Fashion houses are lining up for Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week, eager to show their metaversal works. For a look at what visitors can expect during the event, which begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday, WWD went behind the scenes for an exclusive preview.
The latest digital looks will start hitting the catwalks on Thursday, but London-based department store Selfridges will help kick things off with a Wednesday opening, just before the panels, runway shows and shopping opportunities get underway.
For Selfridges, the goal was to offer a “fusion of fashion and art,” Jeannie Lee, head of buying, told WWD.
“We currently have launched a project called ‘Universe,’ based on a collaboration with Paco Rabanne and [Victor] Vasarely,” she said. “He used the prints of it from the artwork, and we were so inspired that we decided to build a physical installation featuring artwork from the Fondation, then also wearable pieces from Paco Rabanne’s archives, from the 1966 collection called the ’12 Unwearable Dresses,’ and everything is on display like a museum-grade, temperature-controlled [exhibit] in Selfridges.”
The virtual venue takes after the department store’s Birmingham location, a “spectacular, very futuristic” space, Lee explained, “so we felt like that was very appropriate.”
The store also plans to release NFTs as well at some point. But the idea wasn’t to offer a transactional experience. It was created as a visual celebration of fashion and art, as well as a way to give people who have never seen the Birmingham store a chance to visit it virtually. It’s also something of a primer for metaverse beginners — a way to get their feet wet with the idea of virtual art, fashion, Web3 and NFTs.
As for the shows, first up is Perry Ellis on Thursday at 10 a.m. EST on the MTA catwalk.
“We’re very excited about it — we’re going to be the first brand doing the catwalk,” Isaac Korn, director of innovation at Perry Ellis, told WWD. “Then we’re also going to have a virtual store experience, in the area where we join forces with Rarible,” he added, referring to its Rarible zone shop.
The brand plans to present digital versions of six looks from its current Spring 2022 collection, as well as a virtual storefront where people can pick up the virtual clothes to dress their avatars.
“We’re going to be doing both experiences, the catwalk and the virtual store, and we’re going to mint wearables that people can embody inside Decentraland,” he added. “Their avatars can wear them and actually not buy — because we’re making a limited amount and giving them away on a first-come, first-serve basis for people. [They’ll] be able to get them free of charge and dress their avatars with some of the garments.”
Korn noted that these looks aren’t NFTs, however, but they are wearables.
The distinction is a key facet that consumers must understand about buying or acquiring fashion in Decentraland: “Wearables” in metaverse or Web3 parlance refers to clothes, accessories or body features that avatars can wear. But not all wearables are NFTs, and not all NFTs are wearable.
In some cases, the NFT for sale will amount to art that users can display inside their Decentraland homes, or perhaps just simply to own, and the purchase may or may not include physical products. Some wearables replicate real-world fashion, while others are digital only. The variety of approaches may be either exciting or confusing, depending on the shopper. But it’s all part of the experimentation, as brands test different models.
“I think the lines are blurring now, in terms of the physical and the digital,” explained Thomas Harvey, vice president of design at Perry Ellis. “It’s interesting. I want to see the correlation between what happens in the digital world and what happens in the physical world, and understand how this consumer is evolving and changing as the environment and the metaverse expands very, very quickly. So it’s a test for us in that way.”
Depending on the results, the company could see itself creating purely digital goods someday.
Tommy Hilfiger, too, will show virtual versions of its spring 2022 collections and make select items available as wearable NFTs tied to IRL physical products delivered to owners’ homes.
Some marketers call this combination “phy-gital,” a term that Justin Banon, cofounder of Boson Protocol — the tech firm that worked with Hilfiger on its NFTs — soundly rejects. He prefers to call it “digital-physical twinning,” and his platform specializes in it.
“There’s been this whole trend of digital wearable NFTs, but what we see is, moving forward, if you’re going to start a luxury handbag or luxury sneaker that the digital will come with the physical,” said Banon. “You will feel shortchanged if you buy a digital handbag and don’t get the physical, considering how much you’re paying.” And vice versa, he added.
