We visited Metaverse Fashion Week so you don’t have to
The first official Metaverse Fashion Week debuted in Decentraland last week, so we suited and booted up our avatar and paid it a visit.
By OLIVER DAHLE
There was a lot of buzz and interest when Metaverse Fashion Week — MVFW — kicked off last Thursday. The event was marketed as the first-ever fashion week taking place in Metaverse. To many, ”Metaverse” might be hard to wrap your head around and make any sense of — which is totally understandable, because many of the people working with it does not either have a clear idea, yet.
In short, the Metaverse could be explained as a sort of phygital experience taking place in a convergence of the physical and the digital, i.e. the meta. However, the inaugural MVFW took place on Decentraland. A decentralized, 3D virtual world, that is powered by the Ethereum blockchain. A space that is free and open to anyone with a decent computer (I would really recommend one with a great graphics card because it does get laggy) — “everyone’s a VIP in the metaverse”, as the Decentraland-website stated.
As a writer for Scandinavian MIND, I have been following the development, and merging, of fashion and tech with curiosity. I have seen how brands have been building up their own digital branches, launched NFT-projects, dipped their toes into gaming and collaborated with digitally native brands. But, even if I have been monitoring what has been going on, I never engaged with it personally. It may be because I have not found the project suited for me, but MVFW sparked my excitement and it was now time to dive in, head-first.
I experienced four packed days, with events, brand activations, exhibitions, shopping and, a fashion week-must, afterparties — all with the convenience of reaching them from my kitchen table. Here are my insights and dispatch from the first Metaverse Fashion Week.
Outfits and street style
One of the first things I did within Decentraland was to set up my avatar, my digital identity. An often used selling proposal for the Metaverse is that you could be whoever, or whatever, you want. Very favourably when a fashion week is coming up, where salient outfits are rewarded. Judge by my surprise, when I created a replica of my physical self. My avatar was dressed in a rugby-striped sweater, a pair of distressed jeans and a pair of fisherman sandals, topped off with a pair of aviator sunglasses — an outfit I very much wear regularly.
On day 2 of MVFW, I changed the outfit of my avatar. Not much because of stylistic reasons, — after all, I was quite satisfied with my looks — but a digital brand handed out MVFW-wearables, a sort of digital merchandise. Instead, I now was dressed in a black jumpsuit with neon details, a pair of luminous sneakers and a pair of glasses in the shape of an F. An outfit that I very much do not wear regularly.
However, as earlier mentioned, a popping outfit is the go-to during fashion week. Having a dragon wrapped around yourself, a romanesque toga, a devil skull as a head or glowing wings — the opportunities of dressing your digital self were endless and very much exploited. If the two choices in the Metaverse is creating a digital extension of your physical self or an imaginary persona, the latter was the most preferred.
Store openings and exhibitions
MVFW had its soft launch on Wednesday when the retailer Selfridges opened up its metaverse-store. A store built with inspiration from its physical location in Birmingham. The launch was, to say at least, not that crowded. I was greeted by a sales associate and then I entered an elevator which took me to the top floor, on the way down I was able to look at all the NFTs from Paco Rabanne and Fondation Vasarely.
All over Decentraland, it was possible to visit different stores, exhibitions and brand activations. Some brands had bought and developed their own plot of land within the virtual world and created flagship stores. For instance, Estée Lauder had a giant version of its Advanced Night Serum, in which you got teleported into and got a wearable that made you shimmer. Philipp Plein had built its own ”Plein Plaza”, on land which the brand bought for $1,4 million. Forever 21 also had its own space.
In the Boson Portal Fashion District visitors was welcomed to a shopping street in which 13 brands participated, among these were Tommy Hilfiger and Hogan. This street which was presented by Boson Protocol enabled brands to sell their physical products as redeemable NFTs.
It would not be a fashion week without actual runways. The majority of the MVFW-shows were held together with UNXD. In the Luxury District, they had built up a big, futuristic arena that had a catwalk shaped like an 8. The arena changed attire and music according to what brand that showed, but in general, the format was the same.
Dolce & Gabbana was the first one out and presented its 20 looks on feline-like models. Etro went for a more human approach when they presented its collection ”Liquid Paisley” — a capsule collection that is also available IRL. The digital fashion house The Fabricant hosted a runway show that was co-created by its community in The Fabricant Studio.
The runway shows during MVFW were a bit chaotic. In a traditional, physical show the attendance is sitting, or standing, and the attention is on what happens on the runway. During MVFW, this was not the case. Instead, people were running laps around the catwalk and even on it. The show was short and it was easy to miss what was being shown. One user wrote in the chat ”what’s the point of these shows?”, I could not come up with an answer. The feeling of these shows was that we all performed a fashion week, rather than participating in it. Worth mentioning here is that most of the brands that opted for a runway are traditional, physical fashion brands.
