The first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) kicked off with a digital bang on Thursday, March 24, taking place within the virtual destination space, Decentraland. Wearable collections were showcased via the blockchain-based platform, with brands including Estée Lauder, Tommy Hilfiger, and Selfridges taking part in the four-day long schedule that runs from March 24-26.
The world’s biggest, entirely-digital fashion week commenced with events such as Dragon City’s Fashion Design Exhibition, followed into the evening by catwalk showcases from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana + UNXD and Philipp Plein. Situated within a dreamlike boulevard, complete with a hint of futurism, audiences can stay up-to-date with the calendar via giant virtual billboards and transport themselves to their chosen event space through the click of a button. From AI robots and luxury wearables, to “phygital goods” and immersive experiences, more than 70 participating brands, artists, and designers feature on the MVFW22 calendar.
What Is It
Metaverse Fashion Week is constructed to mimic its physical counterpart’s schedules through digital catwalks, live panel discussions, and exclusive afterparties. Built in Decentraland’s newest “Luxury Fashion District,” (presented by UNXD and Vogue Arabia), the event features a virtual runway surrounded by a high-end shopping area that was inspired by Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
In addition to the aforementioned Luxury Fashion District, the event is navigated through a series of mini-neighbourhoods and spots including Rarible Street, a fashion street with pop-up shops from the likes of The Fabricant, Artisant X Puma, and Girls Gang Label, alongside MetaTokyo and the Parcel-MetaParty Community Precinct. Other projects live during the week included a pop-up museum, a movie theater showcasing films by brands like Chanel and Lanvin, and CashLab’s launch of their mixed-media art gallery.
The metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds based on social connection. With Web3 still in its early days of development, what we’re seeing now are the building blocks of a new form of communication that many companies are keen to explore. The augmented and digital reality that the metaverse provides is forming a completely digitalised economy in which people can work, play, shop, and socialize. Which is why it’s unsurprising that the fashion industry has already begun to establish itself as one of the stalwarts of the Web3 ecosystem. “Through MVFW22, we endeavor to broaden the horizon of what ‘metaverse’ means. We just leveled up the playing field for the world of fashion and decreased the limitations,” says Sam Hamilton, Decentraland’s Creative Director.
Why it Matters
Metaverse Fashion Week matters because, in short, it’s claiming to be revolutionizing the fashion industry. For years we have seen the “Big Four” reign supreme in the Fashion Week calendar, with most events and showcases limiting their audience via a hierarchy of exclusivity. But MVFW is built with the ethos “everyone’s invited” in mind. “Decentraland is a virtual social world for everyone, anywhere,” continues Hamilton. “Metaverse Fashion Week serves as the perfect, monumental event to introduce to the world the philosophy behind everything we build. A space built by and run for by its community.” Indeed, anyone can experience Metaverse Fashion Week by visiting the website and as a guest — but purchases can only be made through an Ethereum wallet.
MVFW22 is also providing lesser-known, digital-focused creatives the opportunity to showcase their work to a wide-scale audience. For example, NFT marketplace Rarible sponsored a space in the district dedicated to celebrating the work of upcoming designers such as Scarlett Wang, Girl Gang, Fred Segal, Charlie Cohen, and Perry Ellis.
Does it work?
The luxury fashion industry is tackling constant discourse surrounding its overconsumption of tangible goods and its reliance on quick trend turnarounds. However, the metaverse is a chance for brands to decelerate and, instead, prioritize meaningful collaborations and unique creative outputs without physical constraint.
“I think that Metaverse Fashion Week will show brands the power that lies in digital fashion. The metaverse allows for fashion to be perceived as art once again, instead of simply a commodity we consume. The physical and digital aspects complement each other rather than compete, and brands should utilize both to communicate a larger story to their audience.” says Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, Head of Metaverse Fashion Week.
This shift in artistic perspective, alongside a wider accessibility for fashion lovers worldwide, is setting Metaverse Fashion Week apart from its IRL coequals. But there are still widespread concerns over the sustainability of digital fashion.
The Bottom Line
The metaverse has become, for many companies, a means of monetizing a digital space and generating new profit. But in order for the fashion industry and luxury brands to succeed in Web3, they simply cannot rely on this capitalization of virtual realms. In order to build a strong online community, brands need to explore and develop creative ideas, collaborate with designers pushing the virtual boundaries, and provide innovative exclusivity for their consumers; something that Metaverse Fashion Week is proving able to provide.
As for whether MVFW22 will become the next addition to the “Big Four” calendar, Casimiro has high hopes. “I do believe that, while this may be the first MVFW, it certainly won’t be the last,” she thinks. During the pandemic, the success of brands turning to digital platforms for their collections didn’t take off as well as many had anticipated. Most have since scaled back their digital schedules.
So, why is Metaverse Fashion Week different? For starters, the designs being showcased during MVFW22 are formatted to compliment our screens, as opposed to simply being substitutes for a physical runway. Additionally, the inaugural event marks the beginning of an industry that thrives off of immersion, collaboration, and direct communication. During COVID’s digital-fashion stint, there was little autonomy over how audiences could consume. In the metaverse, however, users are presented with opportunities not possible in Web2, such as greater user utility and choice over what we view. For Metaverse Fashion Week, we aren’t just onlookers — we’re as part of the Fashion Week as the brands, names, and creatives on the calendar.