After announcing a digital marketplace dedicated to virtual avatars, Meta is bringing luxury fashion to the metaverse through three labels – Balenciaga, Prada and Thom Browne. To break the news, the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, Eva Chen hosted a live stream. “Basically it’s a clothing store for your Meta avatar. We already have a bunch of different free clothing but we also wanted to create this marketplace,” Zuckerberg explained, adding that he believed that fashion plays a pivotal role in how people express themselves.
Now, with luxury labels opening stores in the metaverse, moving to the digital world seems imminent. The younger cohort of designers are already looking at it as the next big move and taking tiny steps to create their presence in the digital world. Earlier this year, Metaverse Fashion Week took place in London, where it was kicked off by retailer, Selfridges. The brands participating included Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Roberto Cavalli, Paco Rabanne and Etro.
From the home turf, Indian label Papa Don’t Preach by Shubhishowcased its recent collection, NNL2.0, at the Metaverse Fashion Week, organised by the Women’s Economic Forum in New Delhi.
What does that mean for the fashion world, by and large, and particularly, for Indian designers? According to the Mumbai-based couturiere of the eponymous label, Nachiket Barve fashion’s move to the metaverse seems impending. “Younger consumers are spending more and more time online, whether it is for gaming or social media. So, one cannot outrightly dismiss something by saying this looks too far-fetched because every new idea seemed that way at some point of time.”
With respect to India, however, he feels that the metaverse is a bit more distant, simply because of how Indians perceive luxury, which is in a more physical sense. “We also like to collect things and not just to stash them away in some intangible format. So, I think it will be a while before something like this can be adapted to the Indian market. It may get adapted, but for a specific section of society, which is willing to use fashion as a way for online projections and online avatars. However, nothing can replace the touch and satisfaction of owning a luxury good.”
Independent brands and labels that are looking for a way to step into the metaverse are doing so by testing the waters, before taking the leap. Echoing this, Sangeet Paryani, founder of Superkicks, India’s premium sneaker retailer, says “The metaverse and NFTs are still in their nascent stage. Superkicks is more than willing to explore these new avenues, however, we would still like to observe where it is headed and understand the trend and industry, to take a more conscious call in the future. For now, we are more than happy to be present physically and connect with our beloved community in person, while using our social media and website to push the numbers forward.”
Like Barve and Paryani, founder of Tistabene Fashion and Retail, Siddharth Darda too feels that the intersection between fashion and the metaverse is at an experimental level. Elucidating on this, Darda says that many Indian brands haven’t yet fully explored the power of the Internet, and so moving to virtual stores right away might not be as good an idea as global fashion houses like the ones that piloted the fashion-meets-Web3 project. “Balenciaga and Prada are luxury brands that have a store in the multiverse for their Gen Z generation consumers.
While it’s true that metaverse creates more accessibility and becomes a game-changer, the Indian market is very big. Come festivals and markets get packed with crowds. That’s because people want to shop in real-time and pick exactly what fits them.” However, Darda does concede that should the technology come to the Indian market, he might be open to exploring them for his brands.
Adding to that, Barve says that it’s going to be a lot of waiting and watching, until fashion houses can see how consumers are reacting to this change. “But I do feel that the physical and digital worlds will have to go hand in hand for this eventually to work,” he stresses.
The metaverse is surely opening up new avenues for designers, independent brands and consumers, too and while it very well could become the reality of fashion in the future, for now, in India at least, it seems more like a distant reality.