In the last two years, digital fashion has provided a gateway to new fashion talent and innovation. But at the same time, seasoned physical brands have increasingly expanded to the space via large platforms like Decentraland. Now, two emerging fashion weeks in the metaverse are taking different approaches, with one spotlighting fashion’s old guard and one catering to new digital creators. This split is showing the difficulties of the industry in changing the way it is structured — with existing hierarchies enforced even in the metaverse.
In February of 2021, Crypto Fashion Week launched as the first-ever metaverse fashion event, highlighting the skill and talent of digital designers, many of whom had discovered the possibilities of digital fashion during the pandemic. The event included an activation with the Meta Gala, as well as a digital catwalk that reached a global audience of more than 3 million people. It featured the world’s first trans-human virtual influencer called Ruby 9100m and also virtual influencer Lil Miquela, who wore digital looks by Karl Lagerfeld.
A year later, Crypto Fashion Week is putting on its second event, which will include a focus on marine conservation and sustainability. Crypto Fashion Week’s partners include designer Larissa Pucci, digital fashion marketplace The Dematerialised and open source network Tribute Labs, as well as platforms with a sustainability focus.
The production partners for the event are DressX for AR, Enara Nazarova+Project Ave for a special 3D interview series, and Yon Paik, a Korean artist is the creative director designing the 3D environment and the main fashion show. The Institute of Digital Fashion will be participating in the show, as well as Rebecca Minkoff and digital fashion network Mutani. Panel discussions will include creative technology collective Immersive Kind, virtual footwear try-on company Vyking, metaverse director Cathy Hackl and more.
Larissa Castellano Pucci, daughter of Laudomia Pucci and granddaughter of Emilio Pucci, previously released her digital collection called “Marea” on Dress X in January.
With other digital-first designers featured at the first Crypto Fashion Week, the space is emerging as a launchpad for a new era of fashion. Meanwhile, another metaverse fashion event is sprouting up, with a focus on bringing older brands into the metaverse.
The Metaverse Fashion Week, run by Decentraland and decentralized network Boson Protocol, will feature its own crypto catwalk event. Starting on March 24, the event will focus on brands with a physical footprint that are newly entering the metaverse, including Dolce & Gabbana and Etro. The event will focus on entertainment over design inspiration. Guests will attend to see virtual shows, attend after-parties, and buy digital clothing from digital stores on the platform and directly off the catwalk. James Gaubert, founder of virtual clothing brand Republique, will be hosting a shop in Decentraland alongside luxury accessories retailer Monnier Freres.
Much of the appeal for metaverse users will come from well-known brands. Decentraland is also building on its own community of featured digital creators. Samuel Hamilton, creative director at the Decentraland foundation said, “Over the last year, we’ve created a million-dollar-plus ecosystem of selling wearables for avatars. That has generated content. So we’re giving a platform to [digital creators], as well. It really wouldn’t be fair to just bring in lots of big brands and well-known names, without giving the people who built this foundation an opportunity.” As Decentraland is managed by the Decentraland Foundation non-profit, all IP is owned by the brands involved.
Decentraland has grown its users by 3,300% over the past year and reached a peak market cap of $12 billion, making it a savvy choice for established brands.
The four-day Metaverse Fashion Week is set to replicate the physical fashion week experience, with showrooms, talks and events. So far, Tommy Hilfiger, Paco Rabanne, Dundas, Cavalli, Nicholas Kirkwood, Elie Saab and Imitation of Christ have announced their participation. The event will be free to attend and does not require specialized VR hardware.
Dr. Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, metaverse producer at Decentraland, said that, for most brands, the event offers a very new experience and will provide a means of testing the waters in the metaverse. “For brands, to really understand how to get out of the conventional way of showing fashion is still a challenge. They’re trying to understand what they can do,” she said. “After this first [Metaverse] Fashion Week, they will really understand the unlimited possibilities to explore fashion.”
The runway show format and the brands involved are fashion week elements that industry professionals are familiar with. But features like DAO support, a dedicated world built for the immersive experience and a greater focus on digital designers are what Crypto Fashion Week is focusing on instead.
Crypto Fashion Week, co-organized by Lady Pheonix, who is also co-founder of crypto art consultancy Universe Contemporary, is working to enact real industry change through its platform. It’s focused on giving opportunities to people who are under-represented in traditional fashion through its DAO and curation of designers. The event will also be tackling sustainability through digital fashion and its digital world. “We chose to focus on above water and underwater conservation, building two scenes to bring attention to coral reefs, specifically, and ocean preservation, in general,” said Greg De Cuir Jr., one of the event’s co-founders.
The event will divert funds from the crypto design sales to organizations that are working to preserve the ocean, although details of its sustainability partnerships remain under wraps. The fashion week is also continuing with its mission established in 2021 0f building the Digital Fashion Design Fund, a DAO set up to nurture and uplift the digital designer community. “The individuals we have in this upcoming show are digital fashion stars,” said Lady Phoenix. “The world of traditional fashion has yet to catch up to them.”