While designers have dabbled in gaming for years, only now is the collective fashion industry taking an earnest step into the metaverse. As it set its fabulous foot into the blockchain-based virtual world of Decentraland for Metaverse Fashion Week, or MVFW, WWD reported on some of the sights and happenings.
The inaugural installment began with the opening of Selfridges’ Decentraland venue, followed by four days of runway shows, brand activations, interactive experiences and myriad shopping opportunities across multiple digital storefronts showcasing wearables for avatars, NFTs, artworks and more.
Participating brands spanned virtual fashion trailblazers like DressX and Auroboros to marquee maisons and IRL brands, with notable names including Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Nicholas Kirkwood, Perry Ellis, Imitation of Christ, Estée Lauder, Etro, Hogan, Dundas and others. (But notably, no Kering- or LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brands.)
Virtual worlds have hosted their own fashion events before. Indeed, matters of style have loomed large in places like Second Life for years, as illustrated most recently in its own “fashion week” spectacle in February. But the SL showcase hinged on a single designer, Jonathan Simkhai, while Decentraland’s MVFW stood out for its traction among an expansive array of brands, including houses more at home on New York, Milan and Paris runways than digital catwalks.
David Cash, Decentraland’s fashion week curator, pointed out another crucial distinction. “The differentiation is that this is on-chain, versus Second Life, which was off-chain,” he told WWD, referring to blockchain-based collectibles such as NFTs.
“I really hope that one of the things that people can discover by exploring virtual fashion week and Decentraland is what real unchained ownership looks like, in terms of virtual assets — versus what stored Web2 ownership of assets looks like — and understand what it means to own something on-chain,” he explained. “We’re trying to facilitate an open metaverse where people can go between centralized outlets like, say, an AR filter and Decentralized or even to other metaverse solutions.”
WWD’s MVFW TAKEAWAYS
Party Hopping in the Metaverse
Where is everyone?
Turns out party hopping in Decentraland is much more efficient — and slightly more confusing — than in real life.
On Friday night, swathed in a cloud of glitter (the wearable NFT I picked up from Estée Lauder’s pop-up the day before), I teleported to the Luxury Fashion District for a happy hour hosted by Cash Labs Studios at their gallery exhibition “at the intersection of Art and Fashion.” The Decentraland time zone is UTC, and turns out I was an hour off in my time conversion to EST. Although most of the two dozen or so designers at the party had already departed, I fortunately didn’t miss all the action — after finding my way up to the rooftop party, two publicists for Decentraland invited me to join them at an after party with Cash Labs founder David Cash and several MVFW designers.
We teleported over to the Metajuku Mall, where Tribute Brand was hosting an official after party DJed live by ICYKOF. My avatar began involuntarily dancing upon stepping into the party, which gave me an opportunity to sit back and take in the scene: underneath a J.P. Morgan Onyx billboard (the bank recently opened a lounge in the mall, after estimating the market opportunity for the metaverse at more than $1 trillion) the crowd included an impressive range of wearable fashion. Wings were a popular accessory, there was an avatar wearing a pair of HODL sunglasses, and digital fashion designer Fabeeo Breen himself was partaking in the techno set.
Elsewhere in Decentraland, a colleague sent through a tip about a rave taking place with “some celebs,” so I teleported over to check out the scene. I was greeted by a newscast about a mysterious crystal that had crashed into the ground, which I found back of the building. Displayed inside of the crystal was The Initiation: a Charli Cohen x Rstlss experience, presented by Yahoo. Several limited-edition wearables were spinning inside of glass cases; one hoodie retailing for 111 Mana, or around $286.
Leaving empty-handed, I climbed a ladder on the side of the building and headed up to the rooftop, where DJ Dave was performing a coded set. I waved to her; she waved back from behind the DJ decks. I looked around the area, but I was the only one there. And then I remembered the official MVFW slogan: “Everyone’s a VIP in the Metaverse.” Maybe — could it be — that I’m one of the celebrities now?
