Digital fashion in the metaverse and beyond

By: George Koynov

The moment Facebook renamed itself Meta, the concept of the metaverse suddenly entrenched itself as the Internet’s next iteration. The metaverse – one shared virtual reality where everyone can join and take control of their unique avatar. People will be hanging out in immersive 3D environments and will be purchasing digital goods and virtual real estate. Companies will build virtual office spaces for their work-from-home employees. Social communication in the metaverse will be much more visual than the text-based Facebook messaging we’re used to. Of course, people being people, most would want their digital avatars to look as cool as possible. We’ll just go ahead and call it now (November 2021) – digital fashion is going to be a huge deal.

Couture on the blockchain

As people begin spending more time inside virtual worlds, they will wish to refine and augment their avatars with the help of their very own digital wardrobes. Virtual garments will be bought, transferred and collected as NFTs that have a unique identifier, putting a stamp of authenticity and traceability to each piece of digital and physical clothing. When, for example, Versace creates a physical garment and mints it as an NFT, whoever buys and owns that NFT will be automatically entitled to the ownership of the physical product twin as well.

Fashion designers will be further incentivized to implement a blockchain element into their product line if every time the product’s NFT changes hands, they receive a percentage of the copyright enforced automatically through a smart contract. Fashion brands testing a new product line could initially create it digitally and measure the metaverse traffic it is generating. Such organic feedback can help brands decide what quantity of products to manufacture in the real world, which will drastically cut material and operational costs.

Non-fungible fashion

Imagine a piece of high couture clothing being sold as an NFT that has lifetime royalties programmed into it. Every newly minted NFT creates a token on the blockchain can include metadata indicating time-stamped details about when and by whom the physical garment was created, as well as when and to whom it was transferred. Such transparency is crucial in the fashion industry where counterfeiting costs brands more than $450bn a year. Non-fungible provenance certificates encoded on the blockchain will not only prove to be quite useful in the real world but will also increase the value of the digital product NFT in the metaverse.

Back in 2019, Nike obtained a patent to tokenize shoes on the Ethereum blockchain. Now everyone is able to easily verify the authenticity of the product. When someone buys those shoes, they can go online and enter the unique 10-digit number tag attached to the shoes to unlock and generate a unique NFT, which acts as proof of ownership. Other fashion brands have also started exploring the possibilities virtual fashion, including Carling, Tribute Brand, Hanifa, Dress X and H&M. The Fabricant, a virtual fashion-only brand, has already collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger and Soorty, with whom they’ve created realistic digital fashion shows and complete virtual retail experiences.

There is a new wave of economies being created around NFT and blockchain technology, inspiring consumers to buy not just a mere product but a whole immersive experience. In the future, simply owning products will not be enough anymore. The new generation of consumers will want their purchases to also grant them access to virtual communities in the metaverse. It’s little wonder that savvy entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg have already realized how large that particular pie will be and can’t wait to get their hands on a piece of it.

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