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Metaverse is a revolutionary technology, that is driving and defying dominance of internet at the same time
What is Metaverse?
Metaverse, an immersive technology, has gained momentum since Facebook turned Meta and global tech giants such as Microsoft and Apple started making advances in this direction. Meta aspires to create and shape a new virtual world for the future. Metaverse is the next evolution of social connection that will offer a 3D virtual reality universe where users from all over the world can be present at the same time. In a more real-life explanation, metaverse will enable users to experience their 2D selves such as shopping via smartphones or computers, watching concerts or movies, in an environment where they are ‘really’ with their own avatars (3D replicas of self) in a completely virtual 3D world, and can do this simultaneously with users from across the globe. In other words, the digital technology that enables people to shop via 2D devices such as phones or computers will now be able to offer the opportunity to transport to a 3D virtual store.
Metaverse is built on Brands and Trademarks!
Fashion of tomorrow
Over the last two years with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, fashion consumption saw a decline due to store closures and work from home scenarios. This pushed fashion players to switch to online channels for sustaining their business and booking orders. They even switched to virtual shows and exhibitions to reach end consumers. The move helped them survive through the tough times and the result is that today, they are investing in various emerging technologies with increased dependency on digitisation. They have realised that the role of technology will only grow in future, so acquiring futuristic technologies has become one of their top priorities. The development is not solely guided by the need but strong logic too. Metaverse can present more than $50 billion opportunities for the luxury fashion industry over the next decade. This seems quite realisable seeing the increased merging of physical and digital worlds in recent times. This will only gather pace in the future and fashion’s entrenchment in the metaverse will be one of its definite outcomes. Therefore, driven by ‘future-need’, many fashion brands have started their journey to be a part of the metaverse.
Virtual Fashion Shows are on the way
The next fashion segment in the pyramid to have caught the metaverse fever are the designer brands. In this new world, fashion designers do not need fibres or even factories, they can bring their designs to life through computer softwares and 3D animations with the hope that the potential will be vast in the ever-expanding world of metaverse. Fashion brands are smartly using virtual fashion as a marketing inducement to get customers to spend money on their real-life clothing
The American premium clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger was among the first movers. The brand had planned to have 100 percent of its apparel produced via 3D design by 2022. Fully aware that it would require an overhaul of its organisational processes and people, the brand created an internal incubator, called Stitch that operated like a “corporate start-up”. The incubator is made up of two groups – software engineers who develop the proprietary 3D design technology and ‘creatives’ (team) who train and transform the company’s existing design teams. Though the project is far behind its target with 55 per cent realisation so far, it made an enterprising start in the metaverse. The incubator proved to be a critical tool in helping attract the calibre of tech talent required to get such a project to take off. The brand is expected to use the same strategy with a new incubator, Metaverse Studio, which will help the company experiment, test and learn to become a formidable player in the virtual reality space. Like many fashion brands, Tommy Hilfiger is also relying on third parties to realise its virtual ambitions. In addition to collaborating with Roblox and Animal Crossing, the brand has since 2019 worked with Obsess – an e-commerce platform that builds virtual stores. Tommy Hilfiger’s case suggests that if the metaverse is to live up to its hype and fashion players are to truly profit off of it long-term, they will need to map out a talent strategy. The strategy must allow them to build their own bench strength which would include finding a pool of 3D designers and engineers having the skill to work with or develop technology.
Metaverse is catching up with sportswear brands too, led by segment leaders like Nike and Adidas. Nike made a major investment in the metaverse by acquiring RTFKT, a leading virtual fashion platform best known as a creator of virtual sneakers. RTFKT, founded in 2020, is a leading innovator within the space. It took a page from streetwear and arguably Nike’s own playbook and has developed a large fan base through limited-edition drops and collaborations with artists such as Jeff Staple and Takashi Murakami. In the process, Nike’s own digital footprint and capabilities will be strengthened too. The brand plans to upscale as its own distinct entity rather than absorbing it into their existing identity. In its earlier move, Nike had partnered with Roblox to create a trio of digital characters and worked with Fortnite to bring Jordan sneakers into the game. Nike’s virtual space efforts continued when the brand filed for trademark applications for virtual goods. Additionally, it has sought to hire in the space, posting job listings for ‘virtual material’ designers. It also launched a new collaboration with Fortnite again that was centred on its Jordan brand and a full-fledged experience in Roblox called Nikeland. Despite Nike’s growing interest in virtual goods, they are not expected to make any substantial share of its revenue anytime soon.
Nikeland is Nike's new headquarters in Roblox's immersive 3D space.
Nike, Adidas and Vans World are now betting that there is room for even more growth, and that gaming becomes just one component of a more far-reaching metaverse.
A screenshot from inside Metaverse Fashion Week
Metaverse Fashion Week
Doesn't it sound fancy already? 70 Brands including Dolce & Gabbana, Forever 21, Tommy Hilfiger took part in the recently held Metaverse Fashion Week With the rise of digital goods and metaverse shopping experiences, Decentraland’s Fashion Week seeks to provide a space for people to express themselves and expand the understanding of their own self through wearables.
Future of digital fashion
As a revolutionary technology, Metaverse has a bright future whose journey in the fashion world has just begun. However, a space with only digital fashion will remain a distant realisation until the technology is made accessible to everyone. Till then, metaverse—bringing all the tech concepts of AI, blockchain, machine language, cryptocurrency and NFT together—is expected to continue to expand organically. While it elevates the digital world to a different stage and brings along new production and consumption processes, it is anticipated that the changing perception of reality and needs will also accelerate the transformation of the industry . As consumers spend more time online and the hype around the metaverse will continue to cascade into virtual goods, it is anticipated that fashion leaders will unlock new ways of engaging with high value younger associates. To capture untapped value streams, players should explore the potential of NFTs, gaming and virtual fashion – all of which offer fresh routes to creativity, community-building and commerce.
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