Fashion enters metaverse- a collision of creativity and tech

In the next few years, people will be able to enter the metaverse, completely virtually (i.e. with virtual reality) or interact with parts of it in their physical space with the help of augmented and mixed reality.

Innovation and Technology
 Min read
May 20, 2022

The internet is evolving every minute and tech CEOs like Satya Nadella and Mark Zukerberg have highlighted that the ‘metaverse’ is the future of the internet. In layman’s terms, the metaverse is a hyper-interactive, digital environment where people work, socialize, and shop. It is used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

In the metaverse, people are represented by digital avatars and this virtual world keeps evolving constantly based on the actions of the society within it.

In the coming years, digital tools will introduce us to new auditory and visual experiences via augmented reality. The space where we will encounter technology and reality in an entirely new way- the metaverse. With the Covid-19 pandemic triggering sweeping lifestyle changes, along with social media platforms, the fashion industry is also trying to expand its horizon. Work, shopping and socializing are simultaneously being pushed deeper into the online world.

Skechers, an American footwear company, recently filed trademark applications throughout the world to sell virtual goods such as footwear and apparel— setting the foundation for new growth opportunities in the metaverse.

In the next few years, people will be able to enter the metaverse, completely virtually (i.e. with virtual reality) or interact with parts of it in their physical space with the help of augmented and mixed reality. In the past two years, as fashion shows and stores went online, it is the right time for existing brands and upcoming fashion entities to tap the opportunities in the metaverse.

Here are a few things to expect as fashion is venturing into the metaverse faster than expected:

Shopping goes digital

Brands and major fashion events went virtual in response to the pandemic, and so did clothing. To give an immersive experience to customers, brands are creating a virtual world where customers can visualize how a garment would look on them. Virtual reality allows them to take a 360-degree look at a product, where they can zoom in on the smallest detail. They are no longer expected to rely on a few images of the outfits available on the website.

Not only fast fashion but luxury fashion brands have also ventured into the metaverse by minting NFTs- Non-fungible tokens ( unique digital assets that only exist digitally but can cost tens of thousands of dollars), digital-only designers, and collectives. These brands are collaborating with mainstream fashion brands to bring NFTs into the realm of cyber fashion.

Brands’ digital showcases are often accompanied by physical collections- Louis Vuitton in 2019 partnered with Riot Games on prestige skins for ‘League of Legends’, similarly, world-famous Balenciaga’s fashion show for its Autumn collection 2021, ‘Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow’, was released as a video game. Along with this, Ralph Lauren recently launched a virtual world, full of Polo-clad avatars.

For decades, fashion has been about creativity and evolution. With metaverse, the fashion world is going beyond the physical garment and anyone with a computer and the right software can now design and showcase their vision.  

Virtual influencers

The metaverse market is currently worth over $45 billion, and by 2024, it is expected to hit $800 billion. The tech giants and luxury fashion brands are increasing their footprint in the metaverse to establish their dominance. This digital world has created cryptocurrencies, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and influencers who create the demand for a product or service by sharing positive news about it. Exactly like we witness in today’s social media world.

Experts say in a few years, the world will function virtually and in the metaverse, ‘digital humans’ will be the influencers. Some of the famous virtual influencers are Garyvee, Shudu, and Anna Cattish.

But who are virtual influencers?

Virtual influencers are computer-generated characters, who may be either completely fictional or an identity controlled by a real person in real-time. The latter includes the current ‘Vtubers’, who are virtual live streamers and they use motion caption software to entertain online. Like traditional influencer marketing, these online avatars can also be solicited by brands for marketing campaigns.

With the changing consumption pattern, the pandemic has also accelerated the usage of virtual reality, live streams and augmented reality. As lines blur between virtual and reality, virtual influencers are gaining more visibility and attention across social platforms.

Eco-friendly industry?

No wonder, the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters across the world. Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity's carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. Nearly 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year (UNECE, 2018), and washing some types of clothes transmits a significant amount of microplastics into the ocean.

A straightforward benefit of the Metaverse is that it allows physical events, constructions, activities and products to take virtual forms, therefore, reducing the overall negative impacts of the fashion world on the environment. The metaverse has undoubtedly created a digital world with endless possibilities. But experts argued that the metaverse has its own set of environmental drawbacks.

Although shifting to cloud services can be potentially beneficial, the energy consumption of data centres will swell significantly. Amazon emitted around 60 million metric tons of CO2 in 2020, a 15% increase from 2019 mainly due to the increased usage of digital services in the pandemic.

Apart from the environmental effects, whether Metaverse will threaten social sustainability is also controversial.

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