As the physical and digital worlds continue to merge, high fashion is becoming increasingly entrenched in the metaverse. As reported by Forbes, Morgan Stanley has predicted that the metaverse could present a $50 billion-plus opportunity for the luxury fashion industry over the next decade.
A specific definition of the metaverse is difficult to pin down. Tech futurist Cathy Hackl, who is widely regarded as the ‘Godmother of the metaverse’, defines it as a “further convergence of our physical and digital lives,” which will see the internet “breaking free from the rectangles in our hands, desks and walls and being all around us”.
Luxury fashion brands are tapping into this tech renaissance, creating digital garments solely for our virtual identities. The metaverse is also creating new opportunities for brands to engage with a younger generation, as Gen Z are the key demographic driving and influencing digital fashion.
“Whether it’s their exotic virtual pets, fashion avatars or elaborately designed spaces online — creating, exchanging, owning and consuming digital goods is the norm for Gen Z,” Vue.ai founder and chief executive officer Ashwini Asokan told Vogue.
“For fashion brands that are thinking about life a decade ahead, there’s so much potential. This audience right here will be their market.”
Here are five luxury fashion houses embracing the metaverse:
Hey @Balenciaga, what’s the dress code in the metaverse?
— Meta (@Meta) October 29, 2021
Balenciaga x Epic Games
Back in September 2021, Balenciaga announced its collaboration with Epic Games, the creator behind popular computer game Fortnite. The game accounts for 400 million users across the world and over $5 billion in sales.
The brand designed four virtual outfits and various accessories for Fortnite avatars, available for players to purchase through the game. Limited edition physical Balenciaga x Fortnite merchandise was also available through the brand’s shop and website.
Balenciaga has also created its own separate business division, solely dedicated towards the metaverse and its future lucrative opportunities.
“The usability of digital fashion is the point that’s missing, but that’s making gigantic steps every day,” said Balenciaga chief executive Cédric Charbit at Business of Fashion’s annual Voices gathering.
“Right now the climax of interaction with a luxury brand is that you click like, or comment or buy – something I think we can get to a next level.”
Gucci x Roblox
In May 2021, Gucci collaborated with metaverse and gaming platform Roblox, launching a space called Gucci Garden. The digital experience was based on a real exhibition on show in Florence to mark the brand’s 100th anniversary.
Just like the physical exhibition, the Roblox Gucci Garden offered multiple, immersive themed rooms, paying homage to various Gucci campaigns. Players entered through a virtual lobby and their avatars could view, try on and purchase digital Gucci items to be worn in the game.
“Fashion brands have to go where other people are not going. The whole point of a fashion brand is to stand out,” Metaforce co-founder Allen Adamson told AP.
He believes that Gucci’s biggest return on investment from the Roblox tie-up “is to become part of that generation’s world”.
“No one shares ordinary,” Adamson added. “My avatar wearing a Gucci belt is a little different and perhaps even catchier for a certain audience than spotting a real Gucci bag on the street.”
Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele also described the metaverse as new territory, telling AP that “fashion has become more than a boutique along the street in a capital”.
“I think we are in a phase when maybe the world wants to go beyond the industrialised revolution and doesn’t know how to do it. Especially now, in this phase of the pandemic, it is a big chance to accelerate changes.”
Ralph Lauren x Roblox
Ralph Lauren has also dipped its toes into the metaverse sphere, launching The Ralph Lauren Winter Escape in partnership with Roblox.
The game features an exclusive gender-neutral digital clothing collection comprised of eight winter sportswear looks. Players can try on and purchase clothing to customise their avatars at Polo Shops within the experience.
“Our engagement in the metaverse is a natural extension of our lifestyle brand which, at its core, has always been about stepping into the worlds of Ralph Lauren,” said Ralph Lauren’s chief digital and content officer, Alice Delahunt.
“Our partnership with Roblox builds on years of digital innovation and underlines our belief in the opportunity that virtual spaces and economies present — especially when it comes to the next generation of consumers.”
You’re invited to Ralph Lauren: The Winter Escape on @Roblox
A first-of-its kind winter experience, Ralph Lauren on #Roblox presents the ultimate holiday adventure
— Ralph Lauren (@RalphLauren) December 8, 2021
Burberry x Tencent Games
In November 2020, Burberry collaborated with Tencent Games, creating designs for popular Chinese online battle game Honor of Kings.
Riccardo Tisci, chief creative officer at Burberry, designed the clothes, known as skins, for the character Yao. The skins featured Burberry’s iconic trench coat and tartan patterned clothing.
“By allowing our Chinese customers to explore virtual products through the medium of online games, we can connect with our communities in a way that really resonates with them,” president of Burberry China Josie Zhang told the BBC.
“We want to empower our community to explore their surroundings, whether it is online or offline.”
Balmain x Barbie
Balmain and Barbie announced a new collaboration this month, featuring a ready-to-wear fashion and accessories line and three non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Three unique Barbie avatars, each dressed in pieces from the collection, will be auctioned off online by mintNFT. The highest bidders will not only receive exclusive ownership of the avatar, but also a one-of-a-kind real-life Barbie-scaled version of the doll.
“As a fashion house committed to innovation in unexpected and joyous ways, Balmain, under Olivier Rousteing’s creative direction, is the perfect partner to translate the iconography that is unique to Barbie into a modern iteration of digital art and physical fashion,” said Mattel’s chief executive officer and president Richard Dickson.
— mintNFT (@mintnftofficial) January 6, 2022