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Facebook’s Vision for Fashion in the Metaverse

While announcing Facebook’s rebrand as Meta, Mark Zuckerberg offered his vision of the metaverse — and how we’ll dress in it.
An image from Meta's presentation shows what looks like a meeting room in a spaceship with a circular table in the center where four avatars are sitting, one of which is a robot waving hello.
Meta's vision of how we'll look in the metaverse. Meta.

In the metaverse, as Mark Zuckerberg sees it, we’ll swipe through outfits in a virtual closet each morning and dress our digital avatars in clothing ranging from realistic to outlandish.

The Facebook founder and chief executive gave a glimpse of his ideas for fashion’s digitised future during a wide-ranging presentation Thursday that included a sweeping vision for the trajectory of his company, renamed Meta, and plans to realign resources on efforts to build the metaverse.

The ambitious project will require years of investment of time and money. The metaverse, generally imagined as a persistent virtual plane that brings elements of the real and digital worlds together in a unified, seamless and immersive experience, doesn’t exist yet and likely won’t for some time. But Zuckerberg said the building blocks are already there, and Meta will do its part to help put them together.

Not everyone is so certain. While many metaverse proponents are heralding it as the next stage in the internet’s evolution, there are a number of sceptics.

“I predict that the metaverse won’t happen,” wrote Sean Monahan, a member of the trend forecasting group K-Hole known for coining the term “normcore,” in a piece for The Guardian earlier this year. He argued more than three decades of efforts to make virtual reality take off haven’t worked so far, and it’s still unclear what value the metaverse would add to everyday life.

Zuckerberg has become a fervent metaverse evangelist as he’s refocused his company on the idea. In the video, he gets ready for a typical day, which starts with putting on glasses or a headset that overlays digital elements in the real world. (Notably, Zuckerberg talks about this step but doesn’t actually put on the glasses.) He walks over to an area where a cartoonish avatar of him stands and uses swipe gestures to change its outfit, cycling through looks including a plain long-sleeve crewneck and jeans, a T-shirt and jeans, a skeleton jumpsuit and a spacesuit.

A key feature of this metaverse concept is that the way we present ourselves, both in terms of our avatars and our clothing, won’t need to obey the norms and restrictions of the real world.

“You’re going to have a wardrobe of virtual clothes for different occasions, designed by different creators and from different apps and experiences,” Zuckerberg explained in the video.

The same will go for avatars. You might have a photorealistic one for work and a more stylised one for hanging out online. This kind of behaviour is already widespread in games such as Fortnite, where users routinely buy cosmetic skins to change their appearance.

Shopping will also be an important component of Meta’s concept of the metaverse. Part of the video depicts two people, or rather their avatars, at a virtual event, looking at a floating screen and swiping through items such as a hoodie and a hat they’re able to purchase.

Barriers to Overcome

To make this idea of fashion in the metaverse a reality will require overcoming a variety of obstacles. One of many technological breakthroughs needed will be photorealistic avatars, and they’re only part of the challenge. “You’re going to need the ability to simulate clothing,” said Michael Abrash, the chief scientist of Facebook Reality Labs, a division devoted to virtual and augmented reality, in the video before introducing what he called an “early” look at a simulated hand interacting with a digital dress.

There’s also the matter of interoperability, or being able to bring virtual items across different apps and platforms. An outfit a user purchases in one video game, for example, still can’t be carried over to another game. Those in the digital fashion space are looking to NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which use a blockchain ledger to prove ownership of a digital item, as one part of the solution. But many of the mechanics have yet to be worked out.

As Zuckerberg himself acknowledges in the video, it will be years before these ideas come to fruition in anything like the coherent world he described — and that’s if it does at all.

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