In February 2021, NFT marketplace RTFKT sold 600 pairs of digital sneakers in under seven minutes, racking in some $3.1 million in sales. A few months later, in June, a virtual-only Gucci bag sold on Roblox for over $4,000— a price tag higher than its real life counterpart. And fashionistas can now purchase rare digital garments from the likes of Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo and Dolce & Gabbana across a number of NFT marketplaces as the rush for statement pieces that can be flaunted in the metaverse picks up pace.
In many ways, fashion in virtual worlds is poised to emulate what we already see in day to day life, as we’ll want to dress-up our avatars and use fashion as a form of self-expression and status.
Sure, you might not be convinced yet, but some think the idea has legs. Morgan Stanley, for example, recently forecast that the virtual fashion market could be worth over $55 billion by 2030. And we don’t even have to look that far ahead into the future to see whether or not metaverse fashion will take off. As you’re about to find out, there are already a number of brands launching metaverse-only collections and making millions off of fashion NFTs.
Curious to know what are fashion houses doing in the metaverse? Let’s find out.
What Benefits Does Entering The Metaverse Brings To Fashion Brands
Fashion is, as we know, a trendsetting industry, never to be left behind as times move forward. And with the metaverse now rapidly taking shape, it’s no surprise to see apparel brands embracing emerging technology, particularly non-fungible tokens, and experimenting with new mediums. Here are a few reasons why entering the metaverse can prove to be a very successful strategy:
Simply put, moving to all-digital collections saves designers a lot of headaches. They no longer have to worry about issues such as sourcing raw materials, finding factories and skilled workers or inventory storage. Fashion is a notoriously laborious industry, with couture pieces taking weeks, if not months, to be completed.
Digital designs, on the other hand, can be put together in a matter of minutes. By embracing a virtual approach, creators can dramatically cut their costs and focus their creative efforts in a more efficient way.
These days, virtual fashion can be synonymous with huge profit margins. In fact, a digital garment can represent nearly 100 percent in pure profit for its creator.
Compared to all the costs involved in the extensive process designers and brands have to go through in fashion, the upside is very clear. With minimal labor involved and no (real life) materials needed, minting designs can become a very lucrative business.
Secondary Market Profits
Just as selling virtual fashion can lead to great profits, there’s another tempting reason to experiment with the metaverse and with creating fashion NFTs.
These tokens are built on top of smart contracts, which determine the terms and conditions associated with the underlying digital asset. More importantly, this means that a brand can embed a code related to royalties, so that each time a virtual garment changes hands, they get a cut of the transaction.
The same cannot be said about the secondary market panorama that we have today as normally pieces that are resold bring no additional money to the original designer or fashion brand.
The Fabricant is an example of a digital fashion house that also takes 5% royalty whenever a garment is resold after the first purchase, but they’re not certainly alone in this strategy.
No Inventory or Oversupply
Fashion brands are frequently faced with problems related to overproduction, over-inventory and end-of-season stock. In turn, this forces companies to scramble for strategies in order to rapidly dilute inventory before the beginning of the next season, including slapping steep discounts onto their pieces, and reduce exposure to logistical bottlenecks as those recently experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A virtual fashion collection eliminates any number of these problems by simply staying within the digital environment. In other words, buyers don’t receive a physical version of the garment, though they could be provided with all the details needed to produce it in the real world if they so choose.
By the same token, apparel companies opting for a digital-first approach are in a leading position to offer a novel way of embracing fashion, whereby customers are offered the chance to experiment with a wide variety of garments online - that is, in the metaverse - and place orders in such a way that designers are only creating real life pieces once they’re ordered instead of filling stores with stock that might never be sold.
Innovation and Creativity
In many ways, fashion is about anything and everything but the garments and accessories themselves. The industry is anchored on creative processes, self-expression freedom, personal enjoyment and the message our choices send to others around us. That being said, it’s still hard to challenge real world limitations to innovation as designers can’t exactly create pieces that defy gravity, fabric limitations or material durability, which put a finitude to the types of things that can be made. Well, that’s finally out of the window.
Creating fashion for the metaverse is injecting a breath of fresh air into the industry by liberating creators from all constraints. We’re already seeing garments being designed out of impractical or even impossible fabrics like liquid gold, water, fire or smoke. With such a unique blank canvas, the road for original and eccentric creations is wide open. Another way in which fashion brands are leveraging the metaverse is seeing iconic houses dusting off their archival designs and re-creating metaverse-only versions.
As part of the customer experience enabled by the metaverse and the technology that underpins it, the idea that we can now access fashion that is for us, as an individual, rather than for the masses is finally possible.
That’s because in the metaverse it’s possible to create “custom’ fashion apparel that can be personalized for each avatar, down to the smallest detail.
