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Is Fashion Industry’s Fixation on Metaverse a ‘Fight or Flight Response’?

What is the Metaverse?

Let’s begin with full disclosure – even Zuckerberg doesn’t have a fully fleshed-out answer to that one yet. So far, netizens are broadly envisioning metaverse as the next chapter of the internet revolution! 

The digital world we inhabit today is expected to metamorphose from its 2D version to a virtual 3D reality where individuals like you and I will be able to share a range of experiences including shopping, dining, dating, or holding corporate meetings together.

Our ‘digital selves’ – inhabitants of this virtual reality – will be close cousins to ‘avatars’ popularized by video games. Also, a true mirror to our highly materialistic world, the ‘metaverse’ will allow these avatars to own assets.

This is where the fashion industry comes into play. Considering the burgeoning market for digital assets (have you invested in crypto or NFT yet?) it’s not surprising that luxury fashion brands are gearing up to invade the metaverse all guns blazing!

Why’s the fashion industry fixated on Metaverse?

Why’s the fashion industry fixated on Metaverse?

If Zuckerberg’s sneak-peek teaser of the metaverse is to be trusted, future denizens of metaverse will be able to customize their avatar’s appearances. Now, what was the last thing REAL YOU did as a means of self-expression? Dyed your hair? Got a tattoo? Bought clothes and shoes that matched your vibe? It is but obvious that the metapeople too will turn to clothes and accessories as the first and foremost medium of expressing individuality.

The fashion industry stands to gain in two ways! First, the metaverse will open up a new world of opportunities for making money by selling virtual products. Second, if the metaverse footfall is anywhere close to the count of existing Facebook and Instagram users, it’ll be THE PLACE for future marketing shenanigans.

In a recent article on the metaverse frenzy, Forbes delved deep into the psyche of fashion brands. The pandemic has brutally exposed the fragility of the fashion supplychains and the burden of environmental impact looms heavily upon the fashion industry.

In these dire times, metaverse has opened up a door for the industry to run away from reality. Launching a digital product removes all supply-chain dependencies –  there’s no need to analyze trends, manufacture, distribute, or keep a tab on the inventory. 

What’s more? Brands can keep earning royalties on the same product every time it is sold through blockchain-enabled ‘smart contracts.’ Also, by shifting focus to virtual products as a key source of revenue, they can significantly reduce their waste generation and net negative impact on the environment.

Till now, video games were the only virtual spaces serving brands with such virtual markets, and a staggeringly large number of luxury and retail brands had forayed into the arena. Balenciaga staged a virtual Fall 2021 show on Fortnite, Stefan Cooke collections have made their way into The Sims world, and Gucci has sold their virtual Dionysus purse for $4,100 on Roblox (costing more than the real one). 

Among retailers, H&M has been the first to inspire rumors about a virtual store following the Zuckerberg-inspired meta mania. While presently such virtual assets can only be used on the platforms they are purchased on, there’s a possibility that in the metaverse, avatars will sustain cross-platform ownership.

Is the fixation problematic?

The fashion industry could use more data dependency in terms of forecasting, better production management systems for transparency, and CRMs for centralized communication.

Truth be told, the fashion industry is drowning in one of those clichés where one thinks a savior can end their woes when in fact, they need to work on themselves. 

Studied closely, it appears like a fight or flight response. Realizing the risks posed by the present state of supply chains, volatile trends, and environmental accountability, brands are choosing to look another way instead of facing the challenges head-on.

I mean, we understand the excitement surrounding metaverse (and we’re excited about the possibilities too), but it poses a risk when it becomes the sole focus of giant brands and fashion tech companies. Big players such as these have the tech and financial resources to solve existing supply chain problems, which cannot be achieved if they choose to invest their resources in developing a fantasy realm only.

The industry could use more data dependency in terms of forecasting, better production management systems for transparency, and CRMs for centralized communication. More investment in textile technologies could yield sustainable alternatives and investment in sustainable energy could offer long-term solutions.

But these tasks lack the glamour and hype that the fashion industry loves to bask in, which explains the mass indifference towards these causes in favor of the shiny new metaverse.

The future through a different lens

As we head into the future with eyes steered the metaverse way, a few questions remain to be answered. What does a fashion brand truly become in the metaverse? When a brand moves towards a direct-to-avatar model from a direct-to-consumer one, does it still retain its brand identity?

More importantly, a question that should bug the industry is this – will the metaverse be a level playing ground for all? Will middle and small-sized retailers have similar access to the virtual marketplace compared to luxury brands?

The appeal of luxury brands in the metaverse is understandable. A teenager who isn’t able to afford D&G accessories in the real world can buy it for $10 and show it off to their friends in the metaverse. But will this craze for virtual luxury products translate into brand loyalty towards emerging retailers too? That question remains to be answered.

The key takeaway for us at Fashinza is this – as excited as we are for the future, we understand the need to shape the present first. Fashinza will, for now, continue to use futuristic technologies to solve real-life problems in the fashion supply chain, empowering brands that aren’t switching their real products for digital assets just yet!

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