The second edition of Decentraland's Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) came to a close last week. With over 60 brands and partnerships in the lineup, significant audience engagement, and a mission to overcome the previous year's technical issues, expectations soared.
According to metaverse data-power strategy company Geeiq, MVFW's opening day attracted 3,500 unique visitors. Notable returning brands included Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, and Tommy Hilfiger. Overall, however, the event attracted only about 50,000 users, half of last year’s attendance.
Adidas made its MVFW debut with a six-minute digital fashion show that stirred excitement on Twitter for both the innovative designs and the cutting-edge digital pavilion where the event took place. The sportswear giant also secured the most unique visits on the first and second days of MVFW, clinching the title for the most successful branded digital item giveaway with its complimentary Virtual Gear jacket.
A standout presentation emerged from the up-and-coming phygital fashion designer Ilona Song, founder of an eponymous fashion house. Song partnered with Vogue Singapore to create an exquisite collection of eight digital collectibles, powered by Ready Player Me. These non-fungible tokens (NFT) showcased fashion's cultural diversity while granting buyers exclusive access to an OVER-hosted fashion show and discounts on Song's real-life clothing line.
This display is a prime example of how innovative designers can leverage the metaverse to draw attention to their tangible collections.
This year's event witnessed greater audience interaction than its previous iteration. Dave Carr, Head of Business Development and Creative Strategy at augmented reality platform OVER, noted that brands are starting to realize that they “need to gamify and have that interactive engagement with rewards, like airdrops.”
Carr emphasized that discerning which elements resonate with the audience is a strategy to "push people back into [their] physical space." While the majority of customers still “exist” within Web2, the metaverse is increasingly being utilized to showcase the latest fashion trends and reward customers with digital assets redeemable in real life.
On MVFW’s virtual red carpet, the event’s former chairwoman — and one of the biggest collectors of fashion NFTs — Cathy Hackl was dressed in designer Vivienne Tam’s first NFT. Tam’s Mandala embroidered qipao first debuted in physical form on Tam's NYFW runway before being turned digital. Hackl bought the NFT in an auction by Brand New Vision for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 60th Anniversary.
“The fashion industry is entering the metaverse at record speed and I expect to see it accelerate further in the years to come,” says Hackl, who is now Chief Metaverse Officer at Journey and founder of luxury tech label VerseLuxe. “Designers are looking for new ways to innovate, beyond the physical world, and venture into the virtual one, to help shape the future of the industry.
Jumping head-first into metaverse initiatives, Tommy Hilfiger emerged as a pioneer in interoperability and bridging the digital-to-IRL gap this year. The brand deserves credit for cultivating an engaged Twitter audience through its AI design challenge; providing guidance on prompting AI to create Hilfiger-inspired designs; and unifying its brand-specific spaces from Roblox, Spatial, DressX, and Ready Player Me, connecting them via its Decentraland hub where visitors could gather POAPs (proof of attendance protocol, a blockchain-enabled digital souvenir). While Hilfiger's varsity jacket was last year's sought-after item, this year's top seller during MVFW was the TH knitted sweater.
"MVFW offers an excellent opportunity for brands to boost their exposure, as it demonstrates forward-thinking, showcases innovation, engages new audiences, and adapts to evolving trends," commented Louise Laing, founder of Phygital Twin. Evidently, Hilfiger is staying ahead by making a digital impact, joining other "dreamers, risk-takers, innovators, inventors, and creators who are forging new paths with novel realities."
Last year, the primary complaints revolved around platform glitches and lackluster graphics. While the visuals still require enhancement — they’re still fairly blurry and pixelated — Dazed’s critique of the event seemed somewhat premature and overly harsh (contrary to their view, MVFW is not like "dragging an elderly, decrepit relative through a local shopping center").
Generally, both performance and quality have shown improvement since last year, but they are far from perfect. Glitches are most evident when players transition between maps and spaces, leading to temporary, unsettling avatar mergers.
Platform accessibility for newcomers to Decentraland or Web3 is reasonably satisfactory, but not exceptional. Accessing Decentraland via a web browser allows guest users to explore the space without commitment and easily connect a wallet. New features added from last year include allowing individuals and brands to make purchases via credit card and renting virtual space instead of buying it.
However, this convenience comes at the cost of a subpar navigation experience. To purchase wearables or access the Decentraland marketplace, users must leave the metaverse and visit Decentraland's website. While the marketplace now boasts new categories like accessories, skins, emotes, and rarity tags, constantly shifting between distinct sites detracts from the MVFW experience. For instance, obtaining a POAP through Hilfiger's protocol requires visiting an external Airtable link and manually returning to the platform. This cumbersome navigation sequence hampers the experience's flexibility.
This navigation flow is insufficiently streamlined and undermines MVFW's emphasis on interoperability. Integrating in-game purchases and brand exploration would notably enhance the experience.
Lastly, avatar creation remains a challenge. Luke Leitch commented on the lack of diverse representation at MVFW last year; but still this issue persists. Decentraland's avatar creator still offers only two genders (male or female) and a single, unalterable body size. Some clothing options are incompatible with certain body types and restricted based on avatar gender. With all the hype surrounding the metaverse's ability to celebrate people of all shapes, sizes, beliefs, and backgrounds, this limited avatar creation tool is particularly disappointing at a fashion event.
Overall, MVFW23 produced both successes and shortcomings. Although the Decentraland space facilitated a vibrant gathering of creators, fashion enthusiasts, and brands, technical glitches and limitations continue to hinder the event's grand ambitions.