This week the teams behind It’s A Working Title and Blockchain Style Lab, are authoring a three-part series of exclusive articles for The Interline, giving us their take on this year’s Metaverse Fashion Week. Following Jessica Quillin, PhD’s and Sasha Wallinger’s first and second instalment earlier this week, here Bryce Quillin, PhD concludes with his opinion on the success – or rather lack thereof – of this year’s MVFW.

Key Takeaways:

  • Low engagement and attendance suggest a need for a correction in the hype cycle of digital immersive tech, and this is a deeper issue that won’t be solved by simply improving the user experiences of future events.
  • Instead, big brands should be considering how to define success in digital and real-time fashion and beauty initiatives – using Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 as a prototype to build from.
  • As a strategic channel, success metrics in digital and metaverse fashion are likely to be judged based on brand-wide content and engagement goals for future events.

A common question raised after so many recent metaverse or metaverse-like events organized by the fashion industry is: “was this successful?” This is the case for so many fashion NFT activations, phygital displays at fashion weeks, “AI” fashion weeks, and it certainly was the case for the second Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW). All of these types of events and numerous others in the digital fashion space do have their positives and liabilities in terms of connecting with intended audiences, generating sufficient attention to justify the investment, and aligning what consumers see and how they see it with a broader brand story or corporate strategy. Yet, this is hardly unique to metaverse or web3-type investment and applies equally to any consumer touch point at any time in commercial history. What I think is more relevant is to ask what did this MVFW contribute to the cumulation of brand and user experiences that will shape the next iteration of digital investments and how will brands digest these lessons?

The upcoming AI Fashion Week 2023.

Before heading there, let’s look at the outcome of MVFW from the perspective of pure consumer analytics. The top line story is one of complete, unmitigated disaster. The total number of people who showed up was down 75 percent from last year’s event. At 26,000 users, this is on par with the average attendance at a football match in the second tier (Championship) league of English football. And this event ran for a week and was mostly open to anyone on the planet to attend. Those who argue that poor UX, excessive latency, or other technical issues are to blame for a lackluster MVFW sort of miss the point that not that many people even bothered to show up to notice any tech problem. 

Yet it should not be surprising that engagement is down. It is certainly clear that the market is shifting into a new gear in terms of how it views the near-term impact of digital immersive tech. As Mathew Ball noted, what was extraordinary about metaverse tech is not the degree of the hype, but its velocity with “metaverse” mentions in SEC filings growing from 300 in 2021 to 3,000 in 2022. So we were due for a correction according to a standard “hype cycle” model fit and the absence of a lot of clear fashion metaverse revenue-generating products or stories of conversion from metaverse viewing numbers to sales is a part of this as well. Kering’s Q1 2023 earnings report does not even mention the word metaverse despite Gucci’s investment in the space. 

Tommy Hilfiger, for MVFW 2023.

But we should not mistake the lower engagement numbers as a source of long-term regression. There were many positives in this year’s offering. Brands made investments to improve the look and feel of their booths from last year. Over 60 brands showed up, including some blockbuster names. My favorites were Tommy Hilfiger and the Fabricant while the launch of Artificial Rome’s Soil offering, with its incredible graphics, on the side was a bonus.

The closing party was busy with a live DJ and fairly active, and positive, chat. Some have rightly pointed out that these positives were offset by the sloppiness of some booths, the lack of much to do, and the general lack of buzz. But we should look at MVFW as part of the prototyping of organized, immersive digital events in fashion.

One experiment among many running simultaneously and flawed experiments can be a success in business so long as it does not hurt your long term brand value. Perhaps that is a low bar to set for success but as expectations for near-term returns for the metaverse converge with the tech’s reality, this is the right bar.

The question is what happens next.

SOIL, Artificial Rome, for MVFW 2023.

MVFW shows that the hype is over. Now the work for the long-term begins. The strategy machine needs to be powered up to understand how digital immersive tech connects with broader content and engagement goals.

Which audiences can be best reached on what platform and what do those audiences want to see from your brand or, better yet, what content can you create to surprise and wow those audiences.

MVFW was short on the wow factor. What can we learn for the next time?