Education • 4 min read
By Sophia Cosby
From Zuckerberg dressed in virtual Prada to playing basketball in Nikeland, fashion brands are embracing the metaverse with open and eager arms. But is it a brand building exercise, a cash grab, or both? In this third edition of our metaverse series, we’re looking at all the fashion brands that are dominating the metaverse and what the heck they’re doing there.
Savvy fashion brands have long understood that in order to keep profitable in a constantly changing economy and (social) media landscape, they must evolve their product offering in order to meet the tastes and demands of new generations while keeping that same luxury appeal. Since most Zoomers can’t afford a four-thousand dollar handbag, it’s crucial to offer them something a) that fits within their budget and b) that is relevant to their lifestyle.
Before the rise of digital worldscapes like TikTok or the metaverse, these small, affordable luxuries took the form of beauty products and accessories, like Chanel lipsticks or Louis Vuitton keychains. In the age of the metaverse, it’s a head-to-toe digital outfit for your avatar courtesy of fashion giants like Balenciaga, Nike or Gucci.
Looking to understand the basics of the metaverse? Read our piece: What is the metaverse?
For fashion brands, the metaverse presents yet another opportunity to market their wares to young people, both the digitised versions of their clothes as well as the real, physical thing. Though it’s also a lesson in brand building, it’s mostly a money-making opportunity. And if there is one company that knows something about making boatloads of money, it’s Meta.
Fashion collaborations abound in the metaverse, but no one is quite as good at locking down those big names as the company formerly known as Facebook. In June 2022, Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram’s Head of Fashion Partnerships Eva Chen went on IG Live to reveal three designer looks that users can buy to dress their Meta Avatars. The designs were by Balenciaga, Thom Browne and Prada - all of them fashion powerhouses - and will soon become available for purchase on the Meta store.
According to Meta, "Your avatar is a digital expression of your personality (or personalities) [...] It can convey how much of an extrovert or introvert you are, your sense of humor and even your fashion sense." Even if Zuck’s avatar looks desperately uncool in a four-stripe Thom Browne suit, the already existing appeal of these brands to younger millennials and Gen Z will surely make up for it.
Meta does seem to have one significant rival in the fashion collab game. Roblox, currently the leader when it comes to games in the metaverse, has its own list of fashion credentials, and it’s long: Gucci co-created a virtual metaverse space called the Gucci Garden, where Roblox users can shed their avatars to become Gucci mannequins and explore a Florentine-style mansion. Nike also used the Roblox platform to build its own metaverse space, Nikeland, where fans of the brand can socialise, play virtual basketball and buy digital and physical products. Roblox also has an ongoing collaboration with model-entrepreneur Karlie Kloss, who has released her own digital fashion collection for Roblox gamers.
Parisian luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has come a long way since designing haute couture for Audrey Hepburn. Nowadays, the brand is known for its unrelenting embrace of the future and all things digital, collaborating with countless tech and media companies - not just Meta - to broaden the appeal of its image.
Next to their Meta avatar fashion collaboration, Balenciaga is also working with Epic Games to bring their looks into the hugely popular game Fortnite. The collaboration includes outfits for four of the most beloved Fortnite characters, including Doggo, who will also appear on real-world, physical billboards, and will of course include an exclusive capsule collection that will surely be sold out in a matter of minutes. Balenciaga also recently made the headlines by releasing a special episode of the Simpsons, proving that the brand truly is betting big on popular culture.
Exclusive merch and co-branded metaverse spaces aren’t the only things fashion brands are pushing. Quite a number of fashion houses are embracing the concept of a virtual fashion show. Decentraland, one of the biggest metaverse players, is host of the Metaverse Fashion Week, which includes looks by top designers such as DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Paco Rabanne, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro, as well as shows by digital-first web3 brands like The Sevens, 8SIAN, Fang Gang, & The Mortiverse.
But what will the future look like? Going twinsies with your Meta avatar? Increased teenage dread because you now have to be trendy in two realities? Maybe. But most likely fashion brands will simply continue seeking out new ways of reaching a younger and increasingly richer audience to convince them to buy things they don’t need so as to gain the approval of their peer group. Business as usual for the fashion industry.
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This article is for general purposes of information only and no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made as to, and no reliance should be placed on, the fairness, accuracy, completeness or correctness of this article or opinions contained herein.
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