When "Dematerialised," a digital department store, opened a couple of years back, it raised many eyebrows. It was not because it sells fashion items exclusively online; it was more because people couldn't fathom buying stuff that they couldn't really wear.
The online store isn't the first to sell clothing and accessories on the web, but its approach is unique. Instead of the conventional way of selling items online and shipping them to the buyer, Dematerialised offers "virtual luxuries," which are digital renderings of renowned fashion pieces.
But Dematerialised is just the beginning. Fashion is moving to the metaverse, and it will look a lot different from what we're used to.
Recall your first encounter with the internet two decades ago. It was a novel experience, wasn't it? But things have changed, and we mean changed a lot since then.
The way we interact with the digital world is constantly evolving, and fashion is no exception. We communicate, buy stuff, bank, socialize, and date online. With the rise of augmented and virtual reality, people are starting to experiment with new ways to dress up and accessorize. Having said that, fashion brands are taking full advantage as well.
It All Started with Online Shopping
Luxury brands and clothing retailers alike have made the shift to e-commerce over the past few years. This was a necessary move, as brick and mortar stores were no longer generating enough revenue to stay afloat.
But e-commerce is just the beginning. Online stores have to compete with physical stores on price and product range, so they're starting to focus on other areas, such as customer experience and engagement. Take Dematerialised, for example. It doesn't just sell clothes; it sells the experience.
Dematerialised isn't the only online store to focus on experience over tangible items. Other luxury brands are doing the same. In fact, some brands are choosing to forgo physical stores altogether and focus exclusively on online sales.
The reason for this shift is simple: customers want a better experience. They want to shop from anywhere, and they want unique products that they can't find in physical stores. They also want a personalized shopping experience that's tailored to their needs.
In a way, a unique shopping experience goes hand-in-hand with a fashion enthusiast's craving for exclusivity. Many luxury brands focus on exclusivity by only selling their products in certain stores or not selling them online.
But exclusivity is starting to lose its appeal. In a world where everything and everyone is accessible, customers are looking for something different. They're looking for an experience that's exclusive to them, not just a rare handbag or piece of jewellery.
Digital Showrooms Showcase How Fashion Integrates into the Metaverse
Digital showrooms are the next step in e-commerce. They offer a more immersive shopping experience, and they allow customers to interact with products in a way that's not possible with traditional online stores.
Digital showrooms also give customers a sneak peek into how fashion will integrate into the metaverse. It means everyone will eventually shop for clothes and accessories in virtual reality. Would-be buyers will try them on, mix and match different items, and see how they look on them.
Virtual reality serves as the perfect medium for fashion because it allows customers to be creative and expressive. It's the perfect way to experiment with different styles and trends. And since there are no physical limitations, customers create any look they want without being limited by the conventional online store inventory or the brick-and-mortar store's finite supply.
The traditional retail model is no longer feasible in the internet age, and fashion is leading the way. Digital showrooms are replacing physical stores, and e-commerce gives way to virtual reality. It's an exciting time for fashion, and the metaverse will look very different in a short span.
"Try Before You Buy"
The concept of "try before you buy" best represents how the fashion industry incorporates itself into the metaverse. Traditionally, you turn on your computer, find an e-commerce site, and then pay for the clothing via credit card or other means to deliver it to your doorstep. But one thing's missing here: the chance to try the product on before buying it.
Some online stores are starting to address this issue by offering free returns and exchanges. But that's not enough. Customers want to be able to try the clothes on in a virtual space, and they want to be able to do it without having to leave their homes.
This is where the concept of the metaverse comes in. It allows you to try on a product virtually to see how it looks on you. You can also experiment with different styles and colours to see what works best for you.
It's the perfect way to shop for clothes, and it's something that customers are starting to demand. In the metaverse, e-commerce stores, especially those that sell clothing and accessories, will have to embrace the idea of a virtual dressing room.
Virtual Fashion Shows in the Metaverse
Another face of fashion in the metaverse is the virtual fashion show. These shows are a far cry from the traditional runway show, where a select few models show off the latest designs to a privileged audience.
In a virtual fashion show, anyone can be a model. You strut your stuff on the catwalk, and you can try on any outfit you want. There are no restrictions, and there's no need to be super skinny.
Virtual fashion shows are also a great way to get feedback on new designs. You see how people react to new clothing trends, and you can get an idea of what works and what doesn't.
But the most important purpose of a virtual fashion show is to generate interest. It's why even the biggest names in the fashion industry are pouring in the money for these shows. They know that a successful virtual fashion show will create buzz and generate a lot of sales.
Avatars in the Metaverse
Gamers have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to advancements in technology. And while fashion and gaming might seem like strange bedfellows, they might actually be soul mates. Digital fashion already gives gamers the ability to dress their avatar characters in armour, clothes and weapons. But now popular fashion brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have seen the potential of greater collaborations with popular games.
Louis Vuitton has launched a game where players can collect NFTs, and Burberry has created branded NFT accessories for Blankos Block Party, a game owned by Mythical Games. Gucci has sold non-NFT clothing for avatars within the game Roblox. Balenciaga has collaborated with Fornite, allowing avatars to dress in the brand’s signature Tripple-S sneakers and backpacks. No doubt this is just the beginning as the metaverse grows in popularity.
The Emergence of Virtual Fashion Influencers
A Los Angeles-based start-up rolled some dice and bet on the future of fashion by introducing Lil Miquela. Labelled as a "digital human," she works as a virtual influencer and is quite good at that. Her 3 million followers on Instagram is proof that the gamble of using a "digital" person instead of a real one could very well grab every fashion aficionado's attention.
Lil Miquela is no fluke, too. She'd worked with the likes of Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Dior, to name a few.
Virtual influencers are creating a new paradigm in the world of fashion. They're not just personalities with many followers; they're characters that epitomize the use of the latest technology to their advantage. They can create digital content that resonates with their audience, and they use virtual reality to take their followers on a behind-the-scenes tour of their lives. And remember, these aren't real people.
Virtual Ownership in the Metaverse
And then there's virtual ownership. Going back to Dematerialised, the initiative of owning a luxury clothing or accessory without even having a physical representation is taken to the next level by non-fungible tokens.
Last year, Italian fashion giant Dolce & Gabbana announced its foray into NFTs, highlighted by a collection of nine handmade museum-grade items. This is a significant step into the metaverse by an influential brand.
Fashion houses are beginning to understand the value of providing a unique digital experience to their loyal following. NFTs allow them to muster collections without physical representation and still make a ton of money.
The concept of virtual ownership is another tenet of the metaverse. It's the idea that you can own something that doesn't exist in the physical world. This could be a virtual product, such as a clothing item, or a virtual space, such as a house.
The truth is the metaverse is not a new frontier. It's a continuation of the digital age, and it's only natural that all industries, including fashion, find their way in. The products of technology can be creepy at times (virtual influencer?), like a Westworld episode, but they are also fascinating, opening up a whole new world to explore.