This individualization feature adds tremendous value in a market increasingly customer-centric and where many of us are looking for one-of-kind garments.
In addition to developing custom pieces, in the metaverse, each digital item is assigned a unique serial number, which further cements its status as a truly unique fashion piece.
Having entered virtual spaces and embraced cutting technology, brands have started creating next-gen retail experiences, tapping into newer and more dynamic forms of engagement with consumers.
From digital retail spaces to fashion pieces, we are reaching an unprecedented moment where fashion is capable of undergoing constant updates so that the experience of buying a garment in the metaverse will be but static and dull.
According to recent data, of all the overall fashion retail sales worldwide, 21% are now done online, with the trend only expected to keep growing in that direction. As such, it’s relevant for fashion brands to keep pace with the times and meet the age- old adage of meeting consumers where they are. It’s becoming clear that virtual environments are where they are.
It’s no secret that if there’s an industry particularly hard to break into, fashion is certainly one. This doesn’t have to hold true in the metaverse. One of the key pillars behind the concept of virtual worlds and the upcoming web3 (thought of as the next generation of the internet) is decentralization. The role of intermediaries will be completely removed, lowering the barrier of entry significantly. Whether you’re an established fashion brand or an emerging designer, there will always be opportunities for you to showcase your work in a metaverse boutique store and share it freely across virtual worlds.
Top 15 Fashion Brands Leveraging The Metaverse
Taking the crown as one of the earliest metaverse movers, Gucci has embarked on a number of initiatives that have propelled the Italian luxury brand into new fashion heights.
In May of last year, Gucci launched its first NFT-related project, with a movie inspired by its Aria collection. The title went on to be sold as part of the ‘PROOF OF SOVEREIGNTY: A Curated NFT Sale by Lady PheOnix’ Christies-led auction, in collaboration with digital artist Lady PheOnix.
The same month, Gucci collaborated with metaverse and gaming platform Roblox, launching a space called Gucci Garden. This digital experience took inspiration from the label’s real life Florence show, held in commemoration of Gucci’s 100th anniversary.
Roblox users had the opportunity to explore the Garden’s immersive themed rooms, try on and purchase Gucci NFTs to be worn inside the game.
The activation was so successful in fact that a virtual version of Gucci’s iconic Dionysus bag sold for a price tag higher than its real world counterpart, at a record-breaking $4,115.
Since then, the iconic luxury brand has remained active in its exploration of virtual worlds, gaming, blockchain and NFTs.
It has released NFTs in collaboration with toy maker Superplastic and the narrative NFT project 10KTF, and has recently announced plans to scale the luxury brand’s metaverse and gaming strategies.
On the occasion of the celebration of founder Louis Vuitton’s 200th anniversary last year, the legendary French fashion house released a mobile game in partnership with digital artists Beeple.
Titled ‘Louis the Game’, users are given an insight into the storied brand as they follow the game’s protagonist, Vivienne, across seven different virtual worlds inspired by real life famous fashion capitals, including London, Paris and Munich.
Players were also able to customize their avatars with a wide offering of LV prints, unveiling the history behind the famed luxury house through postcards and other memorabilia popping up along the gameplay. Higher levels are unlocked by collecting monogram candles.
This mobile game was initially released with 30 embedded NFTs, 10 of which were designed by Beeple. Since then, Louis Vuitton has rolled out consistent updates, including additional non-fungible tokens, keeping its over 2 million players engaged.
As for the tokens, they were never meant to be sold in the open market as explained by Louis Vuitton’s CEO, Michael Burke who explained: “This is not a commercial experience, but a pedagogical, educational experience that must be fun, emotional and dynamic”.
Going all in into the metaverse, Nike has launched a number of digital-only initiatives leveraging blockchain and web3 technology.
Last year, the sportswear giant launched a virtual presence in the metaverse with the inauguration of Nikeland on Roblox.
This metaverse space, modeled after the company’s real-life headquarters, includes Nike buildings, arenas and spaces where players can compete against each other in a wide array of mini-games, including dodgeball and ‘The Floor Is Lava’. Roblox users can also create their own collections and games with interactive sports materials.
As part of its virtual showroom, Nike displays apparel and sneakers classics like the Air Force 1, ACG, Nike Tech Pack and Nike Blazer.
To date, Nikeland has been visited by over 21 million users and has and has been favorited by almost 118,000 gamers, according to Roblox.
In addition, earlier this year Nike also launched a collection of 20,000 NFTs dubbed the “Cryptokicks”, with a collector dropping $130,000 for one pair alone. It helps that these particular sneakers were designed by famed Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. The athletic apparel firm has also been busy filling a flurry of patents detailing further plans to create and sell more NFTs in the metaverse.
