Is the term “metaverse” familiar to you? The term was coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson, a science fiction author. Google Trends shows that it reached its peak in internet searches in April 2021. It seems to have maintained a high score ever since. Why is everyone suddenly so interested in the Metaverse in the fashion industry?
Beyond the obvious investment race, Epic Games raised $1 billion in April funding to support its long-term vision of the Metaverse. This includes many market opportunities for fashion brands. There are still many unanswered questions. What does the metaverse mean to the fashion industry? How will it affect fashion designers?
What is the metaverse?
Richard Hobbs, from BNV, said that it is not gaming. BNV allows brands and designers to be present in multiple virtual environments. Hobbs defines the metaverse as “anything where a digital asset is easily transferred across multiple uses cases.” However, it is still in its early stages and open-ended.
Although we know that the metaverse isn’t gaming, it is clear that gaming is leading this trend. A market that was worth 152.1 billion dollars in 2020 and continues to grow. People are becoming more familiar with the metaverse through gaming and making it part their daily lives.
Gaming and fashion merge
Leslie Holden is co-founder of The Digital Fashion Group. She believes that combining fashion and gaming can be a promising career path for young designers. “In the UK, there are approximately 5000 fashion design graduates every year, but very few opportunities for employment. The metaverse is a new way to see fashion creatives. It opens up new markets, new opportunities, and offers new jobs. We need to make sure that fashion talent is not wasted, and the metaverse could provide the solution to the problem of traditional fashion’s lack of opportunities.”
Holden says, “The technology we use today to create the Metaverse was developed by the gaming sector, which means the tools weren’t designed for fashion. As with the development of the metaverse, we need to ensure a coordinated approach. Epic Games is aware of this, and they have already invested in fashion. I see the metaverse, which will allow for a new definition and purpose to fashion, possibly powered by new partners, as the beginning of a new definition. This can be a great opportunity for fashion designers.”
Wearability is what we mean by fashion in the metaverse. Richard Hobbs explained that you cannot wear an asset you have purchased in one metaverse to another because there is no single metaverse. Different initiatives are creating different metaverses. Some are owned by companies while others are more decentralised. Both have multiple standards and multiple formats. They both require a single way to own digital assets and use them. The concept of NFTs, and digital asset ownership, is now possible thanks to the emergence of decentralised autonomous organizations. This opened up new business opportunities for fashion designers and brands.
The metaverse is home to fashion designers
This Outfit Does Not Exist’s Daniella Loftus believes designers play a crucial role in this new world. Loftus said, “I see the place of the digital designer as ensuring we are immersed into the digital world.”
Loftus distinguishes three types of digital fashion: the first is phygital. This digital fashion is designed to produce physical garments. The second is physical and digital combined. This is digital fashion that can either be worn in augmented or virtual reality. The third form is fully digital. This is digital fashion that can be sold directly to an avatar. The metaverse focuses on the digital-only and physical forms.
If you think about fashion as a physical phenomenon, it allows you to not only shape your perceptions of yourself when you are wearing clothes, but also the perceptions of others. These functionalities are greatly enhanced when we move into the metaverse. It doesn’t just make you feel better about yourself. Daniella Loftus said, “It is immersing yourself in that virtual environment and defining rules of interaction within that environment.” Designers have an unique role in this scenario. They guide us in our expressions and allow us to interact in new worlds.
What skills do designers need to master in order to become this guide for the metaverse Sean Chiles, cofounder of The Digital Fashion Group says that fashion designers must be able to communicate the emotions that result from researching the zeitgeist and working with physical elements like fabrics and technical trimmings. This is the link to the real. Fashion designers must learn to embrace it and to blend the real and the virtual.
Chiles says that the digital fashion and 3D design techniques are similar to couture or bespoke tailoring, where one person creates an outfit. He said that digitally, you can create many iterations of the same asset, which will lead to a flood in creative output and NFT’s that cannot exist outside of the metaverse. This creates a new kind of pressure on the designer. He concludes that “in the metaverse and digital Fashion Design, mastering AI will be really interesting as AI may help alleviate this problem.”
The metaverse is expanding thanks to technological advances such as artificial intelligence and cloud servers that can run 3D apps and render files quickly. Richard Hobbs points this out, however, that it is still in its early stages and open-ended.
Although technology is still in its infancy, we can take advantage of the opportunity to think about the best ways to set the right mind for the future. Understanding the metaverse, which is a landscape without borders, can help us discover new forms social interaction.
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