With digital apparel ramping up in recent months, fashion is clearly coming for the metaverse. The latest to join the fray is Ralph Lauren, who announced a new collaboration with 3D avatar platform Zepeto on Wednesday to offer a digital fashion collection for sale, along with themed virtual environments.
The partnership represents an important first for Ralph Lauren. While this is not its first tech partnership — it previously collaborated with Bitmoji on a special collection, as well as Snapchat on augmented reality lenses and recently with G2 Esports, the first luxury brand to outfit an esports gaming team on a long-term basis — the company has never before sold digital clothing.
For its first foray into virtual economies, the brand described the Ralph Lauren x Zepeto collection as a reimagining of its apparel for Zepeto’s virtual world — a social environment where people interact through avatars. Users will be able to dress their characters with exclusive product from the fashion house.
Fans of the brand may see familiar favorites among the assortment. The styles on offer include 12 looks, with more than 50 unique items spanning a mix of vintage Polo Ralph Lauren pieces and others from its current summer collection. Also included are special items, such as two limited-edition skateboards designed exclusively for the virtual collection.
The collaboration also brings opportunities for users to immerse themselves in the world of Ralph Lauren through three interactive, virtual spaces. The settings — the Madison Avenue flagship, Ralph’s Coffee Shop and Central Park — were modeled from locations in New York City and designed to invoke “the iconic spirit, energy and attitude of the brand,” according to the announcement.
The work punctuates the fashion house’s belief that “innovating in virtual worlds is essential to engaging the next generation of consumers,” said Alice Delahunt, chief digital officer at Ralph Lauren.
“Ralph Lauren has always embraced new environments, and we’re excited to push the boundaries in this emerging arena,” she added. “Making our product available to purchase and wear digitally and allowing consumers to experience the brand in immersive new ways is the next frontier.”
Indeed, fashion’s digital promise escalated this year, thanks to trends like NFTs or non-fungible tokens. The blockchain tech made authentication possible for virtual goods such as digital sneakers, turning them into hot commodities with drops capable of pulling in millions of dollars in mere minutes.
The worlds of fashion, art and technology are currently trying to hash out the future of digital works and products in real time, with new platforms and marketplaces racing to launch. But amid all that activity, there’s one overarching question that remains: What can people do with assets like digital clothing, beyond just owning them?
One vision sees them as avatar-wear for online denizens of virtual worlds, games and other digital environments, similar to the Ralph Lauren x Zepeto collab. Although neither company made mention of NFTs in this project, the effort could still prove valuable as a viable use case, if it takes off.
While the fashion sector may take note of a major brand like Ralph Lauren suddenly diving into digital apparel commerce, it shouldn’t overlook the implications of Zepeto’s involvement either. The 3D avatar platform, developed by Naver Z Corp. and launched in 2018, is already considered a metaverse giant in its home turf of South Korea, where it has 10 million monthly active users. Its business is expected to accelerate when it rolls out game development tools this year.
In the meantime, Zepeto will host K-Pop band Tomorrow x Together in September for a live event from Ralph Lauren’s virtual Madison Avenue flagship, set inside the platform. The band’s 3D avatars will interact with visitors, taking selfies and snapping photos and videos that fans can share over social media.
And as they do so, those digital characters will be adorned in pieces from the Ralph Lauren x Zepeto Collection.