If you’re reading this, there’s a fairly good chance that you’re a seasoned online shopper. There’s also a good chance that you’re interested in leather jackets. But would you ever consider buying a leather jacket that doesn’t physically exist? Of course not, that would be mad… wouldn’t it?
Well, according to leading technology experts, virtual clothing will be a goldmine for the fashion industry in the years to come.
‘But who in their right mind would pay for virtual clothing?’
To answer that you only have to look at your children or any gamers around you. In the gaming industry, consumers are already spending $100 billion per year on virtual goods. Yep, that isn’t a typo. 100 BILLION DOLLARS. According to market data from Newzoo, as of 2021, 2.81 billion people across the globe are active gamers. This figure is set to jump to 2.95 billion in 2022 and 3.07 billion in 2023. That makes up more than a third of the world’s population, making it the fastest growing form of entertainment on the planet, and of course, brands have taken notice.
Moschino dresses are available to buy in The Sims 4 whilst Canada Goose jackets are available in Taobao Life. In Fortnight you can now dress your avatar up in Balenciaga Triple-S trainers and backpacks. Whilst available for a limited period, you could pick up a bundle of Balenciaga goodies in the game for around 3000 ‘V-Bucks’. That’s around £20 to you and me. You can even pick up the real version of the in-game clothes; for the hefty price of £850 you can buy a Balenciaga Fortnite hoodie -why anyone would do that is a question for whole different blog post.
As a society, we now spend so much of our time online. Whether we’re working, shopping, gaming or just speaking to friends. Every time we do this, we are entering a Metaverse without even realising or knowing what that word means. Now, remember that what we wear says everything about who we are as people. As technology improves and we are constantly entering this digital space, it only makes sense that people want their online presence to resemble what they look like in the real world, or perhaps more appropriately, what they wish they looked like.
Technology is rapidly improving within the realm of VR. We already have the ability to wear virtual clothing on your real self through the use of an AR filter. Think of this as being similar to a Snapchat or Instagram filter that changes your appearance. Bespoke clothes fittings are also available through the use of ‘digital tailors’ who apply virtual clothes to your body by working off a photograph. Whilst all of this tech is still relatively clunky, it is getting and better all the time. The real game changer will come when augmented reality glasses enter mainstream society. This could change our entire perception of fashion, with people choosing to wear comfortable, practical clothing on the surface whilst also donning crazy virtual garments on top.
If this sounds like science fiction to you, you can be forgiven for thinking so. But the future is much closer than you think. French design studio, RTFKT, made headlines earlier this year when they sold $3.1 million worth of virtual trainers in under 10 minutes. The trainers were sold as ‘NFTs’ which stands for non-fungible tokens. Non-fungible means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, money is fungible as a £1 coin can be swapped with any other £1 coin. Therefore, if you purchase an NFT, that item is one a kind and if you decided to trade it, you will have something completely different afterwards. At the moment, these NFTs can only be purchased via the use of cryptocurrency such as Ethereum.
F***ing confusing, I know. But these things are selling like hot cakes at the minute, and they don’t look like they’re disappearing any time soon.
Still not sold? Well, virtual clothing has many real-life plus points. Production of digital goods emits 97% less Co2 than that of real clothing. Fast fashion is one of biggest contributors to pollution and global warming around the world. VR clothing could solve this issue almost overnight. Moreover, augmented reality would allow designers to create pieces that have never been possible before, such as dresses made out of fire, or a suit made from water. At Barneys Originals we always strive for our customers to become the best version of themselves by using their outfits as a vehicle for self-expression. VR would allow people to do this beyond the realms of what was previously considered possible.
There are, however, many limitations to metaverse fashion. Although it is much more sustainable to produce, the crypto currency that is currently needed to purchase the clothing requires an enormous amount of energy to mine and mint. This is in turn counteracting any sustainability from the creation of the virtual garment. There’s also a slightly dystopian, Black Mirror-esque nature to the metaverse in that it will only succeed as long as everyone is using it all of the time. The world is a beautiful place (most of the time) and the idea of altering its perception seems somewhat… dangerous. I can’t get the idea of a futuristic re-telling of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ out of my head, where one day the augmented reality glasses run out of charge only to reveal that everybody is actually walking around cold and naked or donned in only grey rags. They have forgotten their true reality.
Alas, that may just be me going too far down the Ready Player 1 rabbit hole. Ultimately, there is no doubt that the real world and the virtual world are becoming more and more blurred. It will continue to do so for each generation that comes after us until the two will be more or less completely intwined. Whether we like it or not, for good or for bad, the metaverse is the future of fashion. So next time you go out shopping, you might want to pick something up for your avatar too!