The firm’s Boson Portal will also host Italian luxury sneaker brand Hogan, which will keep its Decentraland pop-up store there for six months after MVFW. Similar to Hilfiger, the Hogan NFTs will be redeemable for real-world products.
These NFTs, the sneaker company’s first, are a collaboration with Exclusible, a luxury NFT and virtual real estate platform. The partners will introduce the “Hogan Untraditional NFT Collection” artworks at the Hogan-X after party on Saturday. After the premiere, the NFT artists’ series will be available for sale to the public on April 3 through the Exclusible platform, while the “twinned” NFTs will remain on offer in the pop-up.
Another luxury shoe NFT will come from Nicholas Kirkwood in a collaboration with White Rabbit, but as one part of a wave of digital availability. In Decentraland, the collab will offer non-NFT wearables during Fashion Week, drop the NFTs for sale at OpenSea and follow it up with augmented reality lenses for social media.
The reach ensures people can experience the White Rabbit shoes on whatever platform they prefer, with no issues like fit or sizing to worry about.
“I’ve done many real-life presentations for products during the physical fashion weeks, and obviously that’s a whole different sort of experience,” Kirkwood said. “And you still try to make an immersive experience, in one way, but you’re still limited by things as banal as gravity or size restrictions.”
The designer took one of his “classic styles” and evolved it with more of a cartoony feel and youthful silhouette, then cast it in five variants or colorways. “It was kind of inspired by light refraction…elements I played a lot with in my passing, that kind of sends me recurring themes within my collections. But now, I can give it a whole new sort of spin,” he explained.
The White Rabbit will wear the shoes at Kirkwood’s Decentraland pop-up shop. Guests can indulge in the experiential, interactive game-like environment and pick up the wearable there, or pick up the NFT at OpenSea. Ten days later, the duo plan to release an AR version for platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.
And that’s just the beginning.
“We have an extended collection that is going to come with it — we have an art collection that is going to combine the White Rabbit and the shoe designed by Nicholas, and also we have a shoe collection that’s going to be on the Dematerialised [Web3 marketplace],” James Tseng, the creative director and artist behind White Rabbit, an NFT project featuring a series of hip bunnies by Web3 company Gate. “So we have fashion week, and then we’re going to keep rolling those collections out.”
Other offerings extend existing digital collections — like the MetaHelmets NFTs from the Metaverse Travel Agency, an initiative from Kollectiff, maker of the Metaloop runway.
Launched last year, the helmets are exactly what the word conjures, as gear worn over the head. Programmatically generated from more than 120 custom 3D traits, the selling point of these MetaHelmets is its “Quantum Machine,” which lets owners display the other NFTs they own right on the helmet. An AR version launched in December thanks to a DressX collaboration, and ownership came with access to exclusive MTA events, features, members’-only spaces and rewards.
The aim is interoperability, so avatars can wear them in The Sandbox, Decentraland or, soon, in Oculus VR sometime in the second quarter of this year.
But for now, 40 MetaHelmets will hit the runway on the MetaLoop, along with another DressX partnership for MVFW. “We’ve collaborated in a 10-piece MetaHelmet collection, paired with the dress designs that they provided,” said Roberto Valentin Vivo, Kollectiff’s founder.
On Friday, Etro will land on the virtual runway and in a pop-up shop in the Luxury Fashion District. According to the brand, the digital collection will launch the Liquid Paisley pattern, “a contemporary take on one of the house’s most iconic codes, in a vibrant palette of fresh and joyful shades, with a gender-fluid approach driven by Etro’s open and inclusive vision.”
Releasing the capsule in the metaverse was meaningful to the brand, as a “collection without gender boundaries in a fashion show that will be accessible to everyone,” Veronica Etro, creative director of the women’s collection, said in a statement.
