Five industry insiders define the potential of digital fashion brands
We meet five industry insiders who share their views on why digital fashion is more important than ever, and how Metaverse Fashion Week is leveraging fashion’s digital transition.
By OLIVER DAHLE
Dr. Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro — Head of Metaverse Fashion Week, Decentraland
Decentraland is one of the main platforms where MVFW took place. As a producer and Head of MVFW at Decentraland, Dr Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro is one of the main architects behind MVFW.
What’s the purpose of MVFW?
— The MVFW has the purpose to subvert a little bit of what we know about fashion and to open a conversation about both digital- and physical fashion, and the new horizons of fashion on a global level. It’s about putting the fashion community together beyond the boundaries where you live and allowing access to different fashion experiences from high-end to community activities. So it’s a place of convergence for the whole conversation of fashion in the present and in the future.
What did you learn from the first edition of MVFW?
— I learned that we really had to improve the overall platform performance. We also needed more time for production. We needed to give more opportunities for brands to explore their aesthetics, but also give the opportunity to be in different metaverses at the same time.
— Based on that, we made a lot of changes. We made sure that this is the first time we’re doing a cross-metaverse fashion week ever. Working in collaboration with other metaverses, like Spatial and OVER, we brought augmented reality and virtual reality together with the Decentraland platform. We also made sure that we started the negotiations and the conversations with brands about six months prior to the event.
”We also made sure that we started the negotiations and the conversations with brands about six months prior to the event”
A significant change is that MVFW is now on several platforms, how have you been working on this and the interoperability?
— It’s key that we try to test interoperability. This first tryout is about intention, it’s not about technology. We’re trying to share a collaborative schedule of events. Decentraland has been placing lots of portals to Spatial, Spatial has been placing lots of portals to Decentraland. Our communities are gathering together. We have OVER having their events on the events page of Decentraland and also linking their augmented reality app to Decentraland and Spatial activities. You see brands showcasing simultaneously in all those worlds and I think it’s really beautiful to see how many people are embracing the event and sharing that they are part of it, because it’s about empowering people and it’s working.
How do you look at the future of MVFW?
— Now that we tried a cross-metaverse fashion week, I think that’s the future of it. It needs to be a cross-week. It needs to be collaborative, diverse in aesthetics and give possibilities for development to the creators. What I expect for the future, is that we could experiment more with hybrid technologies. I would like MVFW to have more physical events, where people can experience video-projected content, immersive installations, and physical computing and clothing. Really bringing the discussion of the Internet of Things to this space. I want MVFW to expand its own reach beyond the screens and beyond the virtual worlds and become something that can be found anywhere.
Leanne Elliott Young — co-founder & CEO, Institute of Digital Fashion
Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF) provides immersive digital solutions, strategies, and innovations in the metaverse. The collective is pushing for a more inclusive, sustainable, and diverse fashion industry that spans both digital and physical.
Why do you think MVFW is important?
— This year IoDF used our much anticipated digital fashion moment to celebrate new talent and continue to build a more sustainable fashion future within MVFW. IoDF is intent on building the skills and uses cases to have a successful pivot to digital, so it was natural to partner for this MVFW moment. These emerging designers are the luxury IRL x URL fashion houses of the future. MVFW brought digital innovators together, both IRL and URL, showcasing how both facets of the industry can converge seamlessly. It’s about interacting with a wider community on a more personal level — adding human elements to the gamified experience. It acts as an interesting use case for digital fashion, it’s accessible to Web2 native audiences through its streamlined navigation.
For MVFW you collaborated with the designer, Bradley Sharpe, how did that come about?
— Bringing IRL designer, Bradley Sharpe, a designer known to push the parameters of physical fashion into the metaverse for the first time was a major moment. Bradley is a true genius of our times. Their working methods are so inventive and bring new nuances to fashion. We feel Bradley’s work as a practitioner and artist is made for this new arena, which allows for constant boundary pushing and an embrace of the future. While bringing Bradley on board, we also discussed the complexities of the fashion business and production, as a business case the metaverse has so much potential.
— We’re in the infancy of this kind of experience, which is really exciting: there’s a wealth of possibilities available to us all so cultural events like MVFW act as a great way to start seeing where these paths can lead.
How could digital fashion contribute to a better understanding and relation to fashion in general?
— Fashion is an all-encompassing industry and trickles into different industries and worlds such as gaming and art. Our statement ’AT THE END OF THE WORLD, DO YOU NEED MORE CLOTHES?’ was first seen during IoDF’s London Fashion Week campaign ’001’, the statement was intended to provoke debate and start a discourse on the devastating environmental impact of fast fashion and the sustainable potential of the virtual world. IoDF wants you, the audience, to become an emblem for change.
