After a high-profile debut in 2022, Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week will soon light up the virtual stores and runways again, with a second installment set for March 28 to 31.
Details have been scant since the virtual-world platform and its partner, NFT marketplace UNXD, revealed the fashion event in December. WWD reached out to Decentraland to learn more about what’s on tap, as well as some of the featured brands and organizations heading to MVFW 2023.
The curatorial theme may be “Future Heritage,” but there’s another that takes a big swing at a vexing problem for various metaverses: They usually don’t work together. The earlier press statement referenced interoperability, as will another that will go out at some point on Monday.
According to the preliminary press statement seen by WWD, the show “will demonstrate the potential of interoperability between open metaverses, and push the boundaries of what digital fashion can mean.”
In an interview with WWD, Giovanna Casimiro, the metaverse producer for Decentraland in charge of its fashion week, elaborated.
“One of the core values from the first edition was trying to unite designers and expand the aesthetics and the possibilities for brands. So after the first edition, we decided to go across metaverses,” she explained. “When we talk about extending the interoperability, it’s really starting to collaborate with other universes and metaverses to create an agenda [that’s] cross-platform.”
As examples, she pointed to the group’s official partnerships with virtual-world platforms Spatial and Over. The latter, a metaverse specializing in augmented reality, has been working with Decentraland on a cross-platform wearable design competition, and the winners will be featured in a hybrid AR/IRL [”in real life”] catwalk at a four-day event in Milan. Other metaverses are interested in tying into MVFW with simultaneous agendas or satellite events, Casamiro added.
Interoperability extends to NFTs as well, which is a major change for wearables compared to last year’s event. At the time, brands couldn’t link their external NFTs to their virtual clothes inside Decentraland. Since then, its developers worked on this feature, and in September, Dolce & Gabbana — a previous and returning MVFW brand — notably highlighted it by linking its Disco Drip NFTs to Decentraland wearables, allowing owners to wear it for a night out on the virtual town.
This linkage also works with NFTs tied to physical product, which could simplify how brands offer avatar-ready digital twins of their real world fashions. Some of those efforts may be destined for Boson Protocol, a marketplace for so-called “phygital” goods, which is another previous and returning MVFW participant.
“There is one particular case of Rubin Singer,” said Casamiro, referring to the couture designer and his “Phygicode Dress” project. “He’s creating a digital piece in collaboration with Asian designers this year. So he’s creating a digital twin of a physical garment for [this event] especially, but I think different brands will be trying to bring that angle this year.”
A different sort of connection between real and virtual worlds is in the works, and it will come in rather heartfelt form: The Vueltta artists collective plans to honor the late Vivienne Westwood with its own tribute to the “punk queen of fashion.” Part memorial, part gaming experience, the installation was created with the goal of encouraging people to learn more about the designer’s life and work, according to Bay Backner, Vueltta’s cofounder.
“We structured this installation around a concept called ‘Dear Vivienne,’ which is a letter from us as artists to her, thanking her for her iconic style and activism,” Backner told WWD. There are different aspects, but they all work together.
As she described it, the installation stretches across three floors in its own building, and it was designed to take visitors on a tour of Westwood’s life. The game does as well, as a code-breaking puzzle based on the designer. “So the code challenge takes people through the life and achievements of Vivienne Westwood, [encouraging them] to explore the space. The installations all reference parts of her career and activism.”
In a different corner of Decentraland, another creative engine will churn via the opening of a brand-new fashion plaza dedicated to emerging designers. The goal, to highlight and encourage collaborations between established brands and new talent, ties directly into MVFW’s “Future Heritage” theme.
For Casamiro, it’s a way to “bring a more critical discussion on the future of fashion” and connect the dots between innovation, legacy and tradition. The plaza’s featured brands point to this too, with newer names like Gaian and Alo at one end and a notable heritage brand, Coach, at the other, marking the luxury handbag company’s first direct showing at MVFW. Last year, it joined retailer Monnier Paris, and the experience was “truly wonderful,” Renee Klein, vice president of global brand marketing and digital experience at Coach, told WWD, though its participation was limited.
Now Coach will step out on its own. The brand plans to highlight its signature product, the Tabby bag, and hopes it will inspire the plaza’s Web 3.0 artists to create.
The experimental nature of this effort speaks to Coach’s broader view of the metaverse, as a test-and-learn environment. “We have really been trying to better understand and explore how people are engaging with brands in these different platforms,” Klein said. “There are these new spaces that are taking up a share of time, a share of interests. The most important thing for us during this testing exercise is to better understand what it means to a person in this environment, to be a brand and how they engage with them.”
The company’s plans include a venue or pop-up, though likely not a store that sells products, Klein said. At presstime, Coach was still finalizing details, so it’s not clear if virtual swag or freebies will be part of the mix. The brand is no stranger to NFTs, so it may offer POAPs, also known as proof-of-attendance protocol, or wearables as rewards just for visiting.
For fashion brands like Coach and many others, today’s metaverse is not about transactions, but experiences, and they’re expanding in interesting ways. Decentraland’s Casamiro has noticed brands actively seeking ways to bridge their virtual and real-world events, with some looking into projecting video of Decentraland inside their physical stores. Recently, designer Vivienne Tam did the same in New York with dual fashion week shows that connected in two directions: The Spring Studios audience could view the virtual version of her show, while metaverse guests saw a live feed of her real-world events.
The MVFW producer is a fan of this type of thinking. “The value of the metaverse exists when the metaverse comes out of its own space, its own existence,” Casamiro said. “Because if everybody just goes to the virtual and remains there, never comes back, the experience is not complete. I am a big believer that we should be creating those immersive hybrid experiences.”
As for the strictly virtual MVFW, next month’s event won’t enjoy the same NFT and metaverse hype that fueled the first one, as the trends were at peak buzz last year. The fervor has softened since then, and that hasn’t escaped Casamiro, who admitted that the number of brands is smaller this year. To date, some 30 brands have signed on to participate, not including the ones from the Decentraland community.
But, she said, plenty will be returning, so expect familiar names to populate the luxury district, perhaps even scoping out talent in the fashion plaza or setting up shop in one of the myriad other zones — from DressX and The Fabricant; to DKNY, Perry Ellis and Tommy Hilfiger, to Dolce & Gabbana and Dundas, and more. This virtual fashion week also continues to attract new participants, such as Coach. Adidas will be joining for the first time as well.
The activewear giant plans to showcase “adidas virtual gear,” its inaugural collection of digital apparel, in an exclusive, community-oriented runway show for ITM holders, aka owners of its “Into the Metaverse” NFTs, and Decentraland users.
Next month, MVFW will also welcome the first globally recognized fashion week as a participant, with Miami Fashion Week planning to host events and runway shows at its in-world L’Atelier. For more cultural opportunities, visitors can check out places like the museum district and NFT art gallery.
The experiences between zones, groups, organizations and companies will vary, as some tiptoe into the metaverse, while others dive in. For instance, returning brand Tommy Hilfiger, a company with a track record of embracing technology and new digital platforms, has a MVFW strategy that runs the gamut, with exclusive NFTs and POAPs, a collaboration with a Web 3.0 artist for bespoke artwork and wearables, fashion design competition using AI, gamified features, new portals for access and navigation, AR filters for virtual try-ons, a selfie booth for social sharing and more.
“The metaverse is a unique space that allows us to play with different elements to surprise and engage the consumer,” said Avery Baker, president and chief brand officer at Tommy Hilfiger Global. “Our four-day rollout will further push boundaries with a multistory monolith location that lights up the platform. We will offer something new for the audience to interact with daily and interactive brand experiences that connect the community across multiple platforms.”