As designers debut in the Metaverse, NFT couture hits the runway

This year, mainstream designers will launch NFT collections in the Metaverse, demonstrating the fashion industry’s future.

The growth of the Metaverse has led in the emergence of a completely new digital economy, one defined by virtual interactions and experiences. As a result, avatar-based metaverse ecosystems are forming, allowing individuals to express themselves through digitally customized 3D characters. This concept was recently brought to the forefront of popular culture when Facebook’s parent company, Meta, unveiled a series of inclusive avatars.

While the Metaverse may sound futuristic, Gartner predicts that 25% of individuals will have spent at least one hour each day in the Metaverse by 2026. By 2026, Marty Resnick, vice president of Gartner, predicts that 30% of enterprises globally will have products and services in the Metaverse.

Fashionable NFTs are set to be the next big thing.

Given this, it’s unsurprising that digital fashion for metaverse contexts is also beginning to emerge. According to Lokesh Rao, co-founder and COO of Trace Network Labs — a decentralized protocol that enables lifestyle and luxury firms to enter the Metaverse — fashion has always been a method for people to express themselves and carry themselves in the physical world. However, as individuals increasingly split their time between the actual world and the Metaverse, Rao believes that demand for virtual luxury lifestyle goods is increasing. Rao specifically highlighted that nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, used in digital fashion are gaining acceptance with large businesses and high-end fashion designers:

“Fashion NFTs are simply tokenized outfits, accessories, textiles and other wearables that have been created to exist in virtual worlds. Their purpose is quite straightforward. They provide a way for us to express ourselves in the Metaverse.”

To return to Rao’s remark, it has become clear that major brands are paying attention to NFTs. Nike announced the acquisition of virtual footwear and collectibles firm RTFKT in December 2021 as the first step toward metaverse enablement. According to Dani Loftus, founder of This Outfit Does Not Exist, a digital fashion portal, the acquisition suggests that traditional fashion firms will soon have to adapt to digital methods. “The Metaverse and digital fashion will have to be treated seriously in the future,” she stated.

Additionally, high-end luxury companies like as Dolce & Gabbana and Jimmy Choo debuted their own NFT designs during New York Fashion Week 2021 last year. UNXD, a creator and curator shop for legendary luxury brands, designed Dolce & Gabbana’s nine-piece NFT collection. Shashi Menon, publisher of Vogue Arabia and creator and CEO of UNXD, told that fashion plays a critical part in identification and NFTs:

“Part of UNXD’s thesis is that fashion is going to be one of the first killer use cases in the Metaverse. What’s in your wallet says something about who you are, how you want to be perceived and what you can do on Web3 platforms or even in the real world.”

Menon continued, “With this in mind, UNXD is committed to creating not only the best images that can be appreciated as art, but also to unlocking experiences with the world’s leading brands for UNXD’s collector community.” “All of this is feasible because of NFTs,” he observed.

In 2022, fashion NFTs will hit the runway.

Given the already significant impact that NFTs are having on the fashion industry, it only makes sense that digital designs are now being shown in metaverse contexts. Specifically, as “Metaverse Fashion Week” events take place, the fashion industry and Web3 actually collide.

For instance, Everyrealm – a network of active investors and creators of metaverse ecosystems — will conduct its Metaverse Fashion Week on February 14, 2022, in conjunction with New York Fashion Week. Everyrealm’s metaverse fashion show was created by Blueberry entertainment, a digital wearables company, and took place in the Second Life Metaverse, a 2003-launched virtual environment. The fashion presentation showcased Jonathan Simkhai’s designs, a high-end women’s fashion designer who is a fixture at New York Fashion Week.

According to Julia Schwartz, co-founder of Everyrealm, the company’s purpose was to demonstrate that digital fashion had a place in the broader economy by providing a runway for digital wearables in the Metaverse. Schwartz said that the event was timed to coincide with Unique York Fashion Week to allow attendees to experience fashion in a new and immersive environment free of COVID-19 constraints. “We had almost 40,000 attendance when we opened Metaverse Fashion Week to the public in Second Life,” Schwartz explained. She went on to explain that Everyrealm teamed with Jonathan Simkhai to design ten Fall/Winter 2022 Metaverse styles:

“For the first time ever, digital NFT wearables made their debut in the Metaverse before their physical counterparts, demonstrating a dramatic shift in the way people consume and experience fashion and culture.”

