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Dematerialisation: Why the Metaverse Is Fashion’s Next Goldmine

Physical and digital worlds merge in the Metaverse. Can the luxury world dematerialise into the virtual space fast enough to attract eager customers — and their avatars?
Why the Metaverse is Fashion's Next Goldmine

Imran visits digital guru, Ian Rogers, curious to see his collection of NFT art — and to ask the question, what exactly is an NFT anyway?

Rogers moved to Paris from Silicon Valley in 2015 when he was appointed chief digital officer of LVMH, acting as a digital whisperer to C-suite luxury executives. Today, as chief experience officer of Ledger — a security system that provides protection for digital assets — he is uniquely positioned to speak about the opportunities being created as crypto technologies, gaming and fashion converge.

Rogers tells Imran that, one day, virtual fashion will become ubiquitous. “It’s inevitable. It’s a generational shift. I look at my 14 year old and she has spent the last year and a half living in a Metaverse. Her school is on Zoom. She hangs out with her friends online — on Instagram, in Tik Tok, in Fortnite, in Animal Crossing. So for them, having a digital collection, it’s completely natural. Why would I want a collection of stuff that no one can see when I can have a collection of digital stuff that everyone can see?”

The most common misconception people have, Rogers explains, is that there’s a distinction between the physical and digital worlds. The blurring of realities in the Metaverse will ultimately change our perceptions of what’s real — and valuable. “We have one consciousness, right? I can read Twitter and get pissed off. I don’t get digital pissed off. We need to let go of this notion of kind of, oh, that’s digital. This is physical.”

Marjorie Hernandez and Karinna Nobbs, co-founders of digital fashion start-up, The Dematerialised, echo Rogers, describing the Metaverse as “nothing but the Internet breaking free from the two-dimensional barrier into this three-dimensional environment… that starts blurring more and more with our daily life.”

They explain how virtual fashion will transform the fashion industry as we know it. “It comes from the gaming world effectively, in which your avatar is part of your personality. As we start transitioning more and more into the virtual world, we will start consuming digital sneakers, digital makeup, digital jewellery... It’s the biggest revolution the fashion industry has seen so far.”

Benoit Pagotto is a gamer at heart. He’s also the man behind one of the most lucrative NFT drops to date. Earlier this year, his design studio, RTFKT Studios (pronounced Artefact) worked with teenage digital artist, Fewocious to sell 620 virtual sneakers, generating a total of $3.1 million in less than five minutes. “I think we were all surprised. But the really great thing was that we are a new brand. We completely changed the game of how we can think of releasing a fashion item or releasing a drop of sneakers.”

Luxury brands are taking notice. Some are courting Pagatto in the hope that they too can leverage the virtual fashion opportunity. But RTFKT operates outside the traditional fashion system. “We are not looking at fashion history to be inspired,” Pagotto explains. “We are looking at gaming, anime, sci fi movies. Those are our reference points.” And Pagotto is sceptical about fashion brands’ chances of success. “It’s a culture that they don’t understand. At best it is going to be the innovation team taking care of it... And honestly, I haven’t seen innovation coming from fashion brands in a long time.”

Historically, fashion has a poor track record in anticipating and adapting to new platform shifts. But this time around, the big brands seem to be moving faster. Whether they can compete with the digitally native entrepreneurs defining the space remains to be seen.

“The BoF Show with Imran Amed”, an immersive video series streaming on Bloomberg Quicktake airs on Thursdays at 9pm New York time and is available for on-demand viewing.

Explore the first six episodes here and stay tuned for the biweekly episode launches.

Digital Fashion & Avatars Decoded

The Opportunity in Digital Fashion and Avatars Report — BoF Insights

BoF Insights’ guide to digital assets in fashion, which examines the rise of the metaverse and underlying technological, social and consumer shifts, plus includes a playbook for how to seize the opportunity. To explore the full report click here.

The Opportunity in Digital Fashion and Avatars is the in-depth report published by BoF Insights, a new data and analysis think tank from The Business of Fashion arming business leaders with proprietary and data-driven research to navigate the fast-changing global fashion industry.

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Gucci Is Selling $12 (Virtual) Sneakers

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