2.4 billion people spend at least some part of their lives in virtual worlds. In the next 2 years this number will rise to 3 billion. And from there it will only grow.
As technology improves, these virtual worlds will converge, forming one cohesive digital existence: what is known as the Metaverse.
Akin to the worlds devised in Snowcrash and Ready Player One, the Metaverse is a single digital universe that operates in real-time. Rather than being challenge-based, or story-driven, the Metaverse will be a one-stop shop for all desires: be those experiencing culture, selling property, hanging-out with friends or earning a living.
Whenever we interact with others, when we get our coffee (filtering through scribbled names in dried-up Sharpie), do our jobs (smiling politely on Zoom in a well pressed shirt and week-old trackies), or post on social media (grids oozing with curated cohesion) identity is integral. What’s more, it adapts to both audience and platform. Who you are at work is rarely who you are on TikTok. So what does that mean for the Metaverse? Just as the internet comprises millions of niche communities you can elect to join, so too with the Metaverse. The main difference is that instead of writing on a web-based forum with others who share your passions, you’ll be participating in a fully-immersive virtual world alongside them. What’s more, that ‘you’ can be boundless. Feeling empowered? Be a humanoid huntress. Feeling a bit all over the place? Why not be an amoeba? The possibilities are limited only by shared imagination, a platform’s creator tools, and, of course, your wardrobe. In partnership with The Fabricant, every Sunday night at 8PM CET I gather leading thinkers in The Digital Fashion (Club) House to explore this wardrobe of the Metaverse; discussing everything from how virtual worlds affect our sense of self, to what technical foundations need to be in place to enable the next-gen gig economy. This month alongside Nate Clapp, Co-Founder/ Chief Creative Officer Async Art, Amber Slooten, Co-Founder/ Creative Director, The Fabricant, Regina Turbina, Founder Replicant/Artisant, Enara Nazarova, Founder ARMOAR, and Skeeva, Designer, Skeeva Digital Artist, I started our exploration with the topic of Collaborative Creation. The revolution will not be centralised Conservatively assuming (emphasis on the conservatively) that each individual would want just one item of clothing to wear in the Metaverse, 3 billion digital garments would need to be made by 2023. That’s one hell of alot of clothing. It would be impossible for a single fashion house to satisfy this monumental demand. In fact it would be impossible for 10,000 fashion houses to even come close (150,000 new garments per year is a stretch - even for Zara). There’s only one way that 3 billion pieces of digital clothing could possibly be made in two years, and that’s by turning to the wider community: leveraging the powers of User Generated Content (UGC). In order to allow UGC to reach its full potential, and fill the wardrobes of the Metaverse, Digital Fashion is already reassessing traditional relationships between creators, consumers, and their contemporaries. In our discussions this month we bought the how, and why to life. A reassessment of values: creator-to-creator For over 300 years, the Fashion Industry has been a top-down, tightly controlled, system. Though dressed in many disguises (a mohawk one year, a demure Chanel suit the next), fashion’s gatekeepers are a largely homogenous bunch: well-groomed, wealthy and unsurprisingly, thin. This illuminati, with little exception, advance those who mimic the designs and values already at the top. Whilst this ‘fashion police’ can’t completely limit what enters the market, they can restrict whose work is given exposure; leading expressions of varied identities to be at best limited, and at worst crushed. Digital Fashion defies this model in its entirety. In conversation, award winning Digital Designer Skeeva put it simply: “We are not competitors. We need to acknowledge we’re in the same boat. We have to build and make the industry stronger. We have to unite” Cobbled together from idealistic rebels, disenfranchised with the abilities of fashion and gaming to provide sustainability, self-expression, or both, Digital Fashionistas are an exceptional bunch. Aware that creativity cannot be maximized by one pair of hands alone, they disregard Darwinian laws of competition to work-together, and inspire major industry players to do the same. Digital Designer Regina Turbina serves as a perfect example. Instead of suppressing her competitors out of fear, Regina has created new routes for them to monetize. First, through her Digital Fashion marketplace Replicant, and now through NFT platform Artisant, which allows Digital Designers to “create value in the NFT space”, by embedding elements like instant 3D try-on, into the experience of their works. The Fabricant similarly shuns traditional industry practices. Driven by the desire to grow in tandem with their community, rather than at their expense. Shunning winner-takes-all industry practices, they actively invite Digital Designers to use Fabricant IP as a jumping off point for their own creativity through FFROPS and competitions (such as the #UsturChallenge, in collaboration with Star Atlas, currently running). Looking into the wider-Metaverse it's clear that the behaviour of Digital Fashion pioneers mirrors that of the most prominent platform players. The founders of Roblox (one of the most successful proto-metaverses in existence) made the bet that the talents of a global collective could supersede what a team of handpicked developers could create on their own. And they were right! Calling on a decentralised community of over 7 million digital creators, Roblox caters to the needs of its 199 million monthly active users with a constant stream of content. Just like The Fabricant and Regina, Roblox gives its users the tools they need to create, alongside the audience and incentives that will inspire them to do so. The result? Content which is more creative, expansive and entertaining than could ever be made by one company alone. A responsive relationship: creator-to-consumer With data becoming abundant, the economy has moved from an experience for us, to an experience for me. In the content we consume, or the items that we buy, feeling that they’re ours increasingly equals feeling that they were made for us. And Digital Fashion is no different. After meeting his co-founder in the Metaverse, Nate Clapp bet on the fact that consumers wanted their art to be both shapeable and dynamic. Rather than providing a marketplace to simply mint and market non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Nate created a platform to make NFTs come alive. Literally. The works on async.art are composed of Masters enhanced by Layers. These Layers can be programmed to change with time, or the weather, and are bought and sold separately to the original piece. Through providing these Layers, async enables the consumer to modify the work they own along guardrails set by the artist: changing their role from passive buyer to active (co-) creator. The Fabricant Fortuna Shoe, currently available on async.art, provides a perfect example. Composed of 3 masters, 3 elements, and 5 layers (shoe side, laces, effect, sole, and background), there are a total of 243 unique ways the final shoe can be made: all at the buyer’s discretion. What’s more, the Fortuna Filter, available through AR try-on platform Vyking, was inspired by buyer selection; transforming NFT collectors from consumers, to (co-) Digital Designers, with the touch of a button. Similar to Nate, Digital Fashion & Art maverick Enara Nazarova built her platform ARMOAR to strengthen the relationship between artists and their patrons. Though still in beta, Enara explained to us that the mission of her platform is to enable “dimensions of interaction, participation, and collaborative creation” in digital assets; allowing consumers and contemporaries to provide real-time feedback to creators throughout their process. As with the reassessment of values, a responsive relationship between creator and consumer is not unique to the wardrobe of the Metaverse. Rather it’s a quality Digital Fashion has inherited from the wider digital sphere. The most successful creator platforms (Youtube, TikTok, Twitch and Instagram, to name a few) all allow users to curate communities of supporters, sponsors and sounding boards. Leveraging these channels creators can understand if a work will resonate, before dedicating time to its full development. The impact? Content which is receptive, rich and digitally tailored - in the wardrobe of the Metaverse and beyond. The revolution will be live Like all bleeding edge evolutions, the wardrobe of the Metaverse is constantly in flux, and moving at the speed of data. Want to keep up? The Digital Fashion House takes place every Sunday evening at 8PM CST. This month we’re exploring how the digital personas we create, and the clothes they wear, can alter our identities, talking to leading figures in fashion, gaming and anthropology. Join us here. The future is #phygital.
- Dani, This Outfit Does Not Exist