The bet is already paying off. At the beginning of 2022. Nike Digital, which includes metaverse operations, was raking in a quarter of the brand’s total revenue. Thanks to its digital approach, including the acquisition of digital design studio RTFKT, Nike has managed to pull $185.3 million in revenue from its NFT collections.
Back in December of 2021, Adidas released its Into The Metaverse, a 30,000-strong NFT collection, created in collaboration with the Bored Ape Yacht Club, pixel vault’s PUNKS comics creators and crypto investor Gmoney.
The tokens brought digital and physical together, with buyers being able to purchase not only the NFTs but also the physical clothing attached to it.
The virtual wearables are most notably usable within The Sandbox, a metaverse-like platform, with physical products including tracksuits, hoodies and Gmoney’s signature orange beanie.
All digital assets are secured by crypto exchange Coinbase and the foray is part of the sportswear lifestyle label, Adidas Originals.
Embarking on a daring exploration of fashion in virtual worlds, Prada joined forces with Adidas Originals for a limited edition NFT collection created by users all over the world.
Titled Adidas for Prada Re-Source, the project brought together 3000 randomly selected participants from industries like fashion, design and crypto who were tasked with creating individual NFT tiles. After minting, the tiles were compiled into one NFT world by the hands of digital artist Zach Lieberman.
According to Adidas, the goal of the collection was “an ambitious first-of-its-kind NFT collaboration that will feature user-generated and creator-owned art.”
The final artwork was then auctioned on SuperRare, with the greatest portion of the proceeds going to Slow Factory, an NGO dedicated to creating education and other opportunities for local communities, as well as community creators.
Prada collaborated with Polygon Studios to create the NFT on Polygon's network.
Burberry, the celebrated London-based luxury fashion house, was one of the first to give the metaverse a shot with a splashy collaboration with Mythical Games’ Blankos Block Party.
With a shark character named Sharky B, Burberry has been able to tap into the NFT world, letting buyers purchase, upgrade and sell the token within the Blankos Block Party marketplace. And of course, Sharky comes with Burberry’s well-known monogram, inspired by the brand’s Animal Kingdom house code.
Also part of this NFT collection are branded in-game accessories, including fashionable armbands, pool shoes and a jetpack. But it’s not just about the clothing as any Sharky B can be trained to unlock a vast array of superpowers like agility and speed, helping increase its rarity and uniqueness.
More recently, Burberry released the second installment of this successful collaboration with a new NFT unicorn character named Minny B, along with a line of NFT accessories.
The famed fashion brand has also launched a virtual bag collection for the Roblox metaverse.
From Paris Fashion Week straight to the metaverse, Balenciaga is bringing its trademark garments to an avatar near you.
In 2021, the luxury label became the first to release an NFT capsule collection in the videogame Fortnite, a wildly popular virtual world where players can build their own games.
As such, users can visit and buy virtual Balenciaga items at the Fornite x Balenciaga store, including statement pieces like the Hourglass Bag Glider and the Speed Sneaker Pickaxe. They can also choose from a collection of avatar skins and accessories. These virtual wearables can be used across multiple game modes.
But real life fashionistas need not worry as Balenciaga also designed limited-edition series of physical products, like hoodies, shirts, jackets, and caps featuring Fortnite and Balenciaga logos.
The brand has revealed that following the release of this collection of virtual looks, the search volume for Balenciaga nearly doubled.
And with the metaverse segment increasingly a significant area of focus for Balenciaga, the fashion house has unveiled plans to launch a metaverse business unit in the near future.
Bringing timeless fashion to a new dimension, the iconic fashion label Hermes has hinted at major web3 plans after filing a trademark to protect its brand in virtual worlds, covering virtual clothing and non-fungible tokens.
While not much is yet known about the full scope of Hermes’ plans, it appears the French luxury brand intends on launching its own virtual marketplace and web3 financial services, including a virtual currency connected to digital collectibles and NFTs.
The trademark application also mentions fashion shows and trade events in both AR and VR environments.
The move follows a high-profile legal court case with the Metabirkin NFT creator, Mason Rothschild, who Hermes accused of copyright infringement of its iconic BIRKIN trademark.
Fast fashion retailer Forever 21 entered the metaverse with a bang, becoming a part of Decentraland’s Fashion District during Metaverse Fashion Week earlier this year. As part of the initiative, the retailer had a dynamic storefront with Forever 21 avatars and a range of 21 fashion NFTs, inspired by pieces available in physical stores.
Following that, Forever 21 embarked on a swathe of other metaverse projects. It has launched the “Forever 21 Shop City” on Roblox, where users, fashion influencers and creatives can build, own and manage their personal store. Roblox users can also trade the brand’s merchandise, including clothing and accessories.