Before signing off for the night, one of my new metaverse pals airdropped me a Miss J x Crypto Couture tracksuit. Donning my new look, I was all set for Sunday, for Grimes (a veritable real-world celebrity) and the final MVFW after party. — KRISTEN TAUER
“Shopping” at Giuseppe Zanotti, DKNY, Perry Ellis America and More
Stiletto master Giuseppe Zanotti didn’t want to miss an opportunity to experiment with the NFT world, but mindful of Decentraland’s audience, he partnered with DeadFellaz and the Neuno marketplace to offer 1,000 limited-run digital-only editions of its Cobras sneakers. Available on the Decentraland marketplace for 130 Manas — the platform’s own currency, which trades at roughly $350 at current exchange — the snake-bearing sneakers were almost sold by Friday night and could be purchased in tandem with the DeadFellaz x Neuno outfit.
Brands like DKNY and Charles & Keith set up shop in Threedium Plaza with various NFTs on offer, including a bag, footwear and apparel.
DKNY brought its spring 2022 theme, “Do Your Thing,” to the virtual world. According to the company, it “reinforces values intrinsic to the brand’s ethos — individuality and self-expression, both encouraged and reinforced in the metaverse,” allowing avatars to experience and “engage with the brand in a way that’s never been done before.”
Visitors could view an adapted version of the campaign video on a large screen, as well as purchase one of three limited NFT wearables: a men’s black trench from spring 2022 that was updated with neon trim and a painted logo, a women’s faux leather black jumpsuit with red tulle to resemble flames and a limited-edition, unisex DKNY Token Hoodie, just 1,000 of which are available for 65 Manas.
The shopping experience at DKNY and other stores tied to Decentraland’s marketplace offer an added benefit: virtual try-on for avatars. Launched just before MVFW, the capability allowed people to see what the hoodie, jumpsuit and other wearables looked like on their own avatars before buying.
So visitors in the Artcade at Fred Segal at Rarible Street could try on one of the looks from the Atari Hotel’s Syzygy collection, before spending their Mana. Across the way, Perry Ellis America offered an assortment of virtual tops, jackets and more as well, but no need to try them on before purchasing, since they were available without charge. Once a user claimed one or more, they showed up in the account’s “backpack,” ready to be worn.
Many of these brands sat nestled amid digital artists and Web3 creators, reflecting the spirit of the whole event — which is to support an open, decentralized world of creativity and fashion that includes everyone, from established names to fresh innovators. — ADRIANA LEE AND MARTINO CARRERA
Etro’s “Liquid Paisley” Play
Who knew fashion week in the metaverse could also be exhausting? While passing through the arched portal heading into the Etro show venue a user typed in the chat box: “My head is going to explode for the number of events at this fashion week,” to which an attendee nicknamed ElonMusk (was it that Elon Musk?) agreed.
To be sure the number of events was remarkable, especially considering this was Decentraland’s first edition of Metaverse Fashion Week, but after two days of wandering through the virtual lands, the scene became somewhat predictable.
At Etro, the figure eight-shaped catwalk was dripping in a new rendition of the brand’s signature paisley motif, aptly called “Liquid Paisley,” which adorned the virtual lineup, too, including bohemian minidresses with cutout details, asymmetric oversized shirts and flounced and ruffled frocks, sported by male- and female-looking avatars alike.
Although Decentraland folks can be gendered (the platform asks you to specify one upon login), the come-as-you-are ethos of the metaverse was part of the excitement, and Etro took a chance to celebrate just that, with its NFT collection for all — rich in summertime hues of canary yellow, bubblegum pink and emerald green.
The wearables were supposed to be available immediately after the runway event at a nearby pop-up shop, and for free — a rarity considering fashion’s rush to capitalize on crypto clothing. For some reason, a couple of hours after it ended, they weren’t displayed yet inside the paisley-patterned store. A good reason to come back. — MARTINO CARRERA
Philipp Plein Does It Right
Philipp Plein is doing things right in the metaverse. His event provided the full experience: A runway show held in his own $1.4 million Decentraland estate, an afterparty with real-life DJs (more on that below) and a see now, buy now collection available as limited-run NFTs on Decentraland’s marketplace.
