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The future of colour analysis in the metaverse, in conversation with a Pantone colour specialist

By Rachel Douglass


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Business |Interview

Image: Pantone, Very Peri NFT x Polygon1993

There is no denying that the rise of the metaverse has had an important impact on the fashion industry throughout the start of this year, whether it be big name designers releasing digital collections or the launch of the long-awaited Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW), which took place in March.

Despite the continued move into the virtual sphere, trends, particularly colour trends, still hold a meaning to brands, and the sudden hike in digitisation offers new opportunities to those looking to dip their toes into augmented reality fashion.

“Because the gamut of colour we can see onscreen is almost unlimited as compared to what we can consistently physically reproduce in the physical world, the digitisation of fashion opens a world of possibilities for the future of colour in the industry,” said Laura Pressman, vice president of Pantone Color Institute, in a conversation with FashionUnited.

Speaking in an interview, Pressman outlined what the future of colour analysis looks like, Pantone’s place in the metaverse and what opportunities there are for both designers and colour in the digital landscape.

Metaverse Fashion Week as a new form of commentary

The online world, for many brands, is an unexplored zone, presenting many opportunities that are yet to be unveiled and experimented with. While MVFW was a highly anticipated event and enabled many to take their first steps into the uncharted territory, the final outcome still came with its own pitfalls, presenting areas that could be built on and improved if it ever became a yearly, or even biannual, occasion.

However, despite the poor graphic quality and often lack of technical structure, MVFW did bring in a new fashion-led crowd to the Decentraland platform, many of which were experiencing the metaverse for the first time. A cohort of designers, including Tommy Hilfiger and Philip Plein, also took to the online stage to test the virtual waters.

Image: Decentraland, MVFW Venue

“The metaverse, but more specifically MVFW, is a brand new space where designers and brands are trying to pave their own way and determine how they want to be represented,” Pressman said. “Is it best to duplicate the same look for digital, or is it best to use this opportunity to create an entirely new collection?”

It was this question that was an evident part of what was shown at the event, as designers and brands presented an array of takes on how to approach the metaverse. While Etro drew influence from its past season’s collection, Dolce & Gabbana opted for an entirely new line that pushed the boundaries beyond real world capabilities.

“At a high level, you saw designers presenting some of the same fashion that they did for their physical collections, whereas others showed a completely different line-up using colours whose brightness and vibrancy was very well suited to the digital environment,” Pressman noted. “Right now, we are in the experimental phase, so an approach that a designer may have taken at the first-ever MVFW could change as they continue their journey in this space.”

On whether she thought MVFW would hold any weight in the industry in future years, Pressman said: “We do believe this digital fashion event has a place in the industry’s future, but this will take a good deal of time, and it is still too early to tell if it will be as influential or if it will be influential in a different way compared to today’s real-life fashion shows.”

Pantone’s place in the metaverse

Pantone itself has also been making subtle steps into the metaverse with the launch of a non-fungible token (NFT) collection inspired by its colour of the year for 2022, Very Peri, which was also influenced by the online world. The digital artwork, created in collaboration with multidisciplinary artist Polygon1993, similarly explores the use of colour online, using various technological techniques to achieve different effects, like the illusion of movement.

The limited NFTs, which were distributed in partnership with blockchain network Tezos, were handed out free of charge to those interested.

Image: Pantone, Very Peri NFT x Polygon1993

Referencing the release, Pressman said: “With trends in gaming, the expanding popularity of the metaverse and rising artistic community in the digital space, creating NFTs we could share with our audience in Pantone 17-3938 Very Peri allowed us to illustrate the fusion of modern life and how colour trends in the digital world are being manifested in the physical world and vice versa.”

On the possibility of Pantone expanding on its digital analytical capabilities, Pressman commented: “Digital fashion is a very new concept and we are currently exploring our role in the digital universe, looking at different ways to best lead our global audience into this new environment. This could include the introduction of relevant colour palettes intended strictly for this area, showing colours with texture, finishes or gradients that lend themselves to this space, or highlighting colour trends for the metaverse, just as we do for design across the physical world.”

The possibilities of digital colour analysis

Image: Decentraland, The Fabricant

Pantone’s Fashion Colour Trend Reports have become a regular fixture for New York and London fashion weeks, each outlining the expected colour combinations to look out for – a feature that could potentially be introduced for future metaverse events. “As we explore our role in the digital world, a report dedicated to colour trends in the metaverse is something we’re exploring,” Pressman suggested.

An array of opportunities could be explored for such a report, and, while many designers could use similar colours in both the digital and physical space, there is plenty of room for others uses of a metaverse colour trend report. One example spoken about by Pressman is simply that of inspiration. “From there,” she continued, “a designer may decide to ‘amp’ up the brightness of a colour, add a metallic finish, or infuse a gradient or iridescence into the colours they are showing.”

While the possibilities seem endless, there are still barriers to producing an analysis for digital colour. “First and foremost, colours in the digital environment will not appear consistently across different screens so what may look to be blue on my screen, for example, could look to be a shade of purple on yours,” she noted.

Pressman also questioned whether the finish of a garment was something to still be considered. “Colours in the digital space often appear heightened with the use of lighting playing a key role,” she said. “These are all things that need to be considered when analysing colour in the digital space.”

Image: Decentraland, MVFW Venue