Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 took place last week. It was full of high-end brands, meta parties, virtual panels, as well as bugs, glitches and user complaints.
This year, over 60 brands, artists and designers took part in the event held between March 28-31 on Decentraland – down from over 70 participants in 2022.
It featured Dolce & Gabana, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, as well platforms like DRESSX, which carries 3D clothing collections from well-known brands, and rising designers like Bradley Sharpe.
If anything, it meant that MVFW23 had to go big to capture guests. And it did a good job with a rich variety of legacy luxury players and digital native brands doing interesting things such as Tommy Hilfiger’s first-ever cross-metaverse virtual hub and an immersive showroom from Hugo Boss.
Day 3 at #MVFW23 is a special one for us as we welcome you to where it all began – People’s Place. Snap away in our photo booth, solve a puzzle to win artwork, and don't forget to share your AI challenge designs with us. Step in at https://t.co/0FtfWkqy6U. #TommyHilfiger pic.twitter.com/6nHu3o2njX
— Tommy Hilfiger (@TommyHilfiger) March 30, 2023
Lured with a promise of “runway shows, after-parties, immersive experiences, shopping, and much more”, I impatiently clicked on “jump in” to become a part of Metaverse Fashion Week 2023.
Panels, collectibles and…glitches
Blinding projector lights, dancing 3D characters, upbeat music, and purple and pink background – that was the face of MVFW23.
I was assigned the number #5147 and placed within the Neo Plaza Road where the Cash Labs Gallery, developed by a Web3 agency Cash Labs, was hosting Vogue Singapore Panel.
Moving my avatar felt like navigating a heavy trolley around a shopping mall, however, I just-about entered the gallery and strolled past the showcased pieces by Artisant and SHOWstudio.
The message on the wall read “the new collection created with Artisant and David Cash purely for fun”.
Displayed items were linked to digital tokens, available for bidding on NFT marketplace Rarible. Half of the collected funds will be donated to international charities or activities supporting women, according to Rarible’s website.
Vogue’s open call was an elevator ride away, so I went up the fourth floor to look at the winners of the designer competition themed ‘Love in the Metaverse’.
Four speakers readily loaded on the giant screen as I entered the room.
David Cash, the founder of Cash Labs, Dr Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, the head of metaverse Fashion Week, Krista Kim, a metaverse artist and the co-founder of web 3.0 innovation lab 0.xyz, and Aurora Townsend, the founder and chief marketing officer of VR data app Planet Theta and mobile video games form Firefly Games were discussing how to connect in virtual spaces.
“We are connecting our inner child to the avatar…the very act of choosing what our avatar will look like is almost an act of radical self-realisation,” says Kim.
As Kim was speaking, I reflected back on my process of choosing an avatar for MFW23: all of the available options were pre-customised, forcing me to opt for something I didn’t particularly like but had to roll with.
Then, I looked at the “people” around me – a man wearing a fox mask and carrying a sword, and a girl rocking something suspiciously reminding a swimsuit.
This made me wonder: do the event’s avatars live to their proposed purpose of self-expression? A small selection of pre-made options ultimately put most of us – even those who took the dressing process seriously – in the same box, limiting creativity to 33 hairstyle choices and two body shapes.
A voting booth in the left corner invited me to cast a vote for the winner of Vogue Singapore’s Digital Fashion Competition, who will receive coverage in Vogue Singapore and a chance to be displayed at Club Vogue Singapore on metaverse events platform Spatial.io.
However, as I clicked on the ‘vote’ botton, the page crashed and displayed an error message multiple times, forcing me to abandon my mission.
Perhaps another glitch, there was no option to take the elevator down from the Vogue floor, so visitors had to find an alternative route – which, in my case, simply meant jumping out of the building.
In the meantime, chat users were exchanging complaints about problems with minting items and watching panels live. As a rule of thumb, most were recommended to “reload the page”.
I, however, missed out on the opportunity to share my frustration since direct messages were an “exclusive feature” available only to those connected through a crypto wallet.
As I sat there puzzled with the exclusivity of messaging on MVFW23, my Decentraland page crashed. And then crashed again.
But I was patient – and logged back in to look at the presented brands. Along the way, I could play games, solve puzzles and collect points, all enough to keep me busy while navigating my way through the world.
Displayed clothing was all equipped with shoppable links, and many wearables would later come in handy for those who, for example, wanted to participate in the Dear Vivienne Anti-Fashion Catwalk and Photoshoot.
Vogue offered limited NFT artworks by phygital fashion forerunner Ilona Song – granting access to a private fashion show in Milan hosted by the OVER metaverse network – while Diesel and metaverse firm HAPE featured multiple wearable NFT airdrops for all guests.
While exploring Decentraland, I paused to look at the upcoming events and clicked the little ‘info’ button, which weirdly took me to a third-party technology provider. That meant some of the panels remained a mystery, featuring a headline and a broken link.
The culmination of MVFW23 came with long-anticipated runway shows. Adidas featured human models walking upside down on the ceiling, while Dolce & Gabbana put cats in extravagant outfits on the catwalk. Users around me were eager to crash the runway, with different levels of success.
To my surprise, there were not many attendees. Despite the marketing of MVFW23, I managed to get the best view in the front row along with a handful of other avatars for most shows.
Who knows, the remaining guests might have simply been stuck reloading the page.
A concept too ahead of its time
Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 brought high fashion to an average consumer, linking a highly exclusive event with online users. In many ways, it offered both brand followers and retailers something a physical world cannot: connection, virtual out-of-this-world experiences and a community.
“People used to think that you need to be in Paris or Milan…but now people all around the world can participate in these things,” said Lode Groosman, chief commercial officer of Threedium during a panel entitled “utilising the Metaverse to build community.”
However, MVFW23 invited its guests to a space that seemed underdeveloped and glitchy. The high points were often accompanied by frustration and annoyance, thwarting the chance to fully enjoy the experience.
The online event wanted to be a technological advancement, a free-for-all space where everyone can be whoever they wish while connecting through fashion, tech and virtual reality. Are we there yet? I’m not so sure.