I went to Metaverse Fashion Week

Last week marked the first ever Fashion Week in the Metaverse and was hosted by Decentraland, the 3D decentralized virtual world platform.

Decentraland is one of the first virtual worlds where you can virtual land using MANA, the platform’s native decentralized cryptocurrency. The space has become more popular amid the recent crypto boom, with people rushing in to buy plots of virtual land in hopes of building virtual shopping districts to sell virtual goods in the form of NFTs. In February this year, German designer Philipp Plein spent $1.4 million to acquire a plot in Decentraland.

A screenshot of a map of Decentraland. Land in Decentraland is called LAND and refers to the small grey squares, each 16X16 feet, that are bought and sold as NFTs.

The vision is that brands will be able to leverage the world-building capabilities used by video games to create these virtual shopping districts to offer 3D experiences and ultimately, create new ways to reach more potential customers.

For this first instalment of Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW), Decentraland created a number of devoted digital spaces for the event, where visitors can check out designer pop-up shops, watch runway shows, listen to panel talks, dance at after-parties and of course, shop. Kind of like a virtual SXSW without having to leave home. A full schedule of events is available here.

While it seems like we’ve only started to hear more about the ‘Metaverse’ in the mainstream news (probably thanks to Facebook’s recent transition to ‘Meta’), Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25% of us will be spending at least one hour in the metaverse for work, to shop, to learn, or just be social.

The rising popularity and mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies over the last 12 months has certainly been a huge driver behind the interest in web3 technologies and the motivation to prove out use cases and application for businesses and consumers has never been stronger.

The real winners of the Superbowl this year seemed to be the crypto companies like Crypto.com, who followed-up their first feature length commercial starring Matt Damon with this one starring LeBron James.

Particularly interesting has been the NFT craze, and the growing hype around NFT wearables. If NFTs still got you confused here’s a quick explainer I wrote a little while ago.

An NFT wearable is basically just an NFT but instead of it being just an item you hold it has the added utility of being something that you can use in the metaverse.

For they hypebeast. Recent Nike acquisition and NFT sneaker design studio RTFKT’s Atari inspired collab with NFT artist FEWOCiOUS did over three million dollars.
Your style can be literally, on fire.

What do I mean ‘use in the metaverse’? Well aside from having a digital wallet to store your cryptocurrencies, the next prerequisite to joining any metaverse is creating your profile which in the digital world, is your avatar. Gone are the days of the humble profile pic to set and forget, you’re now required to show up, in 3D and look good. And naturally, all of this presents a unique opportunity and completely new channel for people to try sell you things.

Decentraland’s avatar creator gives you some basic wearable options to get started. The expectation is that people will be willing to pay for clothing, accessories and effects to customize their avatars. This mohawk had to suffice for my visit to MVFW this year.

With fashion brands always looking for new ways to appeal to new customers and creators looking for opportunities to showcase and earn money for their creations, the metaverse is creating a whole new market ecosystem with uniquely digital distribution channels.

NFTs as wearables

The bet is that in the future, everyone will have an online identity that transcends the Instagrams and Twitters. Everyone will have their own avatar, and your you in the metaverse will need to get dressed and accessorize just the same. But unlike in the human world, your digital identity can be everything and anything you want to be. In the metaverse the objective is not to recreate your current self but to become the most most fantastic version of yourself.

Some of the avatars I met during MVFW just doing them.

Assuming that people will want express their uniqueness through their fashion choices in the metaverse there are seemly endless opportunities for brands to attract and engage new customers. Marketplaces that exist within these digital worlds provide an ideal distribution channel to reach users who are younger, fashion focused, and are already familiar with cryptocurrencies and NFTs and value them.

Decentraland’s marketplace where you can buy and sell NFT wearables and LAND.

What was it like?

With this being my first trip to Decentraland there was a bit of a learning curve. Figuring out how to move my avatar around started out as the first challenge. As a non-gamer, trying to coordinate keyboard and mouse together was laughable at best but I eventually got a handle on the basic moves. Some of the tips here were helpful to start but once I figured out how to use the chat box the universal /help command also worked to bring up a list of handy shortcuts.

Genesis Plaza (which actually looks like a plaza, water feature and all) is where you’re first dropped into. (I’m the one in all black with the mohawk, sunglasses and bear slippers).
Jumping into the water feature at Genesis Plaza drops you into some kind of bar where many things I saw were just hard to explain.

