Is Metaverse Fashion Week here to stay? We returned for its second edition

Last week — what should be an off-season period in the fashion calendar — Metaverse Fashion Week returned. We suited up our avatar and logged in to see how events, runways, and parties unfolded amidst the Web3 bear market.

5 Apr 2023

The first edition of MVFW gathered more than 108 000 guests. A year later, crypto-, NFT- and metaverse-related activities could be considered a bear market and the frenzy is nowhere near what it used to be. This makes the approach towards digital fashion more pondered, and you can no longer just show up to the party like in the early days. The question then is; did the brands stand up to the challenge? And how can MVFW be a leading example when it comes to the future of the metaverse? We dressed our avatar to find out.

Our avatar for this season’s fashion week.

If the first edition was trial and error, several aspects and approaches had changed for this season. The week spanned different virtual platforms, brands, and designers who displayed new ways of showcasing their fashion, events became more immersive, and collaborative projects enabled users to experience digital fashion through different technologies.

Future heritage

The week went under the theme ’Future Heritage’. A theme that became apparent in how players were marrying very traditional fashion with a digital experience. During the week there were digital activations dedicated to both Cristóbal Balenciaga, as well as Dame Vivienne Westwood.

The digital art collective, Vueltta, paid an independent tribute to the British fashion designer, Dame Vivienne Westwood, who passed away in late 2022. The gamified installation, called ’Dear Vivienne’, lets users discover the life, works, and activism of the iconic designer.

— Decentraland is a very international environment, people are from everywhere and we couldn’t assume that everyone would know who Vivienne Westwood is and about her work and what she did. But we don’t want to be educators, the space is not a museum piece. It’s very much about exploration, play, and experience in that installation, says Bay Backner, co-founder of Vueltta. 

The artistic space is built upon iconography from Westwood’s career; tartan, the store sign from Westwood’s historical store in London, and posters referencing Westwood’s activism. The space also hosted a fashion show in honour of the designer and her ethos.

— We found the connections with subcultures and with that blossoming of creativity that are happening right now in the metaverse with the subcultures that Vivienne was inspired by and worked with and also became part of creating the punk culture, the culture rebellion, the going against the fashion status quo towards the end of her life, she talked a lot about anti-fashion, which was this movement of a fashion industry that care about self-expression and quality, over things like fast-fashion and consumerism, Backner explains. 

The IoDF space in Decentraland, with the creation by Bradley Sharpe.

A more contemporary way of interpreting the theme came from the Institute of Digital Fashion. The digital innovators teamed up with Bradley Sharpe, a designer famous for his otherworldly, physical creations.

— IoDF are introducing physical designers to new design languages that exist within the parameters of digital, designing in digital requires a different approach and enables physical designers to explore new mediums virtually, explains Cattytay, Co-Founder and Creative Director of IoDF.

The Path towards Interoperability 

The name itself implies that Metaverse Fashion Week isn’t bound to any specific virtual world. Last year, it was hosted on Decentraland, with a few exceptions happening on social media. However, this year there were three hosting platforms; Decentraland, Spatial, and OVER. Decentraland is the virtual world that has a cartoonish interface, compared to Spatial which has become famous because of its aesthetic appeal. OVER, on the other hand, let users, in a decentralized manner, build virtual experiences in the real world with the help of an augmented reality layer.

— The expansion of MVFW to multiple platforms speaks for the growing interest in virtual fashion experiences. At Decentraland, we have focused on being open and welcoming to anyone who wants to participate, in whatever form they may explain Marja Konttinen, Marketing Director at the Decentraland Foundation.

One of the biggest obstacles for the metaverse is to become interoperable and let users seamlessly experience it from different platforms.

— [Today] the Metaverse does not exist — it is a speculative future vision. What we have at this moment is a series of open worlds that are starting their collaboration and cooperation to drive this vision forward, commented Shayli Harrison, CEO of the digital fashion house MUTANI. 

Even if the metaverse is still in its infancy, this edition offered more exploration and a glimpse of what a future metaverse could look like. However, you did sometimes end up in a perpetual link marathon, sending you across different applications, platforms, social media, and marketplaces.

One use case of what interoperability could look like today came from Tommy Hilfiger. From their space in Spatial — the Tommy Hilfiger monolith, developed by the virtual tech retail developer, Emperia — users were able to transport themselves to the brand’s spaces in the most common virtual worlds; Decentraland, Sandbox, Ready Player Me, Spatial, DressX, and their marketplace, in which you could buy both digital garments, as well as digital iterations of the exact same piece.

Creativity creating change

The Antwerp-based, digital fashion house, MUTANI, had several activations on both Decentraland and Spatial. The collective is created by alumni from the Royal College of Art in Antwerp — describing themselves as a ”rebellion marked against the oppressive and exploitative nature of the fashion industry”.

The Speedwear top by MUTANI x Stefan Kartchev.

