Is it going to be metaverse for fashion in 2022?

Dubai - Luxury brands will find themselves more drawn towards the online space

By Sujata Assomull

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Published: Wed 29 Dec 2021, 2:31 PM

Last updated: Fri 17 Jun 2022, 4:45 PM

When Italian luxury house Dolce & Gabbana sold a nine-piece digital collection of NFTs in October, it confirmed that the metaverse was about to become fashion’s new runway. You may remember that high fashion was not very welcoming to going digital, with many luxury brands being averse to selling online till a few years ago. It was believed that the digital world took the exclusiveness and experience of luxury shopping away. The pandemic, however, prompted Louis Vuitton to finally open an online platform in this region. Today, a brand has to have a digital presence to survive — and last year, every brand was talking about how being phygital (blending digital with physical retail experiences) was the way forward.

Luxury brands in this region have been seeing high footfall since lockdown was lifted, but digital sales have remained strong. Go to Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dior at the Dubai Mall, and you may have to wait in line. Even in the United Kingdom, where retail was badly hit, The Office for National Statistics reported that sales of clothing had risen by 2.9 per cent in November and were, in fact, higher than in February 2020 just before the country saw its first lockdown. However, that did affect digital sales, people have not adapted to shopping online — even those who buy luxury. Everyone expected it to be bumper December — but then came Omicron. Now the fashion industry is back under a spell of uncertainty.

While we cannot predict or forecast what will happen in the real world, the online world seems to be one that is just becoming stronger. Digital has been taken to a whole new world, with the metaverse that is not affected by the ebbs and flows of Covid-19. What the advent of this new variant has done is that it has made it clear that digital is one platform we can bank on. Even during uncertain times, we can still lead a virtual life. It has never been more important for a brand to have a “digital-first” approach to their business, and suddenly NFTs do not seem like a silly idea. If we cannot dress up in the real world, let us at least do it in the virtual world.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, and is a digital good that is unique as it comes with a blockchain verification. So, all NFTs have the same status as a Hermes Birkin. These collectible items can be traded and shown off in the metaverse. It gives fashion a whole new universe of creativity — and they can either create something new or dive into their archives. Gucci believes that it is “only a matter of time” before all major fashion houses embrace NFTs. In May 2021, a digital replica of its Dionysus bag was sold on Roblox’s (an online gaming destination) platform for well over $4,000, making it more expensive than the physical bag itself. Virtual fashion allows brands to make a strong play in the world of gaming, which seems to be a flourishing industry. Gamers use pieces of digital fashion to dress and personalise their own avatars. These outfits are called “skins”. (Yes, we are also going to have a whole new vocabulary to be metaverse-fluent.)

There are even virtual department stores, such as the Amsterdam-based The Fabricant. Players such as The Fabricant like to highlight how virtual clothing is, in fact, the most sustainable form of fashion. There is no production involved, and no chance of oversupply. Plus, since no raw materials are needed, it is a win-win for fashion houses as profit margins are higher.

High fashion is now eager to embrace this unreal world. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that next year fashion will be using words like Avatar, Skins and NFTs in their everyday vocabulary. The unreal is about to become very real.

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