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What did we experience during the Metaverse Fashion Week 2023, what changed from last year’s event and is there any chance the digital experience surpasses the real life ones?

To be able to answer these questions, we ran a social listening exercise to compare the conversation around Metaverse Fashion Week 2022 and the one held this year. Let’s take a deeper look on this: 

Last year, over 108.000 users logged in for the first time on Decentraland to attend a Metaverse Fashion Week, and experienced from fashion shows to concerts, virtual influencer dynamics, store openings and even “after parties” from brands like AUROBOROS, Grimes, and Guo Pei,  all through their avatars.

The present scenario is markedly distinct, at a time when investment and cultural curiosity in the Metaverse have declined, it is quite clear that the producers needed to concentrate all their endeavours on regaining public interest. This is precisely the objective behind their event named “Future heritage” but, with only an attendance of roughly 50.000 users, according to Forbes, it’s unclear if they succeeded or if there is something else that they are still missing.

From Samy Alliance, we had great expectations on what was going to happen and wanted to see the evolution of the whole event: virtual influencers dynamics, brands displays, NFT and other goods… Everything that yells New Generations is alive and reunited in this digital-space, and of course we needed to check the progress and the improvement room for brands to take the most out of this new generations space

MVFW “FUTURE HERITAGE”: the experience

By offering spaces to brands that have a wider reach but are not necessarily high fashion, the event aimed to increase the number of visitors and digital purchases. In addition to Neo Plaza, events and places of interest could also be found in the Luxury District, the new Organic Origins, Dragon City and Genesis City. However, the strategy did not stop there: MVFW23 took place across Web3 with multiple events held in the OVR and Spatial metaverses.

“This year, the heart of MVFW in Decentraland is the newly constructed Neo Plaza, designed to showcase Neo Designers, the next generation of fashion designers, in line with the theme of this year’s MVFW—’Future Heritage’.”

Source: Decentraland.com

Metaverse producers took this decision to expand its reach and drag more attention to the event; they even attempted to solve the issue of users not being able to jump over platforms, by a partnershipping with the startup Lighthouse, which is presented to be the first-ever metaverse search engine, and that provided navigation and real-time knowledge of where all user’s contacts were, therefore expanding cross-platform experience.

Part of the dynamic was centred around involving the users in more gaming and engaging activities related to the theme and, of course, giving them the chance to win as many goods as possible, encouraging both digital and physical purchases within the whole experience. For this matter, brands went all out in techniques and ideas:

Art collective Vueltta created an immersive installation and code-breaking game that ran for four days. Players were challenged to decode a cryptic message while learning about the late designer’s most iconic collections and campaigns, and on the last day they had the chance to participate in the Dear Vivienne catwalk, by walking along in their most “anti-fashion” wearables.

The Institute of Digital Fashion and designer Bradley Sharpe, created a project that questioned the purpose of physical clothing in a world facing environmental challenges, a particularly relevant topic for Gen-Zers: they made NFTs that encouraged people to support sustainable fashion. The project included two limited edition digital wearables that people could buy on the MVFW.

During the event, people could collect NFTs, try on digital clothes at showrooms like the Hugo Boss one, explore different virtual worlds while wearing their favourite outfits, including the high couture ones, like a digital Tommy Hilfiger jacket or even interacting at Vogue Singapore’s Digital Fashion Competition, which was determined by votes and the winner was given the opportunity to be featured in Vogue Singapore, and showcased at Club Vogue Singapore on the Metaverse events platform Spatial.io.

Beyond the activities of the MVFW: why?

Rising virtual stores and spaces can help brands learn more about their customers. Tommy Hilfiger’s hub, made by Emperia, can track what people do in the different virtual worlds to see what pieces, products and even aesthetics they are spending more time and money on. Brands couldn’t do this before for other platforms they don’t own.

The hub also lets people buy multiple goods like a Tommy Hiliger’s varsity jacket, and the trick here, also used by Mango, is that they can buy it in physical or digital form: people can buy the physical version in the hub and the digital version in Ready Player Me, and then wear it in different virtual worlds. This connection between the virtual world and the real one encourages both brand recognition and sales, altogether by promoting the collection through the Metaverse Fashion Week only. 

