Imagine the scene. You just opened your Christmas present and that’s exactly what you were hoping for – a Balenciaga blazing coat. Next door is your sister wearing a new waterfall gown by Louis Vuitton; It is made of freshly melted alpine snow and forms a pond around its feet.
At the moment, this may sound like a dream caused by a lot of Christmas cheese, but it’s actually a glimpse into metaverse and what might be the future of fashion. Take off your VR glasses on the same Christmas Day and you’ll find your family sitting on the couch in ramshackle old pajamas – but do you care when you look dazzling in the metaverse?
If every sentence you’ve read so far seems more confusing than the previous one, don’t worry. It’s helpful to know what the metaverse actually is – although defining it is trickier than you think, as no one really knows yet. Some people describe it as the future of the internet: a completely virtual world with offices, bars, restaurants, concerts, and sports arenas that you can dip in and out of whenever you want. Not every metaverse will be tested in VR but it will probably be an essential part of it, hence the need to wear something.
In one of Facebook’s first videos about the metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg (or his avatar, anyway) wears a T-shirt that changes size and color multiple times over the course of a few minutes. It’s not a Dolce & Gabbana robe, but it shows that Silicon Valley – not usually the most popular place in fashion – sees clothing as a key ingredient in this brave new world. Surprisingly, the fashion industry responded to this video by pointing out that Zuckerberg’s hypothetical appearance was devoid of imagination. Facebook then tweeted to Balenciaga to say he needed style advice and the brand failed to respond – the cool kids clearly aren’t quite ready to be friends with the techies.
Most fashion companies right now are hedging their bets on how much money customers will be willing to spend on non-existent clothing, but some are definitely making the leap into the realm of virtual collections more boldly than others – Hermès, for example, has no plans to enter the metaverse, Because it “appreciates the tangible expression of handcrafted physical objects”.
But Gucci, Rimowa, Givenchy, Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jimmy Choo, among quite a few other luxury brands, are all investing. Balenciaga has named chief executive of Metaverse, and news this week revealed that Nike has bought RTFKT Studios (better known as “artefact”), a British startup that makes virtual sneakers and sportswear. Nike hasn’t revealed how much it spent on the London-based company a year ago, but given that RTFKT was valued at £25m during this summer’s funding round (and subsequently pumped in another £6m), I think a lot.