Shayli Harrison — CEO and Designer, MUTANI
MUTANI is a digital fashion collective that pushes the boundaries of fashion and creativity. They are matching highly creative fashion designers with technical teams and relevant partners, to create a network in the digital fashion ecosystem.
You weren’t participating in the first edition of MVFW, why did you decide to partake this time?
— For the first edition we were unable to manage time-wise as we were participating in CFW (Crypto Fashion Week) the week prior. Hosted by Universe Contemporary and Lady Pheonix, Crypto Fashion Week is the original virtual fashion week that started in 2021. They often base their event around ecological and socially significant themes and we really gravitated to their Coral Reef concept. On reflection, I think that not only having time to participate — but a thematic drive for inspiration contributed to our participation this time. MVFW22 did not have a theme, but this year’s Future Heritage theme has sparked so many interesting contributions, not only in terms of history and cultural representation — but in conversation. During a panel on Preserving Heritage in the Metaverse, I spoke with fellow digital fashion mainstays: Olivier Moingeon (Exclusible), Amber Jae Slooten (Fabricant), Paula Sello, and Alissa Aulbekova (Auroboros) and Olga Chulnycheva (Dress X) about the preservation of fashion history as well as the fashion history we are all creating now. I think having a thematic drive gives us an opportunity to share the importance, meaning, and storytelling behind our work and also behind our advocacy for digital fashion.
You’re doing both digital and hybrid activations — what are the pros and cons of each of them?
— Working in digital is great because the buyer can immediately receive and use the asset, and we offer remix and derivative rights where the user can create their own non-commercial content with our assets. We are also able to conceive and sample this garment without any physical waste while proving, when on-chain, authorship that allows us to track and trace who owns and trades our items and for what cost. Alongside this, we can tap into a new and international audience where self-expression is more free — this means more willingness to experiment with aesthetics outside the norm. However, at this moment the fans of our designers do not yet gravitate to these 3D social spaces. We are early in building for an emerging market and are limited to what spaces we can build for – not all worlds are open or fully functional.
”We’re able to conceive and sample garments without any physical waste, while on-chain authorship allows us to track and trace who owns and trades our items and for what cost”
— Adding physical items to this mix is beneficial as when given easy UX we can bridge those Web2 and Web3 audiences onto the same platform – attracting the existing audience of our designers as well as the virtual devotees. This way the item can be worn in all worlds, representing the brand in physical and digital across all audiences. Alongside this, we can produce the physical item sustainably on-demand — creating less waste through overproduction. This allows us to support our designers, advancing the production means they are not out of pocket. The only issue with this is that fashion production from start to finish takes time, we state a delivery period of up to three months which may cause buyers to be impatient — but we hope that with knowledge of the sustainable benefits, they feel something special and impactful is worth the wait!
What are your future plans to engage with the Metaverse?
— I would like to preface this by saying that the Metaverse does not exist — it is a speculative future vision. What we have at this moment is a series of open worlds that are starting their collaboration and cooperation to drive this vision forward. But building out interoperable worlds and new technologies has little impact without the will to utilize them. This responsibility rests in the laps of creatives and creators as well as those who drive culture. For that reason, we will keep building with and for these platforms with artists and designers who we see at the front of what is creative and new in the fashion space — driving new legacies in digital and physical.
Dave Carr — Head of Creative Strategy and Partnership, OVER
OVER is one of the platforms that this year stood as official hosts for MVFW. Enabled by augmented reality, the decentralized app is letting users create digital layers onto the physical world.
What is OVER doing at MVFW?
— The highlight of our involvement at MVFW was our AR fashion show in Milan on March 31. We took over the famous Piazza del Duomo and invited guests to Terrace 21 overlooking the square to view the virtual catwalk through their smart devices. We also showcased the winners of our other major initiative — the first-ever cross-metaverse design competition. This was a special edition of our regular ARwards contest in which we engage the OVER community to come up with digital assets based on a theme. For MVFW we extended the invitation to members of the Decentraland community and set them the task of creating wearables for both the OVER and Decentraland metaverse ecosystems. This is part of our overall push to make interoperability a reality for the metaverse.
Do you see this as the way forward for digital fashion?
