The Metaverse Fashion Week showed how designers and brands can further engage with customers using nonfungible tokens (NFTs). For now, the metaverse might be an emerging concept. However, the impact and effect that virtual game-like worlds can have on the trillion-dollar retail space were recently displayed at the Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW).
This wholly virtual experience was held between March 24 and March 27, 2022, in Decentraland. Decentraland is a decentralized virtual social platform on the Ethereum blockchain. The online event attracted over 70 brands, designers, and artists including major names like Philipp Plein, Tommy Hilfiger, Selfridges, Estée Lauder, and Dolce & Gabbana.
Head of Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week, Gigi Graziosi Casimiro, said that MVFW is a diverse event that strives to connect digital and physical fashion with traditional brands and new creators:
“MVFW is important because it connects many parts of a bigger engine in the fashion industry. This event allows brands to explore new possibilities for their creation and communication with customers. We are essentially building a stronger fashion community in Decentraland that allows people to express art beyond physical limitations.”
Integrating The Digital And The Physical World
MVFW offered a glimpse into what the future of fashion might look like, as designers and brands displayed various wearable nonfungible tokens (NFTs) on 3D genderless avatars that were seen strutting across fantasy-like catwalks. While the concept might sound wholly unrealistic, which is the intent, famous fashion designers praised MVFW for being one of the most exciting and opportunistic ways for brands to also engage with clients.
The president and chief brand officer of Tommy Hilfiger Global, Avery Baker, said that his brand has been curious about new trends and technologies, mostly those that enable the label to connect with the consumers and clients distinctly:
“Consumers’ appetite for digital experiences has never been stronger and as we integrate the digital and physical worlds, the Metaverse offers endless opportunities for creativity, collaboration, storytelling, and community building. Whether it’s NFTs, avatar fashion shows, or something else we haven’t explored yet, I’m excited to see what’s to come.”
While echoing Baker, American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger mentioned during a fireside chat that the Metaverse seems to be the future of fashion that happened at MVFW. Hilfiger appeared together with the co-founder of Boson Protocol, Justin Banon, and the chair of MVFW, Cathy Hackl. Boson Protocol is a Web3 protocol that is building a settlement layer for commerce in the Metaverse.
At the start of the discussion, Hilfiger said:
“It’s part of our DNA to embrace what’s next, and I believe the Metaverse is next and will lead us to more creativity, more experienced, and more opportunity to build a community of fans worldwide.”
German fashion designer Philipp Plein was also seen to participate in the MVFW, displaying his latest digital-only NFT collection in the newly purchased $1.4 million Plein Plaza, which is a 176,528 square-foot plot of land located in the Decentraland Metaverse.
Plein insisted that he wants to be a part of MVFW for several reasons, one being that the first event he hosted in Decentraland was highly successful. He explained:
“We had our first event in Decentraland in February this year, which featured a real humanoid robot representing our voice in the Metaverse. We attracted over 3,000 attendees and sold 11 sneakers within an hour via an auction powered by NFT auction house Portion.”
Plein also said that the average time the attendees spent at his initial metaverse event was 40 minutes, which is considerably longer than the time that consumers normally spend looking at websites.
Explaining more on this issue, Banon said that brands can better engage with their clients in the metaverse since the virtual environments blur boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. He stated:
“What we are seeing is physical and digital items becoming “digiphysical” — digital tied to physical — or physical items that have an experiential component as well.”
In terms of how all that will play out, Banon explained that Boson Protocol enables the physical and digital elements to get represented by an NFT that can be tradable, gamified, and programmable. These factors make the metaverse a game-like world of commerce. He added:
“This is all merging into physical and digital experimental commerce.”
To put everything into perspective, Banon stated during the fireside chat that in the future, there might be a window display at a flagship Tommy Hilfiger store that features a digital jacket that cannot be bought in-store. To acquire such an item, Banon said that consumers would need to scan a QR code that would then send them to a metaverse environment, such as Decentraland, where a quest or game would need to be getting played to earn an NFT.
This nonfungible token would then possibly unlock three components: a redeemable physical NFT that can be acquired from a store, website, and an experimental NFT that will offer customers access to a Tommy Hilfiger fashion show in the future, and a digital wearable to wear in the Metaverse. Banon explained:
“That physical to the digital experience for retailers is what the Metaverse and Boson Protocol enables.”
Though just several major brands have been participating in the development of physical and digital designs, Hilfiger mentioned during the fireside chat that he wants to remain a step ahead of all competition. He added:
“The Metaverse allows us to evolve the retail journey we are on. We are always looking for ways to make retail exciting because we know it can get boring doing what we’ve been doing in years past, which is just selling physical products. If we are living in the Metaverse, it allows the community to create digital skins, buy, sell, trade them or put them on avatars to play games with and then reap the rewards.”
Apart from the digital wearables displayed on 3D avatars, MVFW featured pop-up shops from the retailers who were selling NFT accessories tethered to the physical items. For instance, one global leader in luxury collectible accessories, Privé Porter, planted its luxury resale pop-up shop in the Decentraland Threedium Plaza. In the 4-day event, Privé Porter featured up to four 3D NFT Hermès bags surpassing $500,000 in value.