Events took place in a few locations, a central one being the Luxury Fashion District; which was more like an outdoor mall featuring various pop-up shops from Elie Saab, Etro, Imitation of Christ (still around it seems) and D&G. These stores actually felt so much like traditional stores that it was actually kind of disappointing. They were also eerily empty and most of the time I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing and ended up just leaving quickly.

My visit to the D&G store felt like a trip through a fun house yet a bit scary too. Some stores featured background music but many did not which probably contributed to the weirdness.

A more positive experience was at a dance party being DJ’ed by Bob Sinclair. My avatar really wanted to move and I kind of had fun struggling to create a routine using the emotes (what are emotes?) It was a bit strange that many of the musical artists were featured via livestream video as humans. It would seem to have made more sense if they were featured as avatars themselves but perhaps the tech is still too early to allow someone to perform live in their avatar form just yet.

I did not win the dance competition.

I’ll admit though that the main reason I wanted to check out MVFW wasn’t really for the dance competition, it was for the runway shows. Would they have the same energy as the real thing? the same excitement? the same feeling of exclusiveness and anticipation?

Generally speaking, they did not live up to the same hype but I think everyone can agree this is all still very early. The main stadium with the figure-8 shaped runway was certainly fantastical and felt like something from the future.

Overall the still primitive web3 graphics didn’t lend themselves to showcasing the details of the designs on the runway and the generally laggy feeling of trying to to do anything this intense via a web browser was a bit frustrating. There also wasn’t that may people in attendance, in the few times I checked the most number of attendees I saw was no more than 200. On the positive note, all events started on time.

The Fabricant show was one that I was looking forward to in particular. The Fabricant is a completely digital fashion house that has it’s own in-house team of digital fashion designs as well as it’s own platform that allows other creators to design and mint (create) their own wearables and sell them on various NFT marketplaces. Here’s a few moments from their runway show featuring a collection entirely co-created by its community.

The Fabricant runway show lasted about 3 minutes tops which seemed a bit short.

Key takeaways

Like the very early days of the internet and e-commerce, it was hard to imagine back then where we’d be today. Web3 still has a long way to go in terms of user experience and performance but there are clearly opportunities I expect will become more apparent as the technology improves and gains wider traction.

Some of my main thoughts on the experience…

The technology still has a ways to go – Metaverses now are slow, klunky to use and the graphics don’t do much to enhance the experience. For these reasons you may think ‘what’s the point?’ But you probably felt something similar at some point on your digital journey and look where we are now. I personally think it’s going to take really immersive (think sensory takeover) experiences like VR headsets to help people literally feel the metaverse experience and I believe this is coming sooner than we think.

I was never much into Star Trek, I was excited about the Holodeck.

Brands need to understand customer motivations to purchase It’s pretty clear from this experience that brands who want to connect and sell to customers will need to do more than just ‘exist’ in the metaverse. Just having a digital brick and mortar shop isn’t going to be enough and there will have to be more interactive and enticing ways to attract customers to buy.

The success of wearable sales in games is driven by the utility a purchase provides to a user (aka their avatar) during game play. Ironically, the utility in a functional sense is actually none. Fortnite skins are purely cosmetic and typically provide no game benefits. I don’t think any brands have cracked this one yet and I think it will have a lot to do with the growth and popularity of the ‘world’ they choose to build in.

The Bruno Mars Fortnite skin sells for around 1800 V-bucks (Fortnite’s currency), around $18.

Connecting web3, web/mobile and offline experiences – To have any shot at success businesses will need to invest in teams with the expertise. Creating fashion for the metaverse is different from creating fashion for real life. Will brands be willing to invest in people and make sure they’re are working together seamlessly to create the intended experience? With ROI still TBD, this seems like a critical decision brands will need to take a leap of faith on.

Estée Lauder was an exclusive (aka only) beauty partner of MVFW. They gave away NFTs that would give your avatar a “glowing, radiant aura”. At this point in time a skin care product typically targeted at an older demographic seemed a bit out of place.

Marketplaces and resale value – For brands that want to sell things there needs to be a marketplace that scales. I think NFTs have experienced a lot of growth thanks to dedicated markets where people can buy, sell and trade like OpenSea, NiftyGateway, Rarible, and SuperRare. Brands will also want to consider that customers will want the ability to buy and sell their wearables post initial purchase on these NFT marketplaces. While the resale market for physical fashion continues to grow, the NFTs marketplaces and their dynamics will be new to most retail brands.

