The Metaverse of Fashion: How Important is it to Cross Streams?

How important it is for fashion to cross stream with the Metaverse.

The idea behind the concept of digital fashion can be hard to understand for many people since buying/trying out clothes that exist only in a virtual world can seem quite odd at first. However, as this niche market continues to gain traction, more experts are starting to view the idea of the Metaverse shaping the future of fashion as a lot more feasible.

A recent study found that clothing existing in the digital world was way more environmentally friendly than its physical counterpart, with the former emitting 97% less CO2 and consuming about 3,300 liters of water less per item. In addition, by replacing physical samples with digital ones during a company's design and development phases, it is possible to reduce a brand's carbon footprint by 30%.

In addition, the use of digital clothing can be highly beneficial during the various steps following the actual physical production of a garment. For instance, these virtual items can be used for modeling, sampling and marketing before their physical iterations are produced, thus greatly reducing the overall environmental impact of a fashion item's lifecycle.

Digital models of clothes can help solve the problem of overproduction, a major issue in the fashion industry today.

The popularity of digital fashion

To get a better sense of whether the idea of digital fashion is just another fleeting trend or a phenomenon that's here to stay, Cointelegraph reached out to Lokesh Rao, CEO of Trace Network Labs, a project that enables brands to explore Web3 products and services. In his opinion, as the Metaverse continues to evolve, it will indeed affect and revolutionize the fashion industry.

“The industry has realized that the virtual world, despite being based on imaginary creations, actually has profound utility when it comes to garments. The evolution of design technologies allows creative freedom for all designers, but some clothes they design can never be worn in the real world. The Metaverse removes this hurdle — a digital avatar can wear any garment without any constraints of type, design, fabric and use.”

According to him, the intangibility of fashion in the Metaverse, like not needing physical clothes, makes it easier for users to experiment and create extravagant wardrobes for themselves. Furthermore, since the clothes are in the form of digital collectibles or nonfungible tokens (NFTs), they can be freely traded across open NFT marketplaces.

In Rao's opinion, the Metaverse's greatest value for the fashion industry is that in a digital environment, users can use their avatars to visit different stores and try on different clothes before making a purchase decision. "This is far better than having a brick and mortar store in multiple areas," he said.

The Metaverse offers a range of benefits to fashion companies, labels and brands, including the ability to reach customers across the globe with ease, creating brand awareness using digital media and selling "phygital" clothing.

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Consumers are also given a lot of advantages. For example, they can try on clothes at their own convenience, time and place, purchase garments from a virtual shop either in physical format or as an NFT, get physical deliveries processed from anywhere in the world and keep their ownership on the blockchain forever.

The future of fashion may be redefined 

Frank Fitzgerald, the founder of Pax.World, a platform that allows users to create their own metaverse, believes that the merging of these two worlds could have a major impact on the fashion industry. He told Cointelegraph:

“The new revenue streams generated by the Metaverse will have a significant impact on fashion, and the art industry as well.”

The younger generation is the key demographic for digital fashion, especially those individuals who see their digital representation as being an integral part of their social identities.

He said that, although older generations (30+) may find these ideas hard to accept, the trend is likely to continue. "Over the next decade," he stated, "I can see a whole generation of 20 and 30 year olds becoming very aware of their digital representation and how it reflects on their colleagues and friends."

Some people are not convinced that

OneWayBlock’s founder, Stepan Sergeev, doesn't believe that the digital world will take over fashion anytime soon. He told Cointelegraph that as things stand, most people engaging in fashion - high street or otherwise - aren't really hanging out in the Metaverse yet.

“The point of buying a designer dress, for example, is to have people see you wearing it. If the Metaverse doesn’t yet have enough people in there to see it, its social value is lost. So, unless there is a mass migration of people to the Metaverse, I don’t see that happening. We can maybe see it changing fashion in that people can see more detailed designs of real-life pieces but I don’t think we’ll all be buying NFT dresses the way we do regular ones.”

He compared the current state of the digital fashion industry to gamers buying custom skins in video games, saying that the items are only relevant within specific environments. "If things really pick up for the fashion sector and people start purchasing fashion NFTs with as much enthusiasm as they do for the latest sneaker or handbag, it could be possible."

The fashion industry's interest in the metaverse is likely to be a passing fad, which major clothing houses and brands have adopted in order to stay up-to-date with the latest digital trends.

Sasha Tityanko, deputy CEO and art director for social VR platform Sensorium Galaxy, told Cointelegraph that while the Metaverse could add to the fashion industry's existing experiences, it will not come close to revolutionizing it. In her view, fashion brands thrive on change and making bold moves; setting new standards is just what their business is about. She said:

"In virtual worlds, people can be creative and try out different things without fear of failure or social stigma. The Metaverse is a blank canvas that allows users to explore new ideas."

As new fashion labels enter the Metaverse, they do so at a fast pace

During the year 2022, a number of major brands such as Adidas, Nike and Gucci were able to generate an estimated $137.5 million in non-fungible token sales alone. In late 2018, Dolce & Gabbana sold the record for the most expensive suit ever sold, a digital Glass Suit that was worth $1 million.

Furthermore, D&G was able to raise $6 million with its NFT collection. Gucci's Queen Bee Dionysus virtual bag has recently sold for 350,000 Robux (a popular in-game currency used to buy skins and accessories) or $4,000 - higher than the bag's real-world value.

In Q4 2021, Louis Vuitton released a video game that allowed players to hunt for 30 NFTs hidden in its metaverse. Once collected, these items granted their owners access to various exclusive events and private parties. Similarly, Balenciaga recently teamed up with Fortnite — a video game with over 300 million users — to sell high-fashion skins to players. Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren joined forces with South Korean social network app Zepeto to release a virtual fashion collection for players.

As the gap between real and virtual continues to narrow, and new technological advancements are introduced with Web3, average consumers will have more choices to express themselves.   While not everyone can afford a Balenciaga dress in real life, you might pick one for yourself in the digital world," said Tityanko.

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Tityanko said that many fashion houses, for example Gucci, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, have already established teams to explore and test the Web3 space as many brands are aware of the potential of digital market. According to Vice Media Group's research, Gen Z spends 2X more time on socializing in digital spaces than in real life.

As the future is increasingly influenced by decentralized technologies, it will be interesting to see how the future of the fashion industry unfolds, especially as more and more brands enter the Metaverse.