and simple. he seemed baffled by the stream of comments. “Metaverse fashion week sucks!” one said. “Where are the shows?” I answered.
I tried to explore the limited world. I went shopping at an empty Etro store (clothing wouldn’t be available until after the metaverse fashion show) and visited a museum with pixelated artwork that my eyes couldn’t bother to focus on. Not only does time seem to pass more slowly when you’re in the metaverse, but Virtual Fashion Week seemed to follow a rigorous schedule not unlike its IRL counterparts, and somehow I had arrived before or after the day’s events. Even when I clicked on programs that were “live now,” I landed in computer-generated voids reminiscent of abandoned shopping malls and modern urban center developments. After what felt like two minutes, but could have been an eternity, I finished teleporting around and headed back to the square I had arrived at, but all of them were gone.
My poor experience at MVFW probably had as much to do with my lack of experience at Decentraland as with the fact that a fashion week version of a computer game will never be as exciting as it is in person. And this is precisely the problem. When I tried to log in the next day, my schedule was programmed to follow a talk on e-commerce and the metaverse, my computer practically self-combusted (JPEG-filled MacBook Airs are not suitable for the metaverse). But aside from the fact that most fashion aficionados don’t have graphics cards suitable for rendering video games on their computers, MVFW had another big problem: aside from the basic premise of existence in a virtual reality, nothing. of what I saw seemed to offer a lot in the way of fantasy.
Today, most fashion aficionados have a raging appetite for virtual products, but not in the way that most tech companies and businesses think. Rather than trading NFTs and outfits for in-game avatars, most of us find solace on major platforms like Twitter and Instagram, where an emerging group of critics and influencers swap images of old fashion shows and new editorials, documenting, collecting and circulating. actively history of fashion in unprecedented ways. There, and on apps like Depop and Poshmark, people consume virtual clothes by saving pictures of the real thing in their wishlists and photo albums. In a 2019 essay, I argued that this form of virtual consumption was a new type of consumerism not unlike shop windows, but more accessible and more enticing.
So why are fashion companies and new cryptocurrency-backed platforms ignoring these trends? Part of the problem is that platforms claiming the term “Metaverse” don’t have the burgeoning user base needed to maintain the kind of conversations and exchanges that keep most fashion geeks hooked to sites like Instagram and Twitter. Like IRL events, we still want to be where everyone else is when we’re online, not to end up in awkward situations like I did at MVFW. However, creators can find ways to make NFTs more attractive. For example, they could sell unedited images of Naomi in the Gianni Versace era or moodboards curated by the Internet’s most famous influencers. Or, at the very least, someone could come up with a virtual dress that doesn’t look like a jellyfish or something Simpson the character would wear. I’m begging you. Please!