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If the pandemic had any positive impact on the fashion industry – besides us not having to get changed for weeks on end – it was the revelatory democratisation of it all. Without the real-life shows excluding everyone except those with the right job titles, PR friends or a staggering Instagram following, designers, brands and luxury houses had to haul ass and reinvent the way we see fashion. For the most part, this meant digital lookbooks, short films and immersive experiences, like Martine Rose’s intimate world tour at the start of 2021. All you needed was a laptop, phone or tablet, a steady WiFi connection and a rip-roaring passion for fashion to get involved. Suddenly, high fashion became accessible for the many, not the few.
The period of lockin’ down also saw something sinister brew right under our noses, though: the metaverse. Love it or lump it, it’s been the subject of intense debate amongst everyone from crypto bros to fashion-forward thinkers (if I do say so myself). With its promise of digital raves, digital friends, digital link-ups, digital anything, it seems as though the metaverse will soon swallow us whole.
This is no first lockdown Houseparty fad, oh no. The metaverse’s growth is so tremendous that Forbes even predicted its “$1 trillion revenue opportunity” back in December last year. A trillion. That’s $999 billion more than Kim Kardashian’s net worth. And just three months ago, Baron’s upped the stakes to $13 trillion.
So it’s no surprise that fashion’s big names have been jumping down the digi hole and straight into the metaverse. Where money is to be made, big biz follows. Earlier this year, the metaverse staged its very first Metaverse Fashion Week, with digital runway shows that saw avatars model brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Etro and Paco Rabanne via Selfridges.
And now, even more houses are following suit. Prada, Balenciaga and Thom Browne are now creating digital iterations of their most recent collections for Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse platform, Meta, for users to dress themselves up in (digitally). Earlier this week, he joined Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships Eva Chen on a livestream, where they broke the news. “Basically, it’s a clothing store for your Meta avatar,” Mark said. “We already have a bunch of different free clothing… but we also wanted to create this marketplace. A huge part of how people express themselves is through what they wear and fashion.”
Check you out, Mark. Back to the initial point. Is the metaverse Black Mirror levels of unnerving? Yes. But it’s also a new form of democratic fashion. In the metaverse, it doesn’t matter how long you interned for, who you’ve shagged or what your follower count is. Here, those who enjoy fashion can, well, enjoy fashion – it’s even more affordable than its real life counterparts. It may be digital – admittedly still a bitter pill to swallow – but whatever floats your frock, eh? Besides, I’ve got to hand it to Zuckerberg. The Meta avatars look far cuter than those on the metaverse’s Decentraland. Go for it, fashion ’eds.
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The metaverse is everything that is wrong with the future. It’s a terrifying prospect that urges people to stay indoors and live a life that starts and ends with the screen. You’re either reading this on your phone, laptop or tablet right now. Hell, perhaps even all three. Do we need more screen time? No. 50 per cent of us already spend 11 hours or more looking at a screen everyday.
And yet the metaverse is still pushing an agenda so far removed from what most of us need right now: The Real World. Instead, the metaverse is taking its virtual iterations of raves, concerts, fashion weeks and even home-buying and attempting to shove it down our throats after two years of being stuck indoors. Simply put, now’s not the time, mate. Read the room!
And now fashion brands jumped on board and produced digital collections for metaverse users – with clothes that don’t look real at all. Prada, Balenciaga and Thom Browne have all jumped on board to dress avatars in Mark Zuckerberg’s digital world, Meta, with Zuckerberg saying over a livestream: “the fashion work we’re doing in the metaverse with that kind of high-quality stuff is really cool.”
Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s cool. Need I say more? Alright, that’s a bit harsh. But come off it – the metaverse’s attempts to strike a chord with the real world are becoming more boring by the day. Let’s take a second and focus on fixing the world around us before we get started on any type of digital iteration. It’s all becoming a bit childish.
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We tried to rationalise, we did. But it’s a firm no. Go out and get a life.