— We do! AR pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of digital fashion in many ways. Traditional fashion weeks in major cities will have an AR metaverse component, allowing brands to be present in multiple locations at the same time and produce impressive virtual environments and displays. Designers will create elaborate garments for multiple metaverse platforms, with a physical and virtual version that are linked to loyalty programs giving owners exclusive benefits. Retailers will enhance their brick-and-mortar stores with exclusive content, offers, and discounts, enabling them to connect more closely with customers, provide rewards and radically alter the shopping experience. And customers will generate pop-up stores in their homes and have their personal avatar — which holds their style preferences and measurements – displaying outfits for instant purchase. All these things we can do right now with the OVER platform.
”Traditional fashion weeks in major cities will have an AR metaverse component”
How could OVER support digital artists and designers?
— Aside from our regular ARwards competitions and other events throughout the year, OVER recently launched a directory where creators can post their profiles and work to potentially get work from brands or owners of digital land on the OVER platform. For the event in Milan, we invited Stefania Valenti from Istituto Marangoni to talk about what her students are creating in the realm of digital fashion. We hope to work more closely with educational institutions around the world to nurture the next generation of AR creators. But at a foundational level, OVER is a decentralized metaverse platform, so our very nature is about encouraging people to take ownership of their digital lives and the content they create.
What do you see as the biggest challenges that digital fashion is facing at the moment?
— Exposure and acceptance from both the industry and mainstream audiences — including the adoption of the technical elements required to make the most of digital fashion — are possibly the biggest challenges. There’s certainly no shortage of energy and enthusiasm for making it work and OVER is all about providing the tools and opportunities for the industry as a whole to extend its reach and maximize its creative potential.
Justin Banon, co-founder, Boson Protocol
Boson Protocol is a blockchain protocol that enables decentralized, commercial exchange of physical items, without centralized intermediaries or trusted counterparties. During MVFW, in their space in Decentraland, Boson hosted panel talks with leading voices from fashion and commerce. They also released their new toolkit that helps brands in their digital transformation towards a new type of commerce.
How do you look at the development of MVFW??
— MVFW has undoubtedly made waves in metaverse innovation, allowing participants to become frontrunners in the intersection of tech and fashion. This was certainly the case with the MVFW 2022 event. Keeping this in mind, the atmosphere surrounding this year’s MVFW will be significantly different for both the fashion and Web3 industries. As we venture out of the tail end of a long-lasting crypto winter, the focus of fashion brands has shifted from generating hype around the metaverse to fixating on pragmatic and viable use cases of fashion retail in the world of blockchain. However, despite a turbulent end to 2022, investment in phygital commerce has remained very strong and it seems as though well-known fashion brands and creators alike are both excited and inspired by the future that Web3 provides them.
”Investment in phygital commerce has remained very strong, and well-known fashion brands are excited and inspired by the future that Web3 provides them”
Working as an intermediary between physical and digital, how do you see your role during MVFW?
— The key mission of MVFW is to promote the convergence of physical and digital fashion. The metaverse provides the perfect environment for the fashion community to do just that, enabling a multi-medium exchange of creativity. The core principles of Web3 have always centred around sharing, owning, and creating value together and MVFW facilitates a platform for major fashion brands to benefit. Boson Protocol further contributes to this support for creators and vendors across Web3 by being the trust-minimizing solution for digital commerce. As Web3’s commerce layer, Boson enables the decentralized commercial exchange of any physical item as a redeemable non-fungible token (NFT).
— Our Metaverse Commerce Toolkit enables any vendor to easily commercialize physical assets within Decentraland’s metaverse. The toolkit is equipped with an intuitive setup process, solidifying the protocol’s status as the go-to suite for Web3 commercial infrastructure. To configure, merchants can simply plug the toolkit into any Decentraland scene. The widget will also be integrated and accessible through the core Decentraland Editor tool, making mass adoption will be possible for many brands. Generally, Boson supports creators and vendors across Web3 by being the trust-minimizing solution for digital commerce and our Metaverse Commerce Toolkit facilitates this goal. It is designed to be used by both consumers and brands while empowering Decentraland land owners to sell physical products in their own scene.
How do you see the future role of fashion in the metaverse?
— For me, tokenized commerce will be fundamental to the future of fashion. The selling of fashion items as NFTs in the metaverse will revolutionize experiential marketing by adding an extra layer of experience for the customer. Tokenized commerce also benefits the brand by providing a record of provenance and can also help to facilitate responsible re-selling. All in all, making the transition from Web2 to Web3 can provide endless benefits for fashion brands, and it seems as though the industry is beginning to wake up and smell the coffee in this regard.
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