Top selling NFT collections leaderboard on OpenSea.

Which metaverse will win out – ‘Metaverse’ at this point in time is a general reference to a virtual reality universe. There is no one single metaverse so there are currently many metaverses, most exist for purposes of playing a game of some sort.

There are a lot of companies clamouring to land the first mover advantage metaverse and be the ones to lay the groundwork (make the rules) for others to follow. That said, there are still no standards so it’s still the virtual wild wild west out there. If one metaverse to rule them all does not emerge, and if companies try to build their own in hopes the avatars will eventually come, will this leave everything too fragmented to provide the economies of scale brands need to succeed? Or maybe we’ll find out that buying and selling is not enough, and that the community that grows and strengthens around a game like Fortnite or Roblox is really what’s needed for a metaverse to truly succeed.

Metaverse Fashion Week 2023?

If there is a MVFW 2023 would I go? Yes most definitely. I’m looking forward to seeing how much things will evolve between now and then and if the brands who participated this year make it back. I’m also very interested to know if we’ll hear from any of the brands who participated on their experience, what they learned and if the virtual opportunity is one that’s tangible for them.

If you made it to any of the live events or checked it out more casually I’d love to hear about your experience.

Relearning how to get dressed: Color theory

As the world slowly gets back to being IRL, I’ve found myself back one of those daily struggles of figuring out what to wear when it’s not just a trip to the grocery store.

No you can’t do this.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to ‘rediscover’ my closet, reacquainting myself with my pre-pandemic stylings. Some things I’d completely forgotten about (yay), and some no longer fit (not yay). However, even with my closet in full view, it was hard to remember how I did this.

I found myself wishing I was one of those mirror selfie people; at least then I’d have something to reference. Did I really wear all these underwire bras? How many belts does one need? How many pairs of jeans does one really need?

I was overwhelmed and needed to find some entry point, some way to start, using small low-pressure, going-out opportunities to practice.

Color theory

It hit me one day while combing Pinterest for outfit ideas, which is is typically a sign I’m getting a bit desperate.

While hardly a new concept, it’s just one I’d never really thought about attempting myself before. There are a few names for it, ‘monochromatic’ style, tonal dressing, color blocking etc., but collectively the approach is to use color to help drive how you get dressed.

Now if you’re someone who has a monotone wardrobe already you’re in luck, you’re already doing it. But if you, like me, are someone who finds yourself with a closet full of clothes in various styles, colors and prints and still have nothing to wear, you might find discover that you may have more to love in your wardrobe than you thought.

Here’s a cool interactive online color wheel tool from Canva and here’s an image of a color wheel you can save to your phone for handy reference.

Save to phone

Beginner: Monochromatic approach

The place to start. If you’ve never thought about getting dressed this way before I’ll admit it does feel weird. If I end up I head to toe purple would people at the grocery store think I look like Grimace? If I went all yellow should I plan to forgo picking up bananas this trip?

What I learned while doing is that it’s actually unlikely that all your clothing items in a color are all exactly the same so the risk of looking like a crayon is less of a risk than I’d originally anticipated.

Monochromatic dressing is basically picking clothing items in a color scheme based on a single base hue like red, green, or circled here, blue.

Pretty straight forward but if we had to 3-step step this:

  1. Open your closet
  2. Select your starter piece
  3. Select the next piece based on the color of your starter piece

I have a lot of navy blue so I started with navy blue pants. So with navy blue as my ‘starter’ color du jour, I’d move onto choosing the next item of clothing. The best part about this approach is that you don’t have to worry so much about getting ‘matchy’. The tones and shades of the items don’t matter as much as you would think as long as they’re all of the same base hue, in this case blue. So with navy blue as my starter item, I’d probably look to choose a top also in navy (I have a lot of navy), light blue, cerulean or even royal blue and it would still work.

I realize that sounded this sounds like one of those ‘get the perfect winged eyeliner every time with this trick’ eye roll step-by-steps so while i’m certainly not promising easy wins without any effort, I do have some tips to share from each step that may help you.

1. Open your closet

  • Unless you’ve got an expansive walk-in where you’re able to see everything you have in view, getting everything out in the open is important.
  • Slide open all doors, pull stacks out, use the bed, the floor, to lay things out and get a sense of your closet in its completeness (or incompleteness).
  • Getting everything out in the open (then putting it away) is probably the most time consuming step if you don’t have a lot of space so plan ahead. And keep in mind you don’t have any specific goal to achieve in this step, just get started.
  • Take some stock of what you see. Do you have a lot of one specific color? Do you have a lot of the same thing? Sometimes you don’t notice unless you get everything out in the open and see it together. Make a mental note.

