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Brands have jumped headfirst into the metaverse, and the rest of the industry, including stylists, is not far behind. Stylist Gemma Sheppard, whose portfolio includes work for Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen and Daphne Guinness, is the latest metaverse hire, made by Roblox.
Through a collaboration with U.K.-based investment firm Metaventures and the gaming platform Roblox, Gemma Sheppard has become the first stylist in the metaverse, with the official title of metaverse global fashion director. Details of the partnership and the costs of Sheppard’s services have not yet been disclosed. Most well-known for her styling on the show “10 Years Younger in 10 Days,” on the U.K.’s Channel 5, she will now be helping Roblox users style their purchases and make their avatar unique through their wardrobes. Her services, starting in the coming months will also include customizing virtual wardrobes, leading virtual try-ons, developing digital wearable lookbooks and hosting personal styling showrooms. Talking about the role that is still under development, Sheppard said, “Along with styling avatars and playing with the concept of alter-egos, the styling experience will provide a space where you can hang out (albeit in a different way) as well as be ageless.”
As an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience in the field, across luxury, entertainment and high street fashion, Sheppard is well-positioned to develop a new language for digital wardrobes. These may not echo physical ones, as the digital space transcends what’s real and can include unique elements, features and textures. “My goddaughter was talking to me about buying some shoes for her avatar, and I realized that this is where Gen Z were spending a lot of their time,” Sheppard said. “It’s important for me to understand the psychological aspect of how behaviors influence trends and fashion. And to understand a younger audience, I need to be where they’re hanging out, and see how they’re socializing and what they’re doing.”
Roblox has recently revealed plans to improve the social experience for its 43.2 million daily active users by making avatars more life-like. That includes giving them more outfit options, like customizable styles, layer-able clothing and accessories. Both Sheppard and Metaventures are also involved in a Metaverse Fashion Week this spring that will feature fashion brands. It aims to expand how people see digital fashion. Metaventures recently led a £5.8m ($7.85m) investment in Dubit, the U.K.’s largest Roblox developer. Last year, Roblox showed that the virtual can outsell the physical with its virtual Gucci bag that sold for 350,000 Robux, or $4,082.
Roblox has been particularly appealing to fashion brands, as younger users flock to the gaming platform. Its customizable format and brand partnerships have opened a new route for brands and marketers to reach their audience. Last year, Roblox played host to at least five fashion brands, including Nike and Gucci, to set up experiential worlds on the Roblox platform. According to the company’s report for 2021, one in five Roblox users update their avatar daily, with items like 3D face masks being among the most-sold fashion items. The growth in new creator numbers on the platform surpassed 300% in 2021. The growth of its female community was especially prominent, at 353% year-over-year growth.
Sustainability is increasingly a reason brands develop digital clothing — it could help reduce waste in the real world, as consumers shift their focus to digital worlds. Sheppard is conscious of the importance of styling for the next generation that will be thinking about how to dress their avatar. “Through the metaverse, many brands will be able to see behavior trends, which could then dictate quantities. We can play with the idea of ‘concept drops,’ based on demand in the metaverse that can then play out in real life.”
According to Gen-Z expert Quynh Ma, styling for digital worlds takes a new approach, considering the importance Gen Alpha places on self-expression. “The Alpha generation will probably be the one that really owns the metaverse, because when they’re at that sweet spot of 23- to 25-years old, the metaverse will actually exist. Styling has to be rethought in the metaverse, because this generation cares about self-identity and they will want a wardrobe that the character can pick and choose from. Traditionally defined styling is the antithesis of the way this generation thinks. They’re shopping Depop for a reason — because they want personal style. They don’t want anyone to tell them what to wear.”