In the next few years, the world of technology will be plunged into the metaverse: virtual worlds in which people can meet. Ever since Facebook changed its company name to Meta, more and more tech companies have joined the race. The real breakthrough for the general public is still some way off, but it’s clear that your avatar’s appearance will be very important to your virtual identity. For this reason, the fashion industry also sees great opportunities.
Experts like Daniella Loftus, a British consultant and influencer in the world of virtual fashion, believe that the metaverse is going to change the way people interact with fashion. “I am convinced that in ten years we will all have between one and five avatars, which we will wear in virtual fashion,” she says.
Companies like Meta are working on worlds where people will not appear as themselves, but as an avatar. According to Zuckerberg, people will be able to create virtual clothing that they can “carry with them between different worlds.” Existing metaverse platforms such as Roblox and Decentraland also allow users to choose their own appearance.
‘Think more freely’
In the metaverse, clothing will not be limited by traditional ways of thinking. Sander Veenhof, a Dutch designer who has been working with augmented reality and virtual fashion for ten years, says that fashion designers can think much more freely in the metaverse. The existing rules and even the laws of physics do not apply in the virtual world.
“For example, I am a series designing fashion for several people. These are pieces that can be used by two, three or even four people at the same time.” Veenhof has also made a design with a folding cover. “Then it can be folded away when not needed and reappear when needed. “
Loftus also believes in the possibility of making virtual clothes in this way. Therefore, many of his designs contain moving and floating elements. “I like to explore things that can’t exist in real life. You want that kind of innovation.”
“What a lot of big brands are doing now is they’re trying to mimic real-world fashion,” says Veenhof. Shayli Harrison, an Australian virtual fashion designer living in Belgium, shares that criticism. “It’s a bit annoying, because those big brands come to do some kind of quick promotion and that sometimes overshadows us. They often show things as they are in real life, while the people who are more authentic really try to push the boundaries of what can be done. You shouldn’t just try to wear a hoodie in VR.”
Several well-known brands have already entered the world of virtual fashion. Earlier this year, Gucci announced that it would be launching an NFT collection. The company is even said to have a dedicated Web3 team. Balenciaga is said to have created an entire virtual fashion department. Burberry and Louis Vuitton are also exploring how to enter the virtual world.
According to Loftus, virtual fashion will have big consequences. “The first factor is that digital fashion and related technology are very sustainable. The fashion industry is responsible for about 10 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions, more than shipping and aviation combined. By using digital, you can largely solve that in design.” processes.” Loftus says that could allow the introduction of a so-called “made-to-order” model, where a part is only produced after it has been ordered.
“The second factor is increasing accessibility to the world of fashion. The big brands have a lot of power right now, so it’s very difficult for newcomers to break through,” says Loftus. By using virtual tools to develop clothing, clothing design, both real and virtual, will become much more accessible.
Veenhof also shares this opinion. “There will be a market where people can buy tools with which they can design their own clothes. Before you needed fabric and you had to know how to put it together. Now you have to master that digital technology, but if it’s made easier with DIY digital tools, it’s really accessible to everyone.”
Harrison also points to poor working conditions in the traditional fashion industry. “When I worked in the fashion industry, we were really exploited. No one sleeps, no one eats well, and no one gets paid much. When people hear about abuses in the fashion industry, they mostly think of factory workers, but start with people”. in the design room.
For that reason, he decided to start his own company: Mutani, alternative spelling for mutiny, or mutiny. Mutani is a network that assembles and builds digital assets for designers that fit into the imaginative environment of virtual worlds. It should ensure that designers can return to their creative roots. “It’s a way to break the cycle and give people an alternative. At Mutani, designers can be creative again and there are no limits due to expensive materials, for example.”
Make money with NFT
Designers will also be able to achieve new things through NFT technology. These are digital property titles based on blockchain technology that have so far been mainly used in the world of digital art to prove that someone owns a work.
