Fashion and the metaverse would be the perfect combo to name today’s cult. It is therefore not surprising that the Italian version “Moda e Metaverso” is now the title of a book that will be an inevitable success, providing a brief overview of the current situation of two industries benefiting from each other – fashion and the metaverse. We are talking about “Moda e Metaverso – Costruire identità di marca tra NFT, communities e social commerce”, the latest work by Valeria Volponi (FrancoAngeli Editore).
Journalist and Digital Fashion and Social Media Marketing tutor at Istituto Marangoni Milano, Volponi met the fashion school’s students to discuss the first book she wrote to outline a path for brand identity development through case studies of successful entrepreneurs and business strategy, branding and marketing.
Journalist and Digital Fashion and Social Media Marketing tutor at Istituto Marangoni Milano, Valeria Volponi met the fashion school’s students to discuss the first book she wrote
Here’s what we learned while she picked her brain on everything from investigating how fashion will evolve in the future thanks to the metaverse to the opportunities and risks associated with luxury brands entering this alternative scenario.
It has been a much-debated topic over the past year. What exactly is happening in the virtualisation of luxury? Valeria Volponi takes stock of the situation to imagine the future of fashion in the metaverse
If we look back to the beginning of 2000, it is interesting to see how newspapers criticised the launch of the Internet and how their outlook seemed somewhat pessimistic. Then we experienced how it went, and now we can see the same thing happening with the metaverse.
After some early enthusiasm, if you look at the headlines these days, many fashion news stories about the metaverse seem to agree: these platforms (and the Meta) are going nowhere, and some see them as a bubble already waiting to collapse, while others think the day is still far away when all this becomes a reality.
Benedetta Breschi, Marketing Lecturer at istituto Marangoni Milano, joined the conversation with author Valeria Volponi
As a result, companies are asking experts whether they should invest in the metaverse or not.
“For me, it’s a definite yes,” Valeria Volponi stated. “If you look closely, you will see how things differ from what you read in the newspapers. There is a gap between what is in the reports and the reality; investigate which companies are actually investing and what they are using their money for.”
Gucci is an excellent example of this: Kering’s Florentine brand was among the first to venture into the metaverse and has been disruptively pioneering there, still continuing to do so.
Valeria Volponi on the virtualisation of luxury
While the metaverse is still difficult for fashion to access, what can a high-end brand do to be prepared for this kind of future? Training and educating the community all around is the answer
One of the major challenges in the metaverse concerns technology. The only way you can access the metaverse today is through VR, which is neither inexpensive nor easy to use for non-gamers.
Statistics show that it will not take too long before high-tech companies find a way to make this more accessible; they estimated one year and a half.
Valeria Volponi spoke to students about the metaverse's rising importance in the world of fashion
What fashion brands need to do today is to train and educate people on what they will experience in the metaverse, something more than just a combination of virtual and augmented reality. That is why it is crucial to develop knowledge of this new world that feels like something straight out of a Spielberg film.
Companies must invest money now because it will soon be too late: we are not far from the day when the metaverse will be available to everyone and will change people’s lives.
Report on scoring and rankings: with Gucci, Louis Vuitton is one of the most successful brands to have landed on the metaverse
“You can find different business categories on the metaverse, but the ones with the highest number of subscribers are the food & beverage sector and fashion. Hence, if I were asked about the brand now using the metaverse at its best, I would say Louis Vuitton. It might not be the first brand that comes to mind, but their work is exciting.” This is what Valeria Volponi detailed about fashion brands and the metaverse.
Valeria Volponi's book “Moda e Metaverso” provides a brief overview of the current situation of two industries benefiting from each other – fashion and the metaverse
“Louis Vuitton developed a video game targeting a new generation audience for such a historic brand. Seven different scenarios have been created, each representing a fashion capital, and users can interact with brand ambassadors explaining Vuitton’s history and curiosities.”
Inclusivity in the metaverse versus luxury brand exclusivity: how these universes will work together and how we will move from “who I am” in physical reality to “who I will be” in an immersive, hybrid new world of possibilities
Most companies are wondering why to move from a high-profile position that they have worked hard to build over time to one where they would face significant risks and could fail.
What the established luxury fashion companies seem to ignore is that the world is evolving, the target audience is changing, and there is a need for a shift.
Valerie Volponi explored the evolution of the phygital world and the possible challenges for fashion companies
Moreover, there is a significant need for inclusivity regarding gender, age and body shape, while competition pushes labels forward in testing. While it takes some inclusivity to overcome physical boundaries, fashion houses must not compromise the exclusivity of the experience. Thanks to customised objects that keep it exclusive, users can reinvent themselves daily and create a fashion identity based on how they feel at that specific moment, just because of the metaverse.
The target audience should also be broader to make it work: the metaverse addresses both young and old. According to statistics, the older generation is more interested in investing, resulting in a new cluster of opportunities.
The metaverse does not require a specific age to be navigated but is looking for people interested in new ideas who want to reinvent themselves by creating a new identity over time and space.
Valeria Volponi in conversation with Istituto Marangoni Milano students
When entering the metaverse, the user goes from “who I am” to “who I will turn into.” While we used to believe that there was only one answer in terms of products, experiences and services that a brand could share with its community in the metaverse, by launching their own metaverse, fashion houses do not have to rely on a third-party platform. They can do as many cool and innovative things as they want to reinforce their brand identity in so many ways.
NTFs, capsule collections, limited editions and virtual influencers will shape the way people shop and behave in the near future
Brands and companies need to rethink their sales strategy, which does not mean shutting down retail stores or e-commerce sites but rather adding something new to what already exists.
There is a strong pressure for labels to intercept and interact with all the different experiences related to “who I am” at that precise moment. Each journey will be very unique in the metaverse; based on who you want to be, you may shop in some particular scenarios, with a specific customer journey and different products on sale.
Students attending Valeria Volponi's talk on NFTs, capsule collections, fashion and the metaverse
This is why companies should focus on capsule collections, limited editions and NFTs as a tool to sell through the metaverse.
It certainly won’t be enough to sell in this new space the exact items you are selling in physical bricks and mortar shops, yet you need to offer something unique to attract customers to visit your metaverse. To stress this concept, you as a brand will have to sell something that suits who I am at that time and the experience I am having in this one-off world.
Istituto Marangoni community during the talk with Valeria Volponi presenting her latest work, "Moda e Metaverso - Costruire identità di marca tra NFT, communities e social commerce"
But are the “living and breathing” influencers worried that virtual influencers will steal everything they have built? “I would be a bit alarmed if I were them,” said Valeria Volponi. “At the moment, we stress that being an influencer means that you are authentic, real and convey a sense of trust to your audience; and our first impression is that virtual influencers are far from this identikit.”
So, what could be the problem? Well, Nefele is the first Italian virtual influencer, and she is an imperfect one. Therefore, it is more appealing for companies if we consider their growing need for inclusivity or the idea that today we prefer to relate to someone who does not have to fit into outdated beauty stereotypes. Not to mention that these avatars have no physical limits and can, therefore, better represent a genderless approach while also not being caught up in gossip or scandals.
Author and Istituto Marangoni tutor Valeria Volponi
“It’s all about curiosity and exploration,” Valeria Volponi continued. “But it is also about using your communication correctly.” As the event came to a close, Volponi concluded: “I believe the metaverse will be a life-changing experience, and fashion brands must be ready and not be the least bit afraid of the newness to come.”