A lot has been made of the metaverse recently. For some, its digital streets are paved with gold, whilst for others, it’s the beginning of a dystopia no sane human being would want to take part in. So, which is it?
First, it’s probably best to broach what the metaverse actually is, in case you’ve been cowering under a rock, shielding yourself from NFTs and the like. Broadly speaking, the metaverse is a digital space (cyberspace if you will) where users can migrate the things they do in real-life – shop, socialise, attend gigs, play games, etc. – from the comfort of their own homes. The experience can be accentuated by a VR headset, and you’ll be represented within the environment by an avatar of your choosing.
Brands have already made themselves at home here, with the likes of Nike, Samsung, Gucci, and Warner Bros. variously hosting launches, parties, events, and the chance to buy content exclusive to the metaverse. Just as in the real-world, prime real estate is coveted and brands – as well as ordinary folk with more money than sense – are snapping up ‘parcels’ (digital lots of space) in metaverses like Decentraland. Some for hundreds of thousands of dollars, although the benchmark (folly) remains a parcel recently going for $2.4million in crypto currency.
Now if we strike an air of scepticism about the whole thing, it’s not because we’re wearied old souls, or the idea of us living on the internet (more so) awakens a Paradise Lost pathos in us, it’s more that this already feels like a bubble swelling with hype, that risks bursting before finally settling on its true form several incarnations down the road. It’s worth reminding ourselves that social media, in its halcyon days, began as a place for people, and brands jostled in afterwards. With the metaverse, it’s the reverse, with most of the early adopters appearing to be brands. How this informs the landscape of the metaverse remains to be seen…
But enough speculating, we went to experience the metaverse for ourselves, specifically its interpretation of Fashion Week. We sent along our intrepid intern Ella, to the Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) and these were her findings…
Your first foray into the MVFW is the Boson Forum – which has the feel of an 80s music video. There, you could find 13 buildings belonging to brands where you could purchase both physical and digitals items using crypto currency. Mugler’s new perfume, ‘Alien’, was given a solid plug with posters lining the streets, amongst other, more obscure brands.
However, problems quickly became apparent… The server was overcrowded, causing it to lag and freeze every 10 minutes or so, meaning the page had to be refreshed – hardly the immersive experience we wanted it to be. Interactions are possible here, with a chat window in the bottom left corner of your screen. However, the chat was mostly reserved for venting about the overcrowding, talking NFTs, tokens, and trading collectibles, before disappearing from the server.
There were spaces around this area where you could buy physical and digital items, and even a museum with digital sculptures on display. However, without thousands of pounds, your experience was limited – in that respect, MVFW is similar to the real Fashion Weeks at least.
There were talks you could attend, but these tended to be Zoom calls positioned at an angle so as to look like projections on a wall – so far so disappointing. But the technical difficulties really came into their own during the main event – the catwalk shows – with models disappearing mid-walk, music cutting out, the clothes and models looking a bit grey and lifeless. This was the experience for the Dress X show, anyway.
It wasn’t all bad however, provided you stood in the front row, there was an unexpected amount of detail in the clothing. However, you’d be better served by a lookbook on a website or social to actually browse clothes.
For those who have attended real-life Fashion Weeks before, this was a pale imitation. The noise, excitement, and buzz replaced by technical glitches. Obviously, this is still in its infancy, but it’ll take an enormous leap in execution for this to be taken seriously, either as an auxiliary event to the Fashion Weeks, or a successor.
There’s huge potential here, particularly for agencies and their clients, and we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t keep our finger on the pulse or look for new avenues or opportunities. Is it worth waiting out for metaverse 2.0? On the evidence of MVFW, we’ll wait to see what next season brings.