While designers have dabbled in gaming for years, only now is the collective fashion industry taking its first earnest step into the metaverse. As it sets its fabulous foot into the blockchain-based virtual world of Decentraland for Metaverse Fashion Week, or MVFW, WWD will report on some of the sights and events in this running diary.
The inaugural installment begins with the opening of Selfridges’ Decentraland venue on Wednesday, followed by four days of runway shows, brand activations, interactive experiences and myriad shopping opportunities across multiple digital storefronts showcasing wearables for avatars, NFTs, artworks and more.
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Participating brands span virtual fashion trailblazers like DressX and Auroboros to marquee maisons and IRL brands, with notable names like Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Nicholas Kirkwood, Perry Ellis, Imitation of Christ, Estée Lauder, Etro, Hogan, Dundas and others.
Virtual worlds have hosted their own fashion events before. Indeed, matters of style have loomed large in places like Second Life for years, as illustrated most recently in its own “Fashion Week” spectacle in February. But the SL showcase hinged on a single designer, Jonathan Simkhai, while Decentraland’s MVFW stands out for its traction among an expansive array of brands, including houses more at home on New York, Milan and Paris runways than digital catwalks.
David Cash, Decentraland’s fashion week curator, pointed out another crucial distinction. “The differentiation is that this is on-chain, versus Second Life, which was off-chain,” he told WWD, referring to blockchain-based collectibles such as NFTs.
“I really hope that one of the things that people can discover by exploring virtual fashion week and Decentraland is what real unchained ownership looks like, in terms of virtual assets — versus what stored Web2 ownership of assets looks like — and understand what it means to own something on-chain,” he explained. “We’re trying to facilitate an open metaverse where people can go between centralized outlets like, say, an AR filter and Decentralized or even to other metaverse solutions.”
WWD’s Running Diary of MVFW Coverage
Tips for Navigating Decentraland for Newcomers
Some WWD reporters have navigated virtual worlds before, while others are experiencing this for the first time. In the process, the staff has come to learn a few simple tips that may help, no matter the experience level.
Easy Teleportation to MVFW Via Sunglasses:
At the Genesis Plaza, look for the Parcel kiosk (pictured above) for sunglasses that make it easy to teleport to some MVFW destinations and current events.
Reducing Performance Lag:
If an incessant lag is ruining the experience, tap the user icon on the upper right and check “settings,” specifically the “graphics” section. (Tapping the escape key sometimes opens the account menu as well.) A person moving about a lot may want to set graphics quality to “low” to improve speed and performance, then switch to “high” or “ultra” when the visuals matter — for instance, while staying still and watching a runway show.
Buying or Nabbing Free NFTs Requires a Wallet:
One can take a tour of Decentraland as a guest, but to buy NFTs or even to pick up free ones, the user must have a wallet connected. Decentraland aimed to make this easy by offering three options. The organization recommends MetaMask. WWD reporters went through the process and opened a wallet, which didn’t require adding funds, i.e. actual money.
A Few Other Basics:
Hitting the “V” key on the physical keyboard changes perspective from third-person to first-person and back.
A left tap on the screen allows the user to look around without actually moving the avatar.
If performance is still a problem, try closing other apps, emptying the trash and restarting the computer.
Hit the “C” key on the keyboard to call up the control panel for more keyboard shortcuts.
– Adriana Lee
Retail/Pop-up Shops: No Two Are Alike
Expecting a consistent experience is folly, as brands’ virtual manifestations on Luxury Street and elsewhere were in different states of play on Thursday across different approaches. That may be part of the fun or just plain frustrating, depending on the visitor.
Some, like Dundas, Hogan and Dolce & Gabbana, hardly had anything to showcase earlier today, intending to roll out experiences and items over time or after their runway shows open. Indeed, after D&G hit the catwalk, its Decentraland door was magically populated with digital fare.
Hogan offered one NFT for early visitors, with more to come, but the selection of “attendance” tokens was snapped up quickly. Plenty of POAP tokens, or “Proof of Attendance Protocol” NFTs, were still available at Estée Lauder when WWD swung by Thursday. Think of these as the virtual world’s version of participation trophies. Ahead of MVFW, the beauty brand said it would offer as many as 10,000 NFTs.
At Tommy Hilfiger, digital-to-physical products were available for sale, with shipping to real-world addresses listed at two to four weeks. Nicholas Kirkwood’s NFT shoe collabs with White Rabbit were on display, floating above their pedestals and tempting shoppers to blow their Ethereum cryptocurrency budgets.
