This week, the teams behind It’s A Working Title and Blockchain Style Lab will be authoring a three-part series of exclusive articles for The Interline, looking back at Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 and using it as a springboard for thinking about the future of digital fashion as a whole. This instalment, from Sasha Wallinger, charts the history of physical fashion and beauty weeks and considers why brands are continuing to invest in the idea despite low attendance figures.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brands continue to invest in digital fashion and beauty weeks despite low attendance figures, low levels of accessibility, and unpolished user experiences.
  • Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 was a standard-bearer, but even its muted reception has not prevented numerous other new takes on the same idea.
  • Behind the rough edges, the appeal of these events – for brand owners and organisers – lies in the opportunity for buyers to experience collections, products, and designs in an immersive way.
  • As well as welcoming inclusivity, digital / metaverse weeks across fashion and beauty present the possibility of reconstruction and reinvention for brands. New channels and new platforms are the chance to air a new message or to breathe new life into an existing one.

The Global Fashion Show calendar has gone through many evolutions since the 1860s when fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth pioneered the use of live models instead of mannequins to present his creations in Paris. One of the latest iterations, Metaverse Fashion Week, kicked off in Decentraland in 2022, on the heels of presentations from Jonathan Simkhai in Second Life, Gucci Garden blooming in Roblox in 2021 and the now historic Loewe, Prada, etc. presence on Animal Crossing in 2020.

Loewe X Animal Crossing.

While at first glance, gaming and fashion are a somewhat unlikely pair, both have a shared passion for creativity, collaboration and community. So it seems we now find ourselves at a time when it makes sense for heritage ateliers and Web3 native digital designers to launch their collections on gaming platforms. Some near-recent examples include features like an NFC chip à la Gmoney’s 9dcc digital twin-empowered launch, and DressX’s now infamous $15 million raise towards disrupting fashion with digital technology, and EPIC games’ recent mutual  investment in CLO virtual fashion technology.

It is under this veil that Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 – or round two – emerges. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger took full advantage of this moment to captivate audiences with their flex around interoperability, and others like Coach, partnered with AR platforms like Zero 10 to launch virtual retail ecosystems that were try-on ready, while Over helped to host a bespoke IRL event at the Piazza del Duomo, Milan featuring guests from Bored Apes, CryptoPunks alongside Balmain.

Coach X ZERO10 for MVFW 2023.

But all that brand and designer hype really doesn’t matter if no one showed up to view it. And for the second year in a row, the Metaverse Fashion Week chatter was less about the looks that graced a virtual or physical runway, it was about the lack of accessibility to enter the Decentraland platform, coupled with a hesitancy to observe anything unique and special that could be garnered by engaging with the ecosystem once it was accessed.

Having served the brand side, I can safely say that the investment— and let’s face it internal politicking that would have to be done to access said expenditure— could not have been worth the impact of engaging in this space. And yet, shortly after Metaverse Fashion Week concluded, an onslaught of additional events began to take shape. There had already been Digital Fashion Week, which is expanding to include Paris next season, but added to the list are, AI Fashion Week, and the upcoming Metaverse Beauty Week which will be live on Roblox and Spatial Decentraland later this year.

Urban Decay’s Eye-Con Party, for MVFW 2023.

So how do these events keep attracting the gaze of brands and audiences? Daisy Haywood, creative brand manager at Cult, who is producing the upcoming Metaverse Beauty Week shared: “We want consumers to experience beauty in a way like never before. The premise of our messaging is that it’s time for beauty to have a reset.”

And maybe it’s that simple. It’s not just about hyping emerging technologies to the tune of a new way to market a brand’s latest collection, or enhance market segment growth by tapping into a new product channel (NFT’s, digital fashion collections, etc.) or platform (pick a gaming ecosystem), but it’s truly about the opportunity to experience the collection, product, and designs in an immersive, creative and inspiring way that offers the opportunity to try something new.

This optimism and desire to compel audiences is what keeps brands flocking to these moments across the rising ecosystem of Metaverse Fashion Weeks, and provides a continual opportunity, at the onset of each new season, event, trend in technology, to rebuild again. Not at all unlike IRL fashion has done for the past 100+ years.