On March 23rd, 2022, Vogue Business in collaboration with Yahoo were inviting the public to explore fashion’s new frontier through their Metaverse Experience. For 2 hours visitors were able to discover a virtual island. This immersive and sensory world was created by Journee and bore witness to the possibilities that are offered to brands through new technologies, whereas various talks with high-profile individuals from the industry offered other insights into this new world.
What makes the virtual world so appealing?
The appeal is based on the simple fact that the metaverse allows its users another opportunity for self-expression and a creative outlet, which is not determined by physical laws or limitations, to put it simply, everything is possible within this digital space. The appeal isn’t solely based on its current novelty factors, as studies have already shown that people are likely to spend more time in virtual environments rather than on traditional websites, with some estimates going as far as predicting that one third of Gen Z customers will do their shopping through VR by 2025 and Morgan Stanley predicting that metaverse could constitute up to 10% of the luxury market by 2030. Fashion brands and beauty brands are amongst the early adopters of these new technologies, maybe in response to the industry’s initially relatively slow adaptation to e-commerce and social media, with each of the two now having become integral parts of each brand.
What is ‘Digital Fashion’?
As the metaverse is still relatively young, the concise definition of digital fashion has not yet been determined. Yes, one could understand it as purely digital garments which are later edited onto an existing image or used to dress an avatar, but digital fashion does not always have to be consumer-focused, it could also constitute the digitalization of certain internal processes of traditional garment production. More and more fashion schools are emphasizing the importance of new and digital 3D design tools, and also big brands have started to implement these into their production processes. Tommy Hilfiger is currently undergoing a change to a 100% digital design strategy, meaning that all of the design will be done in a digital manner, which is already showing very positive results, such as the reduction of the brand’s internal review process being shortened by 2 weeks. Additionally, these digital pieces look so realistic, that you can sometimes see them on their website without even noticing it.
Once a brand has created these digital assets, they can be used in multiple ways, the most prevalent right now being Extended Reality, which refers to augmented, mixed and virtual reality, making digital enhancements to our physical environment. Most of us have already experienced this through social media or on e-commerce websites that allow people to try on smaller pieces, like accessories or makeup. To achieve this for a full look is a bit more complicated, but progress is being made, as shown by Prada using this technology to try on purses, Gucci utilizing it for AR try-ons of sneakers and Farfetch letting their customers try on puffer coats from Off-White digitally.
But besides all the great innovations that the metaverse might bring with it, there are also still a lot of issues to be figured out, especially when it comes to the legal framework in which digital goods are handled and sold, despite the ever growing demand. In the broader context this also brings up questions about personal data, especially in regards to possible future implementations of body scans for made-to-measure garments, who owns this data and who is granted access to this incredibly sensible data, as well as questions about the sale of digital garments still being heavily linked to the use of cryptocurrencies, whose value are determined by the demand.
Nevertheless, it has become clear that the transition into this digital space will constitute the future, especially as the next generation of customers Gen Z and its zeitgeist who are openly adopting this technology, forcing brands to adapt in order to not lose touch with the future driving force of the consumer base.