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Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Show

Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) offered a key element absent from its physical counterparts. Beyond the digital shows and virtual parties that took place on March 24 – 27, the event featured prominent official exposure for retail in the form of purpose-built pop-up stores from luxury brands like Selfridges, Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Etro, and Dundas World. Set mostly in temporary shopping malls, they offered a combination of NFT (non-fungible token) wearables to kit out one’s avatar in Decentraland and also limited edition physical pieces redeemable via NFTs. The draw of the latter being that Decentraland was the only place to get them. Both were purchasable only in cryptocurrency. The said stores also served as a showcase for their physical collections with click-throughs to brands’ regular e-commerce sites.

Participants were directed to Decentraland’s marketplace to purchase the specific wearables that their avatars could actually try on to see how they look, both static and on the move, which is a nice touch. Enabling technology created by the fintech outfit Boson Protocol meant NFT receipts for the physical pieces were available directly from the stores of participating brands such as Hilfiger and Hogan.

While there were many retailers who took advantage of the temporary spaces offered free of charge for the duration of the Metaverse Fashion Week, Philipp Plein chose to purchase virtual real estate for a more long-term setup. The German designer bought $1.4 million worth of land in Decentraland to build a 120-foot tall skyscraper as well as ‘Plein Plaza’, where he’s already opened a gallery called the Museum of NFT Arts (MONA). He staged a show on the land over Metaverse Fashion Week, presenting a metaverse-only collection of seven digital outfits for avatars to rock on the platform. Among them was a matching puffer coat as well as a bucket hat combo emblazoned with a print featuring the ‘Lil Monsters characters that he created with artist Antoni Tudisco.

While there is often talk of cryptocurrency posing a barrier to sales (Selfridges and Roksanda Ilincic have previously chosen to sell NFTs in sterling), Plein sees it as a bonus. Last year, he began giving buyers of physical items the option to pay in crypto, both in-store and online, which was a huge success, seeing his company take $100,000 worth of crypto payments every day.

Hogan, owned by Tod’s Group, launched a collection of NFTs in partnership with the luxury NFT marketplace Exclusible. Via the aforementioned Boson Protocol tech, the NFTs are redeemable for physical sneakers done in collaboration with artists from the digital creative studio Braw Haus. The Hogan store will remain in Decentraland for six months from the end of Metaverse Fashion Week.

Nicholas Kirkwood offered Decentraland-specific digital wearable boots done in partnership with the metaverse community character White Rabbit. The next step will be collectible NFT PFP artworks featuring booted incarnations of the said bunny. NFT wearables sold on the web3 marketplace Dematerialized will follow. For the cobbler who is obsessed with both technology and animation, using these boots is a natural fit; it’s like coming home. It is very exciting from a creative angle. You’re not limited by gravity, and you can make materials do magical things. It also opens up brands to a whole new audience via the NFT community.

Buzzy upcycled fashion label Imitation of Christ partnered with the ultimate NFT success story, BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club), on sweater dresses featuring the metaverse’s most famous monkeys. They also factored political statements into their in-store visual marketing with a ‘no war’ installation and banners expressing support for Ukraine.

French e-commerce accessories platform Monnier Paris was another early adopter of web3, selling virtual wearables created by the digital native clothing outfit Republiqe on its website last year. It also recently launched a cryptocurrency payment option.

For the Decentraland store, Republiqe founder James Gaubert created various limited edition wearables of labels carried by Monnier, like  Ester Manas, Coach, and Wandler. For an example of what was available, users could purchase the new Coach Tabby Pillow bag for their avatar to click through from a virtual store to the Monnier Paris website and buy the real thing.

The Decentraland Foundation Creative Director Sam Hamilton said, “Going forward, there will be metaverses in which you can try on clothes with your face and body shape (as opposed to that of your avatar as in the Decentraland marketplace), so you can really see how they look on you before buying them”.

One of the big luxury groups currently building its own proprietary metaverse, Dundas World, used its virtual store and the fashion show that closed the Metaverse Fashion Week to present a 12-look IRL collection that you could click through to its e-commerce website to buy. Visual merchandising was spot on and featured the brand’s signature panthers wearing diamond collars. The next step will see them pruduce digital versions made by the digital native fashion outfit DressX. The two brands have previously collaborated on wearables of looks Dundas made for Mary J. Blige’s Super Bowl performance in January.

Another celebrity-friendly designer who took part was Giuseppe Zanotti. He teamed up with the NFT collective DeadFellaz and the fashion marketplace Neuno on a run of 1,000 virtual wearables of his signature Cobra sneakers.

Estée Lauder was the sole beauty brand participating. To promote their famous Night Repair Serum, they had Creative Director Alex Box design a free radiance aura that avatars were able to order from the Estée’s Metaverse Fashion Week activation space. Essentially, it involved the kind of sparkle filter you might get on Instagram, but it was still a novel way for the beauty industry to jump into the party.

As for Selfridges, its undulating Decentraland edifice, based on its physical Birmingham store, didn’t make a single sale. They opted instead for an exhibition of 12 NFT dresses with Paco Rabanne inspired by Op Art movement pioneer Victor Vasarely. This setup mirrors a real-life exhibition at Selfridges London. The British-based retailer has long occupied the vanguard of experiential retail within the physical space, so it made sense that the digital equivalent followed suit. According to the creative director Sebastian Manes, such experimentation enables the retailer to continue to innovate. “This is how we test, learn and decide in the long-term what works for the brand and our customers,” he stated, adding that he is currently evaluating new applications for web3 blockchain tech.

A particular point of interest was within ReSelfridges (the brand’s luxury resale arm), as ledger-based technology offers the means of authenticating provenance.

Much like the early days of the internet and e-commerce, web3 still has some way to go in terms of user experience. However, as the brand’s representatives interviewed here would all testify, the opportunities are immense. This is one big retail experiment that they are confident they will profit from in the long term.