MUTANI invited six Antwerp-based designers to design a creation for an installation named ”Antwerp-Cyber Six”, a homage to the fashion collective, Antwerp Six. Together with the designer Stefan Kartchev — who previously worked with Walter Van Beirendonck, Jean-Paul Gaultier x Y/Project, Rombaut, and Prada — MUTANI, created a hybrid garment that is possible to wear both IRL and URL. People who decide to buy the garment get a physical garment, made to order in the buyers’ size, and a digital twin. The sale utilizes the latest Venly x Shopify blockchain wallet integration, which makes it easy for non-savvy users to buy the garment. 

The Antwerp Cyber-six exhibition seen in Spatial.

According to Shayli Harrison, CEO and designer of MUTANI, hybrid fashion could be a way forward in reaching new target groups, as well as addressing physical fashion’s pain points. 

— Adding physical items to this mix is beneficial as when given easy UX we can bridge those web3 and web2 audiences onto the same platform – attracting the existing audience of our designers as well as the virtual devotees. This way the item can be worn in all worlds, representing the brand in physical and digital across all audiences. Alongside this, we can produce the physical item sustainably on-demand — creating less waste through overproduction. This allows us to support our designers, advancing the production means they are not out of pocket. The only issue with this is that fashion production from start to finish takes time, we state a delivery period of up to three months which may cause buyers to be impatient – but we hope that with knowledge of the sustainable benefits, they feel something special and impactful is worth the wait.

Fashion that transcends borders 

This year, MVFW offered several ways to experience fashion in phygital formats. The main example came from OVER — one of the hosting platforms. Through its AR platform, several events happened during the week, where you could experience digital fashion in a physical environment.

The most spectacular event was when OVER, staged a phygital fashion show on Piazza del Duomo, in central Milan. Through the app, digital models showcased fashion from PINKO, Balmain X Space Runners, Pet Liger, Ecoolska, XR Couture, Ilona Song, and Immersive Kind. 

The Tabby bag seen through the Coach x Zero10 filter, worn by Oliver Dahle.

The American fashion brand, Coach partnered with the AR fashion house Zero10. By completing several tasks at the Coach space in Decentraland, users could unlock an AR filter in the Zero10 app. A filter that enabled users to try Coach’s Tabby-bag, with a matching top, in the comfort of their home. 

An example of how digital fashion experiences and physical ones could live in harmony came from Boss. They hosted an immersive showroom within Spatial and the layout of the showroom was inspired by the runway of their latest fashion show in Miami. In the showroom, users could shop garments, as well as complete tasks to get a Boss wearable.

Collaboration is key

What is significant for digital fashion and MVFW is the collaborative spirit and creation- and design-driven focus. Traditional fashion brands, digitally native fashion houses, coders, and User Generated Creators are meeting at the intersection of a creative melting pot. When physical fashion brands often operate in silos, digital fashion is more open to sharing know-how and utilizing external expertise, such as user-generated creators or digitally native agencies. 

Future Rewind by Dolce & Gabbana x UNXD

This was evident in several brands. Dolce & Gabbana teamed up with UNXD and hosted a design competition based out of UGC. The competition, called Future Rewind, hosted several digital creators that exhibited their pieces within the D&G space in Decentraland.  

The adidas wearable.

adidas, and their /// studio, released its first collection of blockchain-based, interoperable wearables. The collection is made up of 16 different pieces, that are created by digital creators. The pieces are also adaptable to other virtual environments and worlds. Each visitor to adidas space in Decentraland got one wearable to show off during the week.

Snapshot from D-Cave’s Diesel x HAPE-party.

In a fully Web3-manner, D-Cave hosted a party in their space in Decentraland, celebrating the launch of wearables, created by the fashion brand Diesel and the NFT-collective HAPE. To tunes from Public Pressure, visitors could enjoy wearables that were developed by Glenn Martens, Creative Director of Diesel, and Digimental, founder of HAPE.

— For us, it’s the perfect environment to show how lifestyle fashion can apply to the Web3 and metaverse space, explains Stefano Rosso, CEO of D-Cave and BVX, the digital division of OTB Group [the parent company of Diesel, among others], adding:

— Users never get bored and there is a constant Fear of Missing Out if you don’t participate in the next event. Brands should leverage this by trying to bring unique experiences and portray their brand’s DNA.

This season’s main runway.

The week of course returned with its runway format. Several prominent names staged fashion shows in the main venue, such as adidas, Dundas, and HBO’s The Hype Reality Show winner Winston Bartholomew of House of Bartholomew closed MVFW. It was also a show dedicated to 11 community designers, that is Decentraland-native. 

Support for participating brands comes in many forms. At Decentraland, brands are given the freedom to express themselves but are guided in how to approach the platform. 

— Our nature is decentralization, and we try to do that also when it comes to event organization. We shared visual guidelines and assets for any partner to use on their channels, and anyone can create their events on Decentraland with self-service tools. We want to inspire and provide a great platform, but not gatekeep or micro-manage brands or creators. We do provide tailored support to the key contributors but at the same time, onboard them to use the documentation, tutorial, and tools. We also have a great ecosystem of verified partners and studios that build these amazing activations for brands, and we know they’re always delivering world-class service and content, Marja Kontinnen, Marketing Director at the Decentraland Foundation, concludes.