More recently, the fashion retailer partnered with Mattel’s Barbie to launch a collection on Roblox.
As part of its ongoing metaverse promotion strategy, Forever 21 has continued collaborating with numerous digital influencers.
Zara is no stranger to using emerging technology. In 2018, the Spanish fashion giant started experimenting with augmented reality back in 2018, releasing an AR app and placing AR displays in 120 stores around the world.
Since then, Zara has only doubled down on its metaverse efforts. Last year, it entered a partnership with Zepeto, a South Korean metaverse with nearly 300 million users, and fashion collective Ader Error to launch its latest collection in a virtual world.
And this year, it released an array of virtual clothing and makeup as part of its Lime Glam campaign. The limited-time collection featured virtual clothes and makeup that users could not only dress up their Zepeto avatars with, but also wear in real life as Zara also released physical pieces.
Some of the most popular items included makeup products and accessories such as jumpsuits, jackets, jeans, a nail polish range and an eyeshadow palette.
In addition to the campaign Zara also launched a new channel on Snapchat, where users have access to special AR filters.
British fast fashion retailer Boohoo has been experimenting with new platforms as of late, and this year it launched boohooverse – a Web 3.0 platform dedicated to empowering women in the digital space.
More specifically, the initiative is dedicated to onboarding the female fashion community into Web3 and future fashion projects in the metaverse. As part of the project, Bohoo also ran a competition to reward and empower emerging female artists in the NFT community.
To enter Boohooverse, shoppers had to get their hands on 3D NFT cards, handed out for free, which doubled as access cards to exclusive events, offers and NFT drops. 1/20 of the holders also received free premier delivery on all boohoo orders for a whole year.
For this, the brand partnered with renowned NFT artists and creative designer Amy Kilner.
The fashion retailer, known for partnering with celebrities such as Megan Fox, Kourtney Kardashian and Zendaya, also launched a metaverse campaign together with Paris Hilton earlier this year as the socialite hosted Fashion Week on Roblox.
The all-American Ralph Lauren is branching out of its staple Polo shirts and bringing its heritage branding to virtual worlds. For customers, their first taste of the RL metaverse came last year, as the label launched the “Ralph Lauren Winter Escape” experience inside the Roblox universe.
Visitors had the chance to snap up some of the brand’s NFTs, from puffer jackets to checkered beanies and a ski wear collection, for as little as $5. Besides the bold and sporty wearables, fans could also try their luck at scoring limited-edition accessories and surprise bonus NFTs.
Ralph Lauren has followed up this metaverse holiday-themed initiative with a slew of trademark applications for Polo, Ralph Lauren and its Polo player logo, with applications ranging from NFTs and virtual clothing to digital-only fashion shows and RL venues.
By now, you will have noticed that the metaverse is not short on fashionable options to personalize avatars and environments.
French fashion and perfume house Givenchy Parfums is yet another legendary brand carving out a name for itself in virtual worlds, having launched the Givenchy Beauty House on Roblox.
Inspired by emblematic Givenchy products, the virtual experience lets users enter the Givenchy castle, explore its gardens and dance in a nightclub. As part of the collaboration, there are also a number of digital items inspired by Givenchy fashion accessories, including a Le Rouge crossbody bag, an Irresistible backpack, a branded cap, 4G glasses, and a padlock chain.
And of course, virtual fashionistas can also give their avatar a beauty makeover, or even to improvise as a makeup artist.
Dolce & Gabbana
Renowned for its feminine and glamorous aesthetic - and daring catwalks - Dolce and Gabbana is hoping to leave a mark in the metaverse with NFT collections aimed at pushing the boundaries of fashion even further.
In 2021, the Italian luxury maker released Collezione Genesi, a collection of nine NFT pieces inspired by its Venice show. It ended up selling for a shocking $6 million, far exceeding the price of physical Dolce and Gabbana’s clothing.
This year, founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have continued designing part-NFT, part-physical pieces to supplement fashion lovers’ metaverse wardrobes with another Dolce and Gabbana collection filled with 20 full looks of wearable NFTs.
As the metaverse continues being a hot topic for fashion creators, Christian Dior has opted for testing the waters in a Chinese metaverse, after leaping into XiRang, a virtual world owned by Chinese search engine giant Baidu.
Through an interactive experience in the “Meta Ziwu,” viewers were invited to enter a virtual space where Dior’s Fall 2022 menswear collection was on display.
This comes on the back of earlier forays into the metaverse. In 2021, the Parisian fashion house had already joined forces with South Korean metaverse Zepeto to create a range of digital makeup looks and also collaborated with platform Ready Player Me to promote a Dior fragrance.