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After a month of constant hype across social media, digital media, and internet incarnations 2.0 and 3.0, the first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) debuted on March 24. For some, the fashion extravaganza – which was staged on the Decentraland platform and included some of the world’s most famous luxury brands – was seen as a kind of Web3 democratization of global fashion.
Instead of shows being highly exclusive events available only to the wealthy, most connected or famous in the industry, anyone with a Decentraland avatar can log in, sit in front of the tracks, browse the luxury fashion district, and attend lavish parties.
But despite all the anticipations that surrounded the first MVFW, the event itself was a budding product without conclusive proof of concept. And like anything that stumbled in its early days, it inspired far more questions than answers. How popular is it really? How profitable will this be for fashion brands? What is the relationship between a brand’s broad footprint and a physical brand and its physical clothing lines? Uncertainty prevailed.
Here is my best attempt to answer some of these questions and overcome some of that uncertainty.
1. MVFW 2022 was the trial year
Decentralized saw 108,000 unique visitors in the four days that surrounded MVFW, a number that isn’t exclusively representative of these committed avatars of the fashion show. By comparison, the two annual editions of New York Fashion Week attract about 230,000 people combined. But comparing the inaugural MVFW to its real-life counterparts is reckless folly. While New York Fashion Week has been around in one form or another since 1943, this year’s Decentraland edition was launched. In other words, it is almost impossible to consider an event a success or failure based on this statistic.
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According to countless accounts, the procedure has many flaws. People have complained about the attractive graphics, slow processing speeds, and frequent browser crashes. This week’s main events – the marches themselves – were marked by the relatively low level of the participants and the chaotic and disorganized ways in which they interacted with their surroundings (some journalists have reported seeing iconic images of the audience crushing the paths in a very simple display.). There was, it was said, a bit of a mess in the user experience (UX) that spoke of an event and a world that is still far from its full peak form of maturity.
Instead of focusing so much on all the flaws of the MVFW deck, it would be better to serve people by thinking of the product in its most primitive form – a promising prototype. Decentraland will continue to upgrade its servers and offer updated versions of its blockchain-based software, and the technology will eventually be able to seamlessly accommodate many avatars in its virtual reality world. And as subsequent fashion weeks become more carefully planned and implemented more comprehensively – with some kind of learned social norms, etiquette and protocols that reflect the physical world – there is no reason to doubt their sustainability.
2. The luxury fashion district is ready for a breakthrough
MVFW marked the web 3 debut of some of the world’s most iconic luxury brands, including Selfridges, Dolce & Gabbana, Hogan and Chufy. These brands have officially set their flags on the Metaversal platform in Decentraland by opening their digital stores in the luxury fashion district, located within the larger fashion district of Genesis in Decentraland. And while the reviews for many of the week’s clothing-related events covered a very wide range, the grand openings of these new “flagship” stores were a stunning display of the potential of the fashion industry in the metaverse.
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Haute Couture homes occupied buildings with elegant and often futuristic architecture – the ultra-modern black and purple multi-story structure of Selfridges looked like two Zeppelin planes stacked on top of each other – meticulous attention to detail and interiors captured their signature style and amenities with dazzling craftsmanship. (Dundas store showcased 3D renderings of the brand’s unique diamond-encrusted tigers.) Considering how quickly it all came together – and presumably, how new to the Metaverse and leadership most of these brands are – it was an impressive show.
Perhaps more than anything else, it showed how luxury fashion companies would be able to recreate their desired in-store experiences in Web3 in a way that simply wasn’t possible with the flat transaction mechanics of Web2.
3. Fashion in the Metaverse must evolve and will evolve
For all of MVFW’s glamorous aesthetics, pomp and circumstance, the event’s relationship to actual corporate products remains haphazard and largely unresolved. Some brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger, have offered clicks on major e-commerce sites. Others, like Dundas, gave shop visitors the option to purchase NFT clothing – the clothes and accessories their avatars can wear in Decentraland. A third hybrid approach allowed individuals to purchase NFTs that could be exchanged for exclusive physical clothing. There has never been a single dominant paradigm for how to approach the financial dimension of fashion week, and it is likely that many brands have interpreted it as more than just a marketing opportunity.
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One of the seemingly inevitable questions I’m asking myself now is whether the fashion industry – by far an early adopter and aggressive of metaverse – will use Web3 as a simple, thinly veiled platform for Web2 capitalism, or if it has something more sophisticated and avant-garde.
With foot traffic still low for traditional, traditional stores – even in rare shopping districts like Fifth Avenue – some consumers still crave the immersive fashion experience to walk through the impeccably curated and fair environments of designer stores and search for the perfect accessory, clothing or beauty item. The possibilities of Decentraland and the Metaverse to restore that sense of physical magic and fulfill a seemingly limitless desire. Only time will tell if luxury brands take full advantage of it.