2. Select your starter piece

  • Try to have fun – Assuming that you are starting off in a low pressure situation (aka going to the grocery store), you can breath easy, we’re just messing around, try to have fun.
  • This is not the time to be bold – Pick something that you feel comfortable in (aka it fits). It may be something you’ve worn recently. The best way to discourage yourself is picking something you would’t normally wear ever as part of your-to-day so start with something familiar. It could be the sweatpants you’re wearing now but let’s try to make some efforts ok?
  • Start with the bigger pieces – don’t try to build an outfit around a pair of socks. Start with pants, a skirt, a top etc.
  • What is the color of your starter item – maybe it’s obvious but is it one of those colors that’s a grey-ish blue or a purpley pink? It matters less which side you pick and more that you pick one so you can move onto the next step.

3. Select the next piece based on the color of your starter piece

  • You’re not trying to find a ‘match’ – don’t get hung up on trying to find something in exactly the same color as your starter item, you’re not trying to create a ‘match’.
  • Just put it on – when you identify something in the same hue, just put it on. Try not to question yourself ‘do these two blues go together?’ is this too much blue? Just put it on.
  • Mix fabrics and textures – this will depend on where you live but it’s ok to mix wool with silk, cotton with corduroy. Remember, the only rule is for the items to be in the same color hue.
  • Try for 2 – instead of trying to get a head-to-toe look, make getting 2 main pieces (a top and a bottom) your goal.
  • Don’t forget about outerwear – perhaps you have a coat in a color you really like. Think about how you might use that as your starter item.
  • Denim on denim – If you find yourself struggling with this at the start, you fall back to denim on denim anytime. Pairing any pair of jeans with any denim or denim color shirt seems to just work. And if you don’t have a denim shirt, you should try to add one. Like jeans they go with almost everything and are perfect for so many occasions.
Always a pretty go go-to.

Here are some places where you should almost always be able to find a denim number you’ll work and that won’t break the bank.

  1. Levi’s, Essential Western Denim Shirt
  2. The Gap, Chambray Denim Big Shirt 
  3. Aritzia, The Sade Denim Shirt
  4. J.Crew – Classic-fit short-sleeve western chambray shirt

If you’re feeling like this could work for you then great. If not fine as well. If you’re interested in continuing, the real next step is to wear your newly created outfit out of the house. It’s all just make believe if you don’t actually leave the house.

Intermediate: Analagous approach

If you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of the monochromatic approach and want more ways to use color to get dressed here’s another.

Instead of staying with just colors all in the same huge, this approach start to incorporate analougous colors to the mix, the colors on either side of your starter hue color. So if you’re starter color is blue, bring in pieces in purples or greens. If your starter piece is purple, bring in some purple or blue.

Find the color of your starter piece on the color wheel then select additional pieces based on the colors on either side.

My biggest tip on this approach is to select one analygous color to start. So if your starter color is blue, choose a green or purple, not both. If you’re starter color is red, go with a red or a pink, not both.

Advanced: Complimentary approach

I found myself really getting into this and briefly ventured into what’s probably less ‘monochromatic’ and venturing into the realm of ‘color blocking’.

The rule of thumb here is opposites attract. Using our handy color wheel here, you’re looking for the color immediately across from the color of the item you’ve chosen as your starter piece.

For me personally, I found that this works best when you have clothing items in solid colors that really highlight the ‘opposite-ness’ of the look. I don’t have a lot of clothes that fit distinctly into opposites so I didn’t find this approach so successful.

Color blocking, get dressed using colors opposite each other on the color wheel.

What I did find more successful is building a monochromatic look then using accessories to bring in points of interest It could be a big leather bag, chunky gold jewelry or even a scarf in a great print.

Is all this going to work for you?

Well you won’t really know until you try but this is supposed to be fun so it’s worth a shot. If anything you’ll burn a few calories trying things on. It may also help you do a bit of that closet clean out that’s needed from time to time.

So do I go out now everyday in a monochromatic look? For sure no but I definitely do from time to time and found it’s less scary than I thought it would be. I do love a good denim cowboy look for sure, maybe you will too.