We live in a world that’s obsessed with the concept of identity–so much so that we’re about to immerse ourselves into a virtual world where we’ll go shopping for digital clothing and accessories to decorate our own personal avatars with.
While this may sound like an abstract concept, it’s already operating in full-flow throughout the world of gaming–and the metaverse appears to be quickly catching on to the idea.
In 2022, we saw over 60 brands from the world of fashion take part in the first Metaverse Fashion Week, hosted in the Decentraland metaverse. Participants included the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and ETRO, and the four-day event saw a collection of digital designers take to virtual runways displaying new avatar skins.
The event was designed to illustrate the scale of business opportunity and creative potential that the metaverse can open up for fashion brands.
With emerging technologies like blockchain paving the way for proof-of-ownership mechanisms recorded in NFTs, it’s already possible for users to purchase garments for their avatars through the use of cryptocurrency online.
Throughout the furore, you might be wondering why people would want to pay for outfits that they’ll never be able to physically wear. And the answer is that, according to some, the metaverse will be our dominant means of socializing online.
In fact, the age of avatar fashion is very much already upon us:
The Rise of The Avatar
Avatars have been steadily growing in popularity in the world of gaming and on social media for some time now. Thanks to the proof-of-ownership mechanisms utilized by NFTs, online collectibles like Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks have been adopted as profile pictures by many on social media.
In recent months, Twitter has even launched a premium feature that allows users to use an NFT they own as a specially designated profile picture. In using NFTs as profile pictures on social media, users are effectively putting their collectibles to use as an avatar in a similar way to art collectors putting their favorite images on display.
Art is often viewed as a store of wealth, and this same metric can be active in the world of avatar fashion. NFTs can be bought and sold on digital marketplaces, meaning that the user can buy an item that they like in-store, then have a spring clean of their purchases and put their lesser used items on sale.
For digital clothing to exist as a store of wealth, it needs to be desirable to enough of a market. This appears to be assured, too, according to the Roblox interpretation of the metaverse, which claims that Gen Z values digital clothing as much as physical garments. This is according to Roblox data which saw a 25% rise in the volume of active creators building digital goods on the platform–with 11.5 million creators designing 62 million items of clothing and accessories in 2022.
“Gen Z consumers are spending more time in immersive social spaces like Roblox, where they have been expressing themselves through their creations and digital style preferences for over a decade,” said Christina Wootton, Roblox’s vice president of global partnerships.
“With their growing economic power and influence on fashion, trends from the metaverse are expected to have a profound impact on physical fashion, while trends from the physical world will also continue to move into the metaverse.”
These trends are echoed in the world of gaming, with Fortnite announcing that it made some $50 million from launching a set of NFL-themed character skins on the platform’s marketplace. In total, the game sold 3.3 million of the skins at around $15 each.
The Impact of Metaverse Style
Naturally, the impact of the metaverse varies depending on who you ask. According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, humans will ultimately live within the virtual parameters of the metaverse–which will carry a direct impact on how we interpret fashion and build our personal styles.
The summer of 2022 saw Meta launch its own metaverse avatar store, featuring leading brands like Balenciaga, Prada, and Thom Browne. The move means that theoretically, if you’re looking for Prada glasses like a physical collection to wear about town, you’re also free to visit the metaverse and try them on your avatar and even purchase a digital version of them.
With the launch of Meta’s avatars store, the tech giants invite users to ‘be uniquely you’. But what does this mean for design trends?
In a virtual world where we’re capable of being whoever we want, and without having factors like the weather or preparation time impacting our clothing choices, metaverse fashion is likely to deviate from real world trends, and potentially cause traditional trends to be far more pronounced–lasting over shorter periods of time.
The early days of the metaverse could see an avatar gold rush as users become more comfortable buying NFTs with cryptocurrency, and we may see more outlandish looks and styles.
Whether these digital trends can bring more color and vibrancy to our physical appearance and fashion trends remains to be seen, but the furore surrounding virtual avatar fashion is real–and it’s set to bring its disruptive influence to the world of fashion.