“Using NFT opens up all sorts of possibilities. Think, for example, of digital vintage, where you can record on the blockchain who owned a piece in the past. A piece can then be worth more if a famous person ever used it.” Also embed smart contracts into it, so that a dress, for example, will ‘catch on’ if the stock market goes into the red,” says Loftus
But the main application of technology is the ability to earn money. “In the world of physical fashion, it’s not the designers who get the money. By using blockchain technology, we can change that and level the playing field.” For example, there is ‘fractional garment ownership’, an income model in which people who have worked together share the profits. “Let’s say I developed the pattern for a jacket and you developed the color. Then you can automatically pay designers a percentage on the blockchain based on the contribution.”
The technology is still in its infancy
Despite the optimism of digital designers, there is still a long way to go before virtual fashion becomes mainstream. The main reason is that the technology is not yet mature enough. Companies like Meta and Apple hope to change that by pumping tens of billions into metaverse development.
Veenhof says the technology is still in its infancy. “Everything you need isn’t complete yet. You can already visualize things on a phone, but for AR glasses it’s not going so well. There are also challenges like what happens if, for example, you look inside.” a mirror.”
According to Loftus, there is still work to be done in this area, although he is optimistic that existing problems will be resolved soon. “When I started doing this a year and a half ago, AR was still very complicated. You had something on and then your arm was gone. The technology has already improved a lot, but there’s still a way to go.”
Still, Veenhof says progress may be going faster than people think. “If vendors start offering AR glasses on a large scale, you quickly get the feeling of being an outsider if you don’t participate. That will create a kind of attraction effect.”
According to some critics, the widespread use of technology could lead to Black Mirror-style situations. For example, the US military would collaborate with the controversial company Clearview AI to develop AR glasses. According to Veenhof, therefore, it is crucial that people already think about how to ensure that the technology is not dominated by a few major players, as happened with social networks.
virtual fashion shows
It is best to come up with these rules as soon as possible. The popularity of virtual fashion is increasing rapidly. As a result, more and more major brands have begun to develop clothing in the metaverse. Major brands like Dolce and Gabbana and Hugo Boss participated this week in Decentraland Fashion Week, a virtual fashion week in the metaverse.
Loftus and Harrison also say they will be attending Decentraland Fashion Week. “I have a lot of friends who participate,” explains Harrison. The designer wanted to showcase her clothes herself, but in the end she opted for another virtual fashion week that took place last week, the Crypto Fashion Week.
“We didn’t have enough time to put on an exhibition for both events. In the end we chose Crypto Fashion Week because they are the true pioneers in this field. Last year, for example, they had a so-called ‘Meta Gala’, which took place at the same time as the Met Gala.”
Over the past few days, visitors to Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week have watched fashion shows, attended after parties and shopped for clothes, both virtual and real. Harrison already says that he wants to work with the Decentraland organization in the future. “It really is a very good example of a decentralized organization that does everything right.”
Cheapest and best headphones
Virtual clothing can have a huge impact on society, experts believe. According to Veenhof, clothing in AR and VR will be even more important than clothing in “real” life. ‘Physically you will wear clothes as a base in the future. It just has to be comfortable and warm. What it seems, that will happen virtually.
Now that the development of the technology has accelerated, Loftus expects it will be only a year or two before AR glasses are good enough to adequately represent virtual fashion. “There are three reasons for this. First of all, Covid has accelerated digital transformation. Suddenly the fashion industry, which very traditionally worked with people in the same space, had to adapt to a driven online environment.”
The second reason is the growing popularity of NFTs, says Loftus. “Creators suddenly made money off of digital assets. That changed the mindset of doing business online.” Finally, there was Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change Facebook’s name to Meta and the announcement that he wants to build a metaverse.
However, not everyone is convinced that everything will go so quickly. The development of AR and VR headsets can still take a long time. For example, Apple would continue to struggle with the development of its ‘Apple Vision’ glasses, Microsoft would not know which direction it wants to go in, and Meta saw employees leave due to the new focus on AR and VR. Also, glasses would become very expensive.
Harrison hopes it will be another two to four years before the technology is good enough for the masses. “The problem with digital fashion is that we always imagine that super shiny HD version, but when most people use their phones to play games, you still don’t get that beautiful version that matches our imagination. That’s where I want it to end.” but there are huge technical hurdles before we can get there.”