While creative, it’s worth noting that Everyrealm’s fashion display featured wearable fashion NFTs rather than exclusively digital fashion designs. While digital fashion can be placed on photographs for use in social media posts or on 3D avatars, Schwartz noted that the Metaverse enables people to not only participate in culture, but also to own a piece of it through the purchase of nonfungible tokens. According to Justin Banon, co-founder of Boson Protocol — a platform that enables brands to sell physical objects in the Metaverse — putting NFTs into digital wearables provides users with solid property rights, as they possess a permanent asset. “It becomes an heirloom or a piece of fashion history that can be passed down through generations. The value of NFTs is being driven by these property rights, since individuals value really owning an asset.”

Having said that, Schwartz revealed that six of Jonathan Simkhai’s designs were transformed into NFTs for Everyrealm’s fashion show, with one being a one-on-one piece that sold for around $3,000 dollars. “The 1/1 NFT purchaser will receive a real piece from Jonathan Simkhai’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection,” Schwartz explained.

Fashion is elevated to new heights with NFTs.

While Everyrealm’s metaverse fashion presentation took place during New York Fashion Week, another NFT collection debuted during this year’s Paris Fashion Week. Terrence Zhou, a New York-based designer whose work has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire, told that he will unveil his first NFT collection via the digital fashion marketplace The Dematerialized on March 3, 2022. Zhou’s NFT collection, dubbed INFINITE, is described as a fashion experience designed for the mind rather than the body:

“This collection reimagines and elevates the potential of wearable art in the virtual world. When people see fashion, they often think it’s a commodity, but I see fashion as art. This is why I find it empowering to create NFTs, so people can collect and own these as art but can also wear them virtually or in real life. This is a gamechanger.”

According to Zhou, his INFINITE collection included six NFTs, three of which were unveiled during Paris Fashion Week. He added that the novel NFTs extend his physical designs while complementing sections that cannot be realized in real life. “While all of my fashion aspirations are unattainable in the actual world, these fashion creations come to life and may tell stories in the digital realm. It becomes significantly more poetic.”

For example, Zhou explained that the INFINITE collection chronicles a transforming experience with the concept of love and close connections, drawing viewers into a diorama of emotions evoked by such an extraordinary human interaction. Zhou continued:

“Inspired by The Little Mermaid and the Greek mythology of sirens, three NFTs explore sexual fantasies in an illogical way by fusing anthropomorphic structures with absurd representations such as bulbous forms and fishtails. The balloon shape with a beating heart unifies the collection, accompanied by two distinct mermaid tails representing both unrequited love and bodily sacrifice.”

Along with increased creative options, fashion NFTs enable designers to establish a stronger connection with consumers. Zhou highlighted that NFTs empower designers by allowing them to communicate directly with their audience. Additionally, Jonathan Simkhai, the first designer for Everyrealm’s Fashion Week, told that creating an NFT collection is an interesting approach to engage a broader audience:

“The future of fashion exists in the Metaverse alongside in real-life garments and activations. To me, it‘s more about accessibility and community building. Activating in the Metaverse allows us to reach a customer who maybe isn‘t familiar with the brand but allows them to create a digital identity using the clothes.“

To Simkhai’s point, Schwartz said that an attendee at Everyrealm’s Metaverse Fashion Week expressed a desire to electronically wear one of the white NFT trousers suits displayed because she “could never pull them off in real life.” “These platforms provide us the freedom to explore, escape, and exist without fear of criticism, stigma, or societal expectations,” Schwartz explained.

This year, NFTs will continue to make their way onto the catwalk.

