Attraction towards novelty or desire for renewal? The meaning of fashion in the metaveso

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To talk about fashion in the metaverse, it is necessary to do it with a cool head, with a posthumous perspective of events that, in the moment, catch the intellect out of control in the wake of excess enthusiasm. Avoiding an overflow of sensations in favor of a Wordsworthian emotion exhumed in tranquility, we can now focus on what the new digital dimension entails for fashion and creativity, limiting the usual lorem ipsum of names and numbers. After several projects that heralded the start of the fashion market in this unknown land of the web (from the CryptoJanky NFT collection created last February by Gucci and SUPERPLASTIC to the Plein Sport line presented in Milan by the humanoid Romeo 1.0), the first Fashion Week in the metaverse of history, which took place from 24 to 27 March 2022. Although the prospect of an ether coexisting the everyday in a land of pixels has enticed the fanatics of innovation as an end in itself, there are many who look with skepticism towards this further experiment that has our individuality as the only guinea pig. Think of the increasingly conflicting approach to social media.

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A decline in popularity by companies and users towards influencers, as well as a parallel turn of many fashion houses towards the abolition of Instagram and Facebook profiles (just mention Bottega Veneta), confirmed the desire for concreteness that is lacking in the contemporary world, with an attached decree law passed by the Norwegian government which will oblige to enunciate the use of filters in sponsored contents starting from the summer. The very meaning of the metaverse therefore seems to waver in the face of the evidence of an underlying fatigue that, finally, wants to return to qualitative standards free from indefinite consumerism and more oriented towards authenticity. Yet, the mass adhesion of brands to this elusive revolutionary program raises solid doubts about the direction that fashion has decided to take and how it intends to reconcile its dual nature as a work of art and a commercial product. On the one hand, the metaverse certainly offers unexplored possibilities for creation. Without physical formulas to regulate and constrain the imagination, any shape can come to life, gravity is mocked and weight is replaced by an everlasting impalpability, just as colors and transparencies are no longer subject to the materiality of the fabric, of the leather, of the substance. Emerging brands such as AVAVAV, led by creative Beate Karlsson, and independent designers such as Masha Batsii, whose bags are loved by none other than Kanye West, find in NFT an additional means of expression and digression for a young and sparkling inspiration, who wants to break out of the box by challenging the impossible.

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However, it is equally true that, before them, the great names in fashion, from Paul Poiret to Alexander McQueen, acted on the tangible of an existence that is made above all of flesh and blood, a truth that in recent times is reflected in a experimentation and research of innovative materials that trigger an environmental regeneration process. That there is an attraction towards novelty is understandable, as is the reduction of production costs, but the problem remains. We are always talking about fashion, clothing, a discipline where the abstract has no reason to exist, because what’s the point of buying a dress if you can’t (physically) wear it? Alongside the indie realities, there are also the great names of couture, who presented themselves en masse at this multimedia fashion week with collections and proposals of clothes and accessories limited to the metaverse only and purchasable exclusively via cryptocurrencies. Desire for renewal or action necessary to keep the approval rating of very demanding luxury consumers always high? A question that may never be answered. The debate expands: there is already talk of digital body positivity, with avatar models that are always slim and perfect, of cultural inclusion and appropriation, translating unresolved problems into another dimension, without counting the bureaucratic diatribes related to the sale of digital objects whose ownership is certified solely through blockchain technology.

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Despite the optimistic economic projections of virtual fashion (which according to the investment bank Morgan Stanley will reach fifty-five billion by 2030), we remain stuck in an oceanic shoal, stranded on the raison d’être of the metaverse and on the need to invest in a digital wardrobe. Apparently, a pandemic with forced enclosure was not enough to make people appreciate the value of working on knowledge, leading companies and entrepreneurs to constantly think in digital terms. The metaverse will thrive, expanding the size of our living space to a Sims replica world where our doubles will be able to experience experiences denied to us. Nonetheless, the pleasure of experiencing the concrete will remain such, as will the joy of feeling the texture of a fabric on the skin, of knowing the artisan processes that place handmade bags on our shoulders, leaving the experiential value of real life intact. In a famine of fantasy, in a crisis of human values, in a torn world where interventionism is more essential than ever, thinking about a digital escape is perhaps like a sentence never uttered, but entered into history, where a Silicon Valley incarnated in Marie Antoinette, she begins in the face of our hunger for life, our lack of bread, with an everlasting “let them eat brioches”.

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