Held on Plein Plaza, the show took over the central square surrounded by Plein-branded skyscrapers. The designer mounted a metallic skull-shaped animatronic that opened his mouth bones to let avatar models come out and show the collection, named Pleinverse $eason 1 and developed by Crypto King$, the nickname behind Plein and digital artist Antoni Tudisco, who spearhead the brand’s metaverse activities.
While the skull-shaped catwalk couldn’t compete with the paraphernalia that appeared in some of Plein’s past IRL shows, it still resonated as a good example of metaverse branding, attracting quite a few avatar attendees cheering and throwing cash up the air and doing flips. Many of them were primarily looking for sneakers, probably the Plein Sport styles that launched as NFTs in February, only they already sold out.
The designer did show up sporting a shimmering astronaut-like suit with a helmet (his avatar’s name is PhilippPlein#a40f in case you spot him) looking as confident as he is in real life.
The after party that followed, with a set from Australian DJ duo Miriam and Olivia Nervo, made for the weakest part of the experience, in that the realistic video stream of the women booming their electro music from a real-life studio seemed a naïf effort to bring the IRL experience into Decentraland, when the funniest side of this whole alternative world is playing by the make-believe rulebook.
On Decentraland’s marketplace, and Plein’s website, the crypto collection was available for purchase with prices ranging from 450 Manas — the metaverse’s own cryptocurrency — to 6,750 Manas or between 1,500 and 15,000 euros at current exchange. By Friday morning only a few were sold, but a puffer and pant combo that comes with a flying pet for an accessory was almost sold out despite being the most expensive item. Go figure. — M.C.
Retail/Pop-up Shops: No Two Are Alike
Expecting a consistent experience is folly, as brands’ virtual manifestations on Luxury Street and elsewhere were in different states of play on Thursday across different approaches. That may be part of the fun or just plain frustrating, depending on the visitor.
Some, like Dundas, Hogan and Dolce & Gabbana, hardly had anything to showcase the first day, intending to roll out experiences and items over time or after their runway shows opened. Indeed, after D&G hit the catwalk, its Decentraland door was magically populated with digital fare.
Hogan offered one NFT for early visitors, with more to come, but the selection of “attendance” tokens was snapped up quickly. Plenty of POAP tokens, or “Proof of Attendance Protocol” NFTs, were still available at Estée Lauder when WWD swung by Thursday. Think of these as the virtual world’s version of participation trophies. Ahead of MVFW, the beauty brand said it would offer as many as 10,000 NFTs.
At Tommy Hilfiger, digital-to-physical products were available for sale, with shipping to real-world addresses listed at two to four weeks. Nicholas Kirkwood’s NFT shoe collaborations with White Rabbit were on display, floating above their pedestals and tempting shoppers to blow their Ethereum cryptocurrency budgets.
Overall, brands took their Decentraland debuts quite seriously. Most blended the familiar feel of physical storefronts on the outside, with fantasy elements inside that aren’t possible in the real world — that is, unless Dolce & Gabbana’s brick-and-mortars feature teleportation, too. (They don’t, at least not yet.) — ADRIANA LEE
Political Fashion Statements and More in the Metaverse
centraland for the first time: Avatar style is where it’s at. My regular-issue black pants, red blazer, sunglasses and slides were no match for the kind of looks othFirst impressions of Metaverse Fashion Week from someone who just jumped into Deers were serving up, with marijuana leaves as wings, light-up shoes, penguin heads, robot accessories and more. I was definitely the worst dressed in Genesis Plaza.
Another takeaway for me was how much brand messaging there is for a world that bills itself as a not-for-profit. Just like in real life, I felt like I was being advertised to everywhere, from the DKNY billboards, to the shop banners on Luxury Street.
I wandered into the Imitation of Christ store, where the first floor was a punk-rock, antiwar statement (which is very Imitation of Christ IRL). Navigating around a set piece spelling out “No War,” I saw signs calling on Putin to stop his war, and others showcasing the Ukrainian flag. The looks on the mannequins were streetwear kilts, hoodies, catsuits, combat boots and the like. Upstairs on level two, were more couture-like designs, if you can call anything virtual or animated couture.
