Metaverse real estate developer and investment platform Republic Realm has launched Metajuku, a shopping district in the Decentraland metaverse.
As the name implies, Metajuku is a riff on Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping district, which is widely heralded for its street fashion. The 16,000-square-foot Metajuku is an atrium with an open center and two anchor digital-only tenants, Dress-X and Tribute Brand. Digital wearables can be purchased for a range of garments. The shopping district is located at the coordinates 94, 21 in Decentraland, a decentralized virtual social platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain.
Austin-based Martin Guerra designed the development and Republic Realm’s 3D real estate and game developers brought it to life. The virtual shopping experience has been shaped for Web 3.0 and feature zero-gravity effects. To shake up the look of digital clothing, apparel in the Dress-X store, for example, is floating in orbs in the air. The company was created by Daria Shapovalova.
The Tribute Brand store was designed by Zagreb-based architecture firm BIRO.
During an interview Monday, Republic Realm’s managing directorJanine Yorio noted how the company buys digital real estate and develops it. “One of the most logical use cases for virtual real estate is retail. People are already so accustomed buying things online on a 2D website. Now a whole generation of people have become very accustomed to doing things in a 3D world. There is a really interesting opportunity for consumer products to build 3D immersive retail stores in these virtual worlds.”
About 24 other brands are expected to join Metajuku in the next three to six months, Yorio said. Referring to the time investment involved, companies either outsource the store design and planning or handle it internally. Republic Realm can handle the software development, serving as designer and developer. Marketing is another major expense for companies, and the investment here is hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions of dollars.
Typically, companies feature a lot less merchandise than in a typical store since the rendering quality in metaverses “is not that hot. It still feels like a video game — a little bit cartoonish,” Yorio said. “Retailers are choosing to highlight a half dozen items. What’s interesting is how they are displaying it. There’s no gravity. We don’t have to put it on a hanger or hang it on a mannequin.”
At this stage, Metajuku offers an opportunity for people to discover brands and “maybe migrate offline to the products to see their full suite of offerings in a different format whether that’s in their real-word store or on their traditional website,” Yorio said.
While the digital wearable market is in the early stages and the rules are still being written, gamers have plunked down more than $40 million for wearables in Fortnite. Many young people already spend much of their online life in a 3D environment, whether that’s via Minecraft, Fortnite or Roblox, Yorio said. She compared the reluctance of older consumers to do so to how 20 years online shopping was not initially embraced. “What’s so great about these module stores is that you don’t have to deal with things like gravity or staffing. In the real world, you have to hire an architect and materials cost different amounts of money depending on how expensive they are. Building a Louis Vuitton or Gucci store is out of reach for most retailers. In the virtual world, that’s not true…you can have small companies that could never afford a big splashy store in Soho. But they can build a store in the metaverse to sell to anyone in the world who has an Internet connection. They can afford to be a little avant-garde and push the envelope on design.”
Republic Realm is talking to “very big brands that move really slowly” and small brands that are start-ups, understand the metaverse and are crypto-nativet, Yorio said.
Along with he explosion of growth in NFTs in the last year, a generation of young people have spent their lives for the past 16 months online without seeing their friends in person. Hanging out on Zoom or playing video games changed the the idea about what you wear, Yorio said. Gravitating to a personal and professional virtual existence has upended ideas that may have previously sounded ridiculous like wearing a virtual shirt to a virtual meeting, notes Yorio. And children are very conscious of what their avatars wear, she added. “It’s as important to them as what they wear in the real world. And things like really hip completely pixilated digital sneakers sell for thousands of dollars.”
One of the Metajuku tenants, Tribute Brand is collaborating with Jean Paul Gaultier x Sacai for their couture show in Paris. That level of digital clothing is priced on the higher end just as it would be in actual couture clothing. Another example of pricier items is RTFKT’s virtual sneakers that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But virtual shirts can retail from $30 to $1,000, Yorio said.
In addition to offering sustainable options for fashion that don’t require dry cleaning, “digital fashion’s whole allure is that it should be a helluva lot cheaper to make than real traditional fashion so the prices shouldn’t look anything like each other. A lot of what you’re paying for now is the fact that it’s so novel. But it doesn’t have to be. The marginal cost of a digital dress is basically zero,” she said.
Just as H&M and Zara have reached the masses with fast fashion, digital fashion can provide affordable and eco-friendly options to those all around the world who have limited shopping options. If consumers could buy a virtual dress for dollar, that would give them “a way to post on Instagram in a beautiful dress or go into the metaverse and show their friends their fashion sense and ability to pick and choose like they just walked off the runway,” Yorio said. “It’s what women everywhere want and what a lot of men want too. That human desire to look beautiful and be on trend is everywhere but the access is limited to a few key urban markets and to people who have a lot of money. “