Given the hype over the virtual concerts by Travis Scott and Ariana Grande held in the video game Fortnite, brands are starting to see the scope and potential of the metaverse.
This past week was the turn of Decentraland's Metaverse Fashion Week. For many brands, this was their first toe in the water and it heralds the start of an exciting journey. Not everything was perfect by any means, but there were some cool sights on display.
Let's get digital
One highlight was the Dolce & Gabbana x UNXD Catwalk Show, which had a real buzz (unlike some of the other shows, to be honest) and had clearly seized the opportunity: the metaverse isn't about recreating real life but about pushing boundaries and being creative.
It's something fashion brands are used to doing and they did it well here, with digital models as cat avatars flying around rather than stuck on the catwalk – as well as an exclusive look at 20 digital wearables.
Meanwhile, Selfridges (see main image), well known for its retail theatre, created an interactive experience featuring the Paco Rabanne + Victor Vasarely collection as NFTs. Rather than delivering a shoppable experience, the retailer offered a digital recreation of its Birmingham store that served as a gallery and introduction to NFTs.
Tommy Hilfiger, on the other hand, went for a "phygital" approach. The brand showcased its Spring 2022 collection virtually, followed by opening up its digital store so that shoppers could buy NFTs connected to the label. They could then redeem these NFTs for their physical counterparts.
Meanwhile, the Charli Cohen x RSTLSS Experience was from another world, quite literally, as meteorites constantly fell around the audience and spawned the latest limited-edition RSTLSS wearables. Again, it was an amazing show that got a lot of people talking.
What this means for brands
We'd have to question whether those visiting Decentraland for the first time were getting the best experience, as people unfamiliar with the platform and the metaverse were left disoriented at best.
There were also questions about whether a particular show had started (in some cases it had already finished!), with some avatars wandering around aimlessly, walking into walls and just jumping up and down. Others were getting so lost that they missed everything.
The graphics may be a bit slow and jerky, but the fact you can access such platforms through your desktop is a great leveller. The space is still being constructed, after all. Like the first versions of web pages, people will build on top, improving it and creating something that gets better and better over time.
The question for those brands who participated will be what value they derived from the event. Is it a case of opening to new customers and if so, how will they measure success? Attendees, post-event sales, social media discussions?
Also, are these virtual exhibits and locations going to stay there post event, and how will brands ensure people keep coming back rather than just leaving them as digital follies?
Any label that is building an audience in the metaverse should think about how it continues to engage that audience, especially if it's still paying rent for its virtual locations, although that's something we've been unable to ascertain.
But it's clear that there is real scope for excitement. Although so-called "Web3" fashion and retail are still in their infancy, we have seen how fast digital trends can develop and it wouldn't be a surprise to see some elements of this week's new virtual world appearing in real-life fashion shows and retail environments.
But not the plummeting meteorites, thanks all the same. I'll pass on those.
Max Vedel is co-founder and creative director of Web3 creative agency, Swipe Back