Over on Luxury Street, inside the luxe Guo Pei store, the Chinese designer’s artistry translated only somewhat; a gown that seemed to be a digital dupe of her 2006 “Magnificent Gold” gown hardly compared to seeing the gold work embroidery up close. Wandering around and looking at her pieces was pleasant though, even if other fashion week attendees did invade my personal avatar space a little. If you are going to come so close, why not wave or say “hi?”
I did try to say “hi” to one avatar whose pants I really liked. I even asked where she bought them, hoping I might be able to score a pair with some Mana coin. She didn’t share.
Later in the week, I discovered the Cash Labs gallery, which was a highlight, displaying groovy artwork alongside futuristic fashion looks by Kid Super, Comme des Garcons, Auroboros and more. It was fun to wander around the different rooms.
Then, I boarded the virtual elevator to the rooftop where there the party was going on with Philipp Plein, MVFW producer Giovanna Casimiro, and plenty of other well-dressed avatars. “I like your caveman unibrow,” one party goer said to another using the microphone function. “Anyone else think this feels strangely real even though nobody is saying anything?” said another disembodied voice.
Um, no, not really. It felt like a bunch of animated characters standing around staring at each other. With no cocktails! — BOOTH MOORE
Dolce & Gabbana Runway
Surprisingly enough, attending the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show in the metaverse had lots of similarities with IRL runway events: Reaching the right location was equally tricky, sitting down front row even harder and resisting the impulse to take pictures — or screenshots — to simply relax and enjoy the show, practically impossible.
Guests had to “teleport” to the location, provided that they managed to understand how to do so. The experience was not unlike finding the right venue address down winding streets of New York, London, Milan or Paris, except no traffic jam was involved here. Once at the show venue — a stadium-like space with bleachers and a central figure-eight-shaped catwalk specially created for Metaverse Fashion Week by its organizers — there were plenty of seats available (attendance was not impressive), only you cannot sit in Decentraland. It was standing for all, which would probably not be a popular choice with the traditional fashion crowd.
For their metaverse-friendly show, Dolce & Gabbana had cat-faced avatar models emerge from two giant lotus-like structures dominating the two sides of the catwalk. There was strobe lighting, enticing music and captivating digital clothing, from LED-lit broad-shouldered mini frocks to humongous puffers bearing the brand’s logo.
As for the audience, there were not many typical fashion folks. Some avatars jumped onto the runway as the show progressed and not even Metaverse Fashion Week security people, clad in official black uniforms, could stop them, while other attendees typed in the chat box that they didn’t see the models, when in fact the cat-faced avatars were strolling down the runway, emerging from vortexes on the ground, striking poses, twirling and levitating.
As the fun experience was nearing its end, one expected design duo Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce to show up for their final bow, or perhaps levitation, but they didn’t, which probably speaks volumes about the fact that celebrity status is not really valued in the metaverse, at least for now. — M.C.
Tommy Talks Metaverse Future
Pop culture fashion pioneer Tommy Hilfiger, whose brand has already had a metaverse presence in Animal Crossing and Roblox, set up a digital retail platform at Decentraland’s MVFW, and hosted a livestreamed “fireside chat” to chat about the future of the space, during which he spoke to tech futurist Cathy Hackl, the chair of MVFW, and Justin Banon, cofounder of metaverse commerce platform Boson Protocol.
“The metaverse is really the future.…And it’s part of our DNA to embrace what’s next.…I believe the metaverse is going to lead us to more creativity, more experiences and more opportunity to build a community of fans worldwide,” said the designer. “The metaverse allows us to create a unique experience, both physical and digital, and evolve the retail journey.”