More to come on the retail front, but for now, it’s clear that the brands took their Decentraland debuts quite seriously. Most blended the familiar feel of physical storefronts on the outside, with fantasy elements inside that aren’t possible in the real world — that is, unless Dolce & Gabbana’s brick-and-mortars feature teleportation too. (They don’t.)
For a visual tour of some of the stores, check out the gallery. – Adriana Lee
Imitation of Christ, Guo Pei and more
First impressions of Metaverse Fashion Week from someone who just jumped into Decentraland for the first time: Avatar style is where it’s at. My regular issue black pants, red blazer, sunglasses and slides are no match for the kind of looks others are serving up, with marijuana leaves as wings, light-up shoes, penguin heads, robot accessories and more. I’m definitely the worst dressed in Genesis Plaza.
Another takeaway from me, is how much brand messaging there is for a world that bills itself as a non-for-profit. Just like in real life, I feel like I’m being advertised to everywhere, from the DKNY billboards, to the shop banners on Luxury Street.
I wandered into the Imitation of Christ store, where the first floor was a punk rock, anti-war statement (which is very Imitation of Christ IRL). Navigating around a set piece spelling out “No War,” were signs calling on Putin to stop his war, and others showcasing the Ukrainian flag. The looks on the mannequins were streetwear kilts, hoodies, catsuits, combat boots and the like. Upstairs on level two, were more couture-like designs, if you can call anything virtual or animated couture.
Over on Luxury Street, inside the luxe Guo Pei store, the Chinese designer’s artistry translated only somewhat; a gown that seemed to be a digital dupe of her 2006 “Magnificent Gold” gown hardly compared to seeing the gold work embroidery up close. Wandering around and looking at her pieces was pleasant though, even if other MVFWers did invade my personal avatar space a little. If you are going to come so close, why not wave or say “hi?”
I did try to say hi to one avatar whose pants I really liked. I even asked where she bought them, hoping I might be able to score a pair with some mana coin. She didn’t share. – Booth Moore
Dolce & Gabbana
Surprisingly enough, attending the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show in the metaverse had lots of similarities with IRL runway events: Reaching the right location was equally tricky, sitting down front row even harder and resisting the impulse to take pictures – or screenshots – to simply relax and enjoy the show, practically impossible.
Guests had to “teleport” to the location, provided that they managed to understand how to do so. The experience was not unlike finding the right venue address down winding streets of New York, London, Milan or Paris, except no traffic jam was involved here. Once at the show venue – a stadium-like space with bleachers and a central figure eight-shaped catwalk specially created for Metaverse Fashion Week by its organizers – there were plenty of seats available (attendance was not impressive), only you cannot sit in Decentraland. It was standing for all, which would probably not be a popular choice with the traditional fashion crowd.
For their metaverse-friendly show, Dolce & Gabbana had cat-faced avatar models emerge from two giant lotus-like structures dominating the two sides of the catwalk. There was strobe lighting, enticing music and captivating digital clothing, from LED-lit broad-shouldered mini frocks to humongous puffers bearing the brand’s logo.
As for the audience, there were not many typical fashion folks. Some avatars jumped on the runway as the show progressed and not even Metaverse Fashion Week security people, clad in official black uniforms, could stop them, while other attendees typed in the chat box that they didn’t see the models, when in fact the cat-faced avatars were strolling down the runway, emerging from vortexes on the ground, striking poses, twirling and levitating.
As the fun experience was nearing its end, one expected design duo Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce to show up for their final bow, or perhaps levitation, but they didn’t, which probably speaks volumes about the fact that celebrity status is not really valued in the metaverse, at least for now. – Martino Carrera
For Selfridges, shopping isn’t the point of its Decentraland location (coordinates 64, 14). While it does plan to offer NFTs at some point, its first virtual door was conceived as more of a gallery and NFT showcase, rather than a transactional experience or shop.
Set inside a digital recreation of its futuristic, but very real Birmingham, England, location, the London-based department store features its “Universe” project, which is based on Paco Rabanne’s fall collaboration with Victor Vasarely, and looks from Paco Rabanne’s 1966 archives, specifically the 12 Unwearable Dresses collection. The NFT series features 12 Vasarely artworks, with proceeds going to the Fondation Vasarely, a museum in Aix-en-Provence, France.
“We know that a lot of our customers don’t know much about NFTs or Web3, so we wanted to give them the physical representation of what they could buy in an NFT,” Jeannie Lee, Selfridges’ head of buying, told WWD.
The interior is anchored by a spiral walkway inside a geodesic dome-like environment. Upon entry, visitors are whisked to the top, so they can stroll down the path and take in the art along the way. – Adriana Lee
Launch Gallery: Scenes from Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week