The co-founder of Privé Porter, Jeffrey Berk, said that the firm has never dabbled in e-commerce previously, stating that Privé Porter has surpassed $130 million in revenue to date, mainly off of its Instagram account. Berk added that there is also a physical Privé Porter situated in Miami’s Brickell City Center.
Berk believes that Privé Porter is ready to get involved with e-commerce to reach many other platforms and thrive. That is the reason why the reseller featured 3D NFT Hermès Birkin and Kelly handbags during the Metaverse Fashion Week. Berk stated:
“We are offering a more engaging experience than anyone else selling a Birkin today.”
Berk explained that customers who visit the Privé Porter pop-up can interact with the items by clicking on the 3D handbags. Boson Protocol’s technology then sets up a pop-up interface with descriptions, pictures, and other data specific to the item.
In case a consumer wishes to purchase a bag, they are urged to confirm a blockchain transaction that results in Boson Protocol’s smart contracts taking whole custody of the payment together with the issuance of an NFT Voucher that is redeemable for the physical good. Berk explained:
“The buyer may then decide to transfer, trade or redeem the NFT Voucher for the physical item.”
He also said that in case a customer decides to redeem the voucher, Privé Porter will deliver the item and then issue the customer a Privé “A-NFT,” which is a validated nonfungible token (NFT) where the amount of the sale is always documented on the blockchain.
Although MVFW ended on March 27, Berk stated that the Privé Porter pop-up saw adequate traffic that Threedium, which is the firm’s 3D technology partner, urged Privé Porter to extend its presence in Decentraland up to the end of April 2022.
Besides Privé Porter, the privately-held jeweler and wristwatch retailer Jacob & Co. hosted a showroom at MVFW in the UNXD Luxury District to display its new “Astronomia Metaverso” collection. The Dubai-based publisher of Vogue Arabia and founder and CEO of UNXD, Shashi Menon, said that he views the collection as a catalyst for the way luxury fashion accessories will look in the future. Menon stated:
“Jacob & Co. will do the same for watches and jewelry as Dolce & Gabbana did by becoming the first luxury label to display their designs in the Metaverse.”
MVFW Highlights The Future Of Retail, But Will It Thrive?
While the metaverse enables a bigger opportunity for designers and brands to reach customers, some may wonder if this game-like concept will resonate with the mainstream, mostly older generations. For example, Hilfiger said during his panel that the Metaverse is unlocking the future of fashion, particularly since we are living within the culture that is defined by Generation Z. Hilfiger commented:
“We have to speak their language, and this is the language they speak.”
Though this concept might resonate well with younger people, the technical aspects that are associated with the Metaverse might be quite challenging for some. For instance, some of the users expressed technical challenges during MVFW, noting that the computers could not handle Decentraland’s needs.
my laptop fan sounded like it was about to take off on an international flight ✈️
— cryptochic (@CADcrypto) March 24, 2022
Regarding the technical complications, Casimiro said that Decentraland is optimized to function smoothly across the board, but:
“Older systems, out-of-date software, etc., occasionally may see unforeseen issues.”
Furthermore, the graphics in Decentraland might also need enhancement once marketing in the Metaverse gains some momentum and traction with more brands. The CEO of Portion, Jason Rosenstein, said that there are several limitations in Decentraland as a result of low texture and resolution. Portion is an NFT marketplace powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Rosenstein said:
“We have to put this on the blockchain, so it’s super-low resolution, which is a huge constraint for brands. But, this is a problem for every metaverse ecosystem today.”
Worries aside, MVFW appears to have convinced most people that the future of retail does exist in the Metaverse. Based on Banon, Boson Protocol is already working with most brands on developing a metaverse strategy:
“In the next 12-18 months, brands will experiment and do pilots in the Metaverse. Some may fail, but in the next two years brands won’t get a pass. If you are a marketing or innovation director of a brand and don’t have a metaverse strategy in place, you probably won’t have a job moving forward.”
While it is challenging to forecast the future, it is worth noting that cryptocurrency investment giant Grayscale recently discovered that the Metaverse is a trillion-dollar revenue opportunity across social commerce, hardware, advertising, digital events, and developer/creator monetization.
Furthermore, the designers who have already began exploring the Metaverse are now shaping the ecosystem for others. For instance, Hilfiger said during his panel that going forward, it will be up to the Hilfiger community and consumers to determine what products they want to shop for:
“I think that in five years’ time, we are going to see digital and virtual stores that will change rapidly and not remain the same. We want to create stickiness. We want our community to come to Tommy Hilfiger and stay there as part of their lifestyle, so they are going to tell us what they want and need.”
Plein said that he now has 100 stores globally, but will soon open a pop-up shop in London where the clients can buy NFTs upon check out as wearables for avatars in the Metaverse. Banon stated:
“This is an upsell that will be available to our clients, which will also help bring the mainstream in. In a year or so, it will be unusual for brands not to offer digital wearables.”