“In Web3, fashion and art are leading the way in pushing the boundaries of innovation,” added Hackl. “What’s being created now are new customer journeys and new touch points.…It’s about an evolution of commerce from physical to physical commerce, to virtual to virtual that has been thriving in the gaming space for a while. But I’m interested in exploring more virtual to physical commerce…and physical to virtual. How do we grow those at scale, because they have a massive impact. This is about the future of community and fandom and how people interact with brands in multiple ways.
“Now people are hyper focused on the virtual side because that’s where we are able to play, but I’m excited about the virtual shared experiences that will happen in the physical world.…My experience going to the Tommy Hilfiger store will be very different once we unlock that,” Hackl added.
Part of getting there is infrastructure, which is where businesses like Boson Protocol come in.
“Our vision is a commerce overlay to digital, physical and AR, that uses this now standard NFT format to enable purchase of any physical, digital or experiential item. It doesn’t matter, we use the same NFTs that can be gamified, trade-able, programmable,” said Banon. “The Tommy Hilfiger brand could be designed by a game designer in five years time. and when you see someone in a Tommy Hilfiger item at a party, you can click on that and potentially purchase it with Boson Protocol, or certain items you would have to be part of a loyalty game mechanic that could be in the real world, AR and a digital metaverse. That’s where we’re getting to, this gamified blurring of all these realities.”
“Unlocking the physical will change the whole dynamic of the retail business worldwide, not just fashion products,” said Hilfiger. “Living within Gen Z, we have to speak their language. They are also going to weigh in and help me design new products, tell me what colors, fabrics and accessories they like, and then they will buy them digitally, and once they get the thumbs up from their community, they will buy the physical. We are just on the verge, and I’m all in.” — B.M.
For Selfridges, shopping wasn’t the point of its Decentraland location (coordinates 64, 14). While it does plan to offer NFTs at some point, its first virtual door was conceived as more of a gallery and NFT showcase, rather than a transactional experience or shop.
Set inside a digital recreation of its futuristic, but very real Birmingham, England, location, the London-based department store featured its “Universe” project, which is based on Paco Rabanne’s fall collaboration with Victor Vasarely, and looks from Paco Rabanne’s 1966 archives, specifically the 12 Unwearable Dresses collection. The NFT series featured 12 Vasarely artworks, with proceeds going to the Fondation Vasarely, a museum in Aix-en-Provence, France.
“We know that a lot of our customers don’t know much about NFTs or Web3, so we wanted to give them the physical representation of what they could buy in an NFT,” Jeannie Lee, Selfridges’ head of buying, told WWD.
The interior was anchored by a spiral walkway inside a geodesic dome-like environment. Upon entry, visitors were whisked to the top, so they could stroll down the path and take in the art along the way. — A.L.
Tips for Navigating Decentraland for Newcomers
Some WWD reporters have navigated virtual worlds before, while others are experiencing this for the first time. In the process, the staff has come to learn a few simple tips that may help, no matter the experience level.
Easy Teleportation to MVFW Via Sunglasses:
At the Genesis Plaza, look for the Parcel kiosk (pictured above) for sunglasses that make it easy to teleport to some MVFW destinations and current events.
Reducing Performance Lag:
If an incessant lag is ruining the experience, tap the user icon on the upper right and check “settings,” specifically the “graphics” section. (Tapping the escape key sometimes opens the account menu as well.) A person moving about a lot may want to set graphics quality to “low” to improve speed and performance, then switch to “high” or “ultra” when the visuals matter — for instance, while watching a runway show.
Buying or Nabbing Free NFTs Requires a Wallet:
One can take a tour of Decentraland as a guest, but to buy NFTs or even to pick up free ones, the user must have a wallet connected. Decentraland aimed to make this easy by offering three options. The organization recommends MetaMask. WWD reporters went through the process and opened a wallet, which didn’t require adding funds, i.e., actual money.
A Few Other Basics:
• Hitting the “V” key on the physical keyboard changes perspective from third-person to first-person and back.
• A left tap on the screen allows the user to look around without actually moving the avatar.
• If performance is still a problem, try closing other apps, emptying the trash and restarting the computer.
• Hit the “C” key on the keyboard to call up the control panel for more keyboard shortcuts.
— ADRIANA LEE