The peak of Metaverse’s intention of fusioning the virtual world with the real one was shown by having Miami Fashion Week ventured into the Metaverse with its first-ever digital iteration in Decentraland, which was officially recognised by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Partnering with DRESSX, the largest “metacloset” for digital clothing and fashion NFTs, they both presented luxury fashion houses in the Luxury Fashion District, where users found all these immersive experiences, shows, and pop-up stores and even introduced a new digital supermodel named ‘Tangpoko.’

MVFW 2023… Did it work?

So far we have seen the brand’s efforts, but how did users feel with the whole event? To contrast the feelings and their actual sentiment, let’s check the results of our research and analysis of the conversation around Metaverse Fashion Week 2022 (March 24-27) and the one held this year (March 28-31).

The conversation in 2022 reunited 4.9K mentions all across social media (mostly on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Reddit) meanwhile this year’s MVFW only had 1.6K mentions in social media. 

This number is, indeed, particularly worrying; specifically when we zoom in and realised the top mentions were made by brands promoting their presence in the event; and even if there were almost no negative comments (1.2% out of the total volume) these were only from users complaining about the experience being disappointing, glitchy and not entertaining. 

With 50% less attendance than last year’s, and, in comparison, 70% less conversation in social media, MVFW23 had a hard welcoming and mute performance, despite all the strategic efforts. 

Evaluating the user’s sentiment, the whole digital experience and the brand’s actions, this could happen due to many reasons. Actually, according to Google Trends, the interest in Metaverse and NFT has dropped in comparison to last years’, and the general worrying because of the global economic crisis affects this kind of event undoubtedly; having the chance of spending money on digital assets is a very niche situation. 

What these events attempt to offer is a place to reunite users from all over the world and give them unique experiences, but as if the strategy and communications were not a challenge by themselves, the technology is far away from being smooth enough to achieve this goal. Multiple users complained about needing to refresh their browser, dealing with broken links and, overall, a glitchy world. Also, although it’s supposed to be a place to express yourself, many found limited the number of skin variations and the body-shape offer. 

“We’ve seen a lot of designers sort of dabble in this space and really started to experiment… But is that a really big opportunity for those brands to really make a ton of profit? I’d say no.”

Daniel Drak, assistant professor of strategic design and fashion communication at the Parsons School of Design to FORBES

What’s the future of the Metaverse?

There are many opportunities for brands in the Metaverse, but there is still a big room to fit if it wants to take out a piece of real-life events, like the Paris January Fashion Week that had 132.5k social media mentions in the span of 5 days. 

The final question is: then why are brands still investing in the Metaverse and should they stop? Despite its current lack of profitability, smart and future-thinking brands are still testing the water because they see it as a new marketing frontier with potential for growth in the not so far away future. Thinking in niche users and improving their consumer experience, some brands recognise they have potential consumers who are collectors of culture, and they are aware that the Metaverse is a paradigm shift in the way people engage with brands, so they still need to find a way to connect over there. 

Another reason is that the Metaverse provides a less intimidating luxury shopping experience with limited stakes. Consumers who cannot afford luxury items in real life can interact with luxury brands in the Metaverse in some other way, which may increase brand awareness and loyalty and, in the future, they are more likely to complete a purchase. 

In these scenarios, it’s all about the circle of interaction. If a user comes into a Metaverse, find their brand through a virtual influencer or a crazy-engaging show, feel identified with the brand values and dynamic offered, find digital clothing or NFT that are affordable and appealing to them and, on the top of that, they have a smooth connection with the physical offers… They will be connected with this brand in all possible dimensions. And this is what brands need to aim for. 

The digital fashion industry, which has long existed in video games, has already generated significant revenue, and as more users flock to Metaverses, it is predicted to grow into a $4.8 billion market by 2031. Therefore, brands see the Metaverse as a potentially profitable market in the future because these actions, even if it may not be immediately rentable, will provide them with insights and try-outs to offer the best customer experience possible and, in the end, to see optimal results, efforts have to start now, because as we can see even the biggest brands can have a complicated integration with the Metaverse, but the thing is… We are not talking about open options anymore; it’s a “when”, not an “if”.