Given the present success of non-traditional fashion, it’s likely that digital designs will continue to make their Metaverse debut. This view is bolstered by the Decentraland metaverse platform’s recent announcement that it will host one of the world’s largest digital fashion weeks from March 24-27, 2022.

According to Gigi Graziosi Casimiro, director of Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week, Decentraland will hold four days of catwalk shows, fashion experiences, pop-up stores, and afterparties showcasing some of the world’s most known fashion names. Casimiro, for example, mentioned that Selfridges, a London shop, will kick off Metaverse Fashion Week on March 23 with the opening of its main metaverse store.

Additionally, the event will feature a futuristic runway where prominent fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Dundas, and Etro will present daily shows. Additionally, other completely digital fashion firms such as The Fabricant and emerging designers will debut digital wearables. “Fashion is a self-contained economy. We’re organizing Metaverse Fashion Week to bring together community innovators and members of the fashion industry. The objective is to bridge the gap between physical and digital fashion. As a result, we’re bringing in established companies with emerging creators,” Casimiro stated.

Additionally, Casimiro stated that Metaverse Fashion Week will incorporate both NFTs and digital fashion, noting that certain designs will be linked to NFT marketplaces. Casimiro believes that Decentraland’s Fashion Week will likely draw both Web3 and traditional fashion audiences: “Brands want to have a better understanding of how to reach traditional audiences and attract new customers through Metaverse access.” We anticipate a large number of newcomers entering Decentraland for this event.”

Using NFTs to reimagine the future of fashion

While it is becoming increasingly evident that NFTs represent the way forward for fashion, it is also necessary to emphasize that this sector is still in need of technological and mental development.

Casimiro highlighted that the biggest problem for fashion brands entering the Metaverse is for them to grasp the boundless possibilities and scope of virtual settings. “Brands are coming in believing they can replicate the traditional catwalk experience in the Metaverse, but brands can be much more innovative. The process of creating is becoming increasingly collaborative.”

While it can be tough for conventional fashion designers to transition to Web3, Simkhai said that it was an intriguing process to learn about. “As a designer, I spend a lot of time in the actual world working with outfits and textiles. For this project, much time was spent conducting ‘virtual fits’ to guarantee that the garments kept their cohesion in real life.” This remains a worry for curators as well, as Menon said that UNXD’s purpose is to capture the designer’s spirit and extend it meaningfully into the Metaverse. “With luxury brands in particular, there is a great deal of detail involved in getting it correct, and we work closely with the designers to accomplish this. It’s a highly personalized approach, but one that luxury necessitates.”

Finally, technical problems exist regarding the display of high-end digital wearables in metaverse contexts. For instance, Banon stated that one of the most significant issues confronting digital fashion today is the resolution level within specific virtual worlds. “Many lack the resolution necessary to portray fashion goods accurately. However, as has been demonstrated in virtually every other facet of information technology, when it comes to quality, everything improves with time.”

Indeed, as fashion’s future unfolds, improvements are expected to follow. Megan Kaspar, managing director at Magnetic Capital and a member of Red DAO — a decentralized autonomous organization focusing on fashion — told that industry standards and interoperability across all metaverse ecosystems are now necessary to ensure product quality. Fortunately, this issue is being addressed.

For instance, Marjorie Hernandez, founder of LUKSO — a blockchain infrastructure that establishes standards for physical and digital goods — told that the platform intends to merge the physical and digital worlds by utilizing blockchain technology to create a seamless and interoperable ecosystem:

“Both digital and physical garments can be authenticated on-chain as NFTs allowing for proof of ownership, proof of authenticity and multiverse interoperability and utility. With our new standards and NFT 2.0, digital fashion garments could even be upgraded based on seasons, trends, between owners or to mark special moments in a brand‘s history.”

As a result, Hernandez and other industry participants feel that the future of fashion lies in interoperable and dematerialized NFTs. “With digitization, the fashion industry and even budding designers now have endless creative potential,” she explained. Schwartz continued, “As marketers seek new methods to engage with customers, the Metaverse will enable experimentation through digital/physical activations and goods.”

Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.

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