At the store, customers will be able to purchase Etro ready-to-wear and accessories and even customize their avatars with collection items.
Imitation of Christ had planned to debut its NFTs at a Los Angeles gallery next week, but will launch them this week instead. And even though its virtual collection of digital fashion is already public, according to founder Tara Subkoff, there will be some surprises in store.
That’s partly due to the need to adapt some of the looks and sizes to suit Decentraland avatars, as well as creative license. The result will be a blend of familiar looks, adapted items and new creations, according to Subkoff, which fits with the brand’s ethos.
“We love to take things that are old and make them new again — the whole idea of cycling, which we’re doing, even within our own 3D models and animations,” she said. “And that’s so much what I believe in, to use what exists and to recreate it, and try to even not create digital waste.”
The pieces hark back to the brand’s fall 2022 rtw collection, a collaboration with the founder’s friend, photojournalist Lynsey Addario. Her images reflecting climate change and the California wildfires informed the line.
According to Subkoff, the concept was rooted very much in a “post-apocalyptic, retro future” sensibility, and that theme resonates even more for her now. “We designed this before the war in the Ukraine, but I feel like we felt some things brewing,” she told WWD. “Lynsey took the most shared photograph in the world, of the woman who was killed with the two children on the bridge …she almost died taking it.”
Subkoff noted that her father’s family comes from Ukraine and she’s been horrified by the impact of Russia’s invasion. It now beats like a drum in the background of her work.
Tolerance, awareness and collaboration are the crucial themes in this collection, she said, and “I think it’s really important to connect real life to the metaverse and the idea of the mirroring, of the back and forth — to not separate from ‘in real life,’ but to encapsulate real life and force it into the bubble.”
Fashion has always had the ability to translate experience and inspiration into creative works, only now it has new ways to express it and new realms to take the message.
Not that the metaverse is entirely different. To the architects of MVFW, it shares a common spirit with other digital channels that have become crucial to fashion today. “Decentraland’s a platform that, at its core, is a social platform. It’s no different from a brand having an Instagram or Twitter, particularly Snapchat, or LinkedIn,” said Adam de Cata, the organization’s head of partnerships. “Ultimately, this is a social platform with an active community — a community that’s outside of just Decentraland — in how to target and connect with them.”
Apparel, accessories, footwear and other brands already have an important advantage coming in: Fashion seems to be a common language in the virtual world.
“Fashion, especially inside Decentraland, is a big part of the user’s identity. We clearly can see that people express who they are through their avatars, and the garments are a big part of that,” said Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, head of Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week.
It’s part of a burgeoning crypto-based economy that transcends any one particular platform, and it’s just getting started. Brands are experimenting more with 3D garments, and the creator community has been pumping out or trading a lot of garments.
Decentraland noted that, when Facebook shifted to a metaverse mission and renamed itself Meta, it saw a spike in activity.
The platform just ticked more than 550,000 unique users a month, with a bustling community that extends beyond its own platform. On Discord, a group chat app popular among gamers, the organization connects with more than 150,000 users, with additional reach of more than half-a-million people on Twitter and a database of email outreach nearing one million that receives weekly messages every Monday.
“Obviously, we had the NFT boom last year. And then the announcement of Meta, and a majority of the world was kind of exploring, or at least asking, what is the metaverse and how does it affect my life?” recounted David Cash, the founder of NFT firm Cash Labs who’s serving as Decentraland’s fashion week curator.
“So with that happening, obviously virtual fashion is something that’s coming up in conversation way more than it was a year ago, two years ago.”
The fashion week team stops short of expressing quantifiable benchmarks for the week’s events. But if past is prologue, its October 2021 Metaverse Music Festival could offer clues of what to expect.
The four-day music festival clocked just over 50,000 unique users. At the time, it was serving some 80,000 to 90,000 unique users per month. Today, it fields 550,000, or six times that amount.
For more detail on Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week agenda, click here. The organization also posted its new website, MVFW.org, on Tuesday.