Regular fashion weeks often hosts panel talks in which industry leaders and -insiders are talking about the future of fashion, sustainability, trend forecasting and other topics related to the world of fashion. This was also the case of MVFW, but with the slight difference that it now was solely about digital fashion.
In three different locations recorded interviews and talks were broadcasted to avatars watching with interest. Some themes in the talks were reoccurring. For example, a majority of the panellists agreed that this is the beginning of digital fashion and that the way forward is still ready to be discovered. Another was how the Metaverse and digital fashion will contribute to a cultural shift. One panellist exemplified this shift as the cultural value of a ”digital ape on an Apple Watch compared to wearing a Rolex”. I guess time will tell.
Another big topic was the convergence of physical and digital, which was seen as one of the major challenges of the Metaverse. Tommy Hilfiger, one of the vanguards in this field, talked about it in one of the talks.
— I think that unlocking the physical in the future is going to change the entire dynamic of the entire retail business, worldwide, not just fashion products, but every product. Living within the culture — pop culture, Gen Z, — we have to speak their language and this is the language they speak. They are also going to weigh in and help me design new products in the future, Hilfiger said.
”I am all in, I am really excited about it.”
— They are going to say what products they like, what colours, what fabrics, what accessories they like and then they will buy them digitally and then when they are accepted in the community, then they will buy them physically. So, it is going to change retail, it is going to ignite retail as we have never seen before. We are just on the verge — I am all in, I am really excited about it. The experiential part is what ties the physical and digital together, Hilfiger explained.
The social interaction among avatars during MVFW was quite limited. The main tool to communicate in Decentraland is the public chat function. The longest conversations I saw was when one user complimented another user’s outfit or wearable, and the recipient responded ”thank you”. Otherwise, the chat was mostly used to get information, such as when is something starting, where does an event take place and ”how do I run?!”. Personally, the most fruitful conversation I had was with the shop assistant at Mango. They asked if I enjoyed the NFTs, I answered affirmative and asked if they had been here all day. They had.
The events in which most people, or avatars, turned up was on the afterparties. Philip Plein held one at the Plein Plaza in which the DJ-duo Nervo played. Italian footwear brand Hogan had a concert with Bob Sinclair and the digitally native brand Tribute Brand hosted DJ ICYKOF at theirs. These events were interesting and seemed appreciated. Personally, I was reminded of the pandemic parties when you were watching DJ sets from your living room. It also somewhat broke the fourth wall, when I made my pixelated avatar watch a live stream from a DJs studio.
Adding to the Web3-experience is that a lot of interaction, and sharing of information, was happening at the different brand’s Discord servers. In general, a lot of things are happening outside of Decentraland and you are often linked to Instagram pages, marketplaces, websites and so on. For instance, on one Discord server a brand was handing out VIP-NFTs to one of the afterparties (a bit contradicting, concerning the Decentraland-motto) — it was also here I felt a surge of desire to own my first NFT.
The final event of MVFW was hosted by Auroboros. The ”Metaverse-native” brand made itself famous when it was the first brand to present a digital-only collection at a physical fashion week, at London Fashion Week last year. At MVFW the brand celebrated the opening of their community, ”Auroboros Vault”. A grand celebration with the musician and Metaverse-supporter, Grimes attending and performing a DJ set in avatar form, dancing above all the guests in a bodysuit from Auroboros.
Even if the inaugural MVFW had its flaws — some technical issues and maybe not all the things at the right place at the right time — the curator of the week and host of the Cash Labs Gallery, David Cash, see back on the week with delight.
— Obviously there were some technical difficulties, but I think there was a learning experience and telling about where we are right now. I think the responses have been incredibly positive and very forward-thinking. So, from my perspective, it was a mixture of incredible things that have never been done before and people got to witness that all around the world. But, also a great learning experience where we could see where we are at right now.
And, if you missed out on MVFW in 2022, you can now start to plan outfits for the next edition. Which, according to David Cash, will be even greater.
— To me, I think one of the cool things with Decentraland is that it is an open metaverse. If you click on an item it will bring you to a place to buy that item or to see that item — and that could be anywhere. The reason it is called Metaverse Fashion Week — yes, it is Decentraland principally hosting it this year — but in the future, we would love to see all the metaverse solutions come together and create a Metaverse Fashion Week across metaverse platforms. Let us begin figuring out the best way to innovate this forward. Competition needs to be looked at as friendly competition, or more so, collaboration. It needs to improve each other and improve the ecosystem as a whole. That is what we are thinking about, how can we make the metaverse more open, more accessible and better. And, I think next year will be way bigger!