metaverse

Bella Hadid Arrives in the Metaverse With a New Line of NFTs

Bella Hadid Arrives in the Metaverse With a New Line of NFTs

reBASE
Everyone wants a piece of Bella Hadid. Now, thanks to a new NFT (non-fungible token) platform called CY-B3LLA, they’ll be able to grab one, albeit in a modern, somewhat strange way. In collaboration with reBASE, a social metaverse site, Hadid is releasing a massive range—11,111 unique works, to be exact—of shoppable online art pieces based on her own image. These NFTs are digital assets, essentially cybernetic souvenirs or collectibles. It’s also more than just having the JPEG saved on your desktop: You receive a digital record (essentially a serial number or certificate of authenticity) that proves that you and only you purchased this specific asset. Hadid asked 10 different creatives to make art out of 3D scans of her own body, including portraits where she’s done up like an animated cyborg queen. She’s had a waiting list open for weeks, with over half a million people signing up online, and finally, now that CY-B3LLA is dropping, they’ll be able to get their own slice of supermodel right in their own inbox.
Hadid first had a kernel of the idea thanks to a lifelong interest in gaming. Growing up, her younger brother Anwar loved World of Warcraft, but Hadid herself was always attracted to the poppy universe of Mario. “My alias when I was 18, when I started traveling for work, was Princess Peach,” she says with glee over Zoom. When the world locked down due to COVID, her fascination with online life went into overdrive. “Over quarantine, my dream was to be a full gamer girl and play other people,” she says. “When the NFT craze came, I was genuinely curious about what that community looked like. It went from gaming—me wanting to create this cool avatar and be in that universe and connect with people—to this.”
reBASE
Naturally, Hadid was excited by the aesthetic possibilities of creating art out of her own image. She submitted to a 3D scan that the artists would then be able to use to create the NFTs. “There were probably 200 cameras surrounding me and I stood in the middle and changed my shape so it got all these different parts of my body, different versions of my facial expressions, fingers, toes. We wanted it to be very realistic,” she says. But beyond the look and feel of the NFTs, she built this new platform to have a community aspect. Though some of the details still sound hazy, purchasing one of Hadid’s NFTs will eventually grant you access to online and real life meet-and-greets with the model. “We’re gonna set up different events. Tokyo—I hope that’s one of our first launch spaces. It’d be an airdrop essentially: If you’re in Tokyo having coffee and all of a sudden I’m right next door to you, you’d get a ping,” she says. “Just going to different places I love and seeing the people who support me and giving them a real hug.”
Hadid certainly knows a thing or two about capturing audience attention online. She has already proven herself as World Wide Web gold. For a recent run of red carpet looks at Cannes Film Festival, for instance, she caused a small internet fashion brushfire by teaming up with stylist Law Roach for an incredible string of archival dresses, including pieces from Chanel, Tom Ford’s Gucci era, and a vintage black Versace dress from 1987 with an epic voluminous bow around the waist. “Who is the one person who could make me feel confident enough to go for my dream of doing all these archival moments? That for me is Law [Roach]. Him and I have very similar minds when it comes to fashion. I told him I wanted it to be classic old festival looks,” she says. “Donatella was nice enough to open up Gianni’s whole archive for us, which is unheard of, and I was so honored. She really had in mind exactly what she wanted for me.”
Regarding CY-B3LLA, Hadid understands that there’s some well-deserved mistrust out there about the celebrity-NFT-industrial complex. “Where that skepticism comes from is the people who just want to have a money grab,” she says. “To me, it’s so much bigger than that. I want it to be a collective. It’s not a one-stop shop—this is a real passion. I want to be used as a vessel for communication and respect and love. ”
Hadid, who has discussed her struggles with anxiety in the past, feels like these yet-uncharted metaverse spaces have potential to be healthier and happier than the online world we are all currently living in. “The whole Instagram and Twitter world, it’s out for me—I just can’t look at notifications anymore,” she says. “Once we start to be so aware of what every single person thinks of us, you start to lose track of what you need and what you want. These horrible anxieties we all have—I feel like that’s what’s circulating on the internet.” There will be a dedicated group for CY-B3LLA-ites on the Discord chat app, and she imagines popping in a couple times a week just to chat with her friends and fans in a low-impact environment made up of like minded people. Eventually, as the metaverse develops into a more fully-realized space, she hopes to find even more ways for her people to inhabit, congregate, exchange ideas, and feel at home. “There’s a scary part of the internet but there’s a really beautiful part of the internet,” she says, “and that’s people being able to find a space where they can belong.”
All in all, she’s aware of how weird this NFT and metaverse talk can sound to people not yet on board with the burgeoning movement, but she’s ready to give herself over to it all the same, one token at a time. “It’s just a beautiful way that we can have a community. I don’t know if I feel like a community leader—it’s not just about connecting me to people, but about connecting people to other people,” she says. “I just want to be an instrument.”
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk
Read next: Gigi Hadid Brings Back Everyone’s Favorite Pink + Red Color Palette With a Couture Gown by Rising Designer Sohee Park

Elie Saab, Dolce & Gabbana, and More to Participate in the First-Ever Metaverse Fashion Week

Elie Saab, Dolce & Gabbana, and More to Participate in the First-Ever Metaverse Fashion Week

The Gold Glass Dress NFT designed by Dolce & Gabbana and constructed by UNXD, a digital marketplace. Photo: Courtesy of UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana
The first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW22) and the world’s largest virtual fashion week was recently launched by Decentraland Events. Decentraland is a 3D virtual world that runs on the Eretheum blockchain. From March 24 to March 27, the virtual fashion week will showcase over 50 international brands and creators.
Estee Lauder, Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, and Elie Saab are a few of the renowned brands participating in the virtual fashion week. Presenting their latest collections, designers are provided with the opportunity to dress avatars, straying away from the traditional fashion weeks in person. A milestone in the fashion industry, Decentraland’s MVFW22 introduces a new way of looking at and presenting fashion through AI and robots and what is termed as ‘phygital goods’, whereby physical and digital meet to produce a unique experience for users.
“Through MVFW22, we endeavor to broaden the horizon of what ‘metaverse’ means,” says Sam Hamilton, foundation creative director of Decentraland. “We just leveled up the playing field for the world of fashion and decreased the limitations. Even in the metaverse, you’ll be needing a ‘fit.’”
MVFW22 has a fashion district of its own that features inter-linked catwalks, panels, and galleries for the designers. There are also mini districts within, such as the Luxury Fashion District—presented by UNXD and Vogue Arabia—hosting a number of fashion houses, brands, and designers including Dolce & Gabbana. This also includes Boson Protocol, which mimics a boulevard of metaverse stores, allowing brands to sell luxury and physical goods in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs.)
By signing up for free, users can attend all MVFW events, but an Ethereum wallet is necessary for purchases. The exhilarating experience includes a lot more, as Decentraland has also organized after-parties, panels, and film screenings.
Read Next: Is Digital Fashion an Eco-Friendly Replacement to Fast Fashion or a Virtual Illusion?

Now, You Can Join the Vogue Arabia Universe at the First-Ever Metaverse Fashion Week

Now, You Can Join the Vogue Arabia Universe at the First-Ever Metaverse Fashion Week

The Gold Glass Dress NFT designed by Dolce & Gabbana and constructed by UNXD, a digital marketplace. Photo: Courtesy of UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana
The first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW22) is here, and Vogue Arabia plays a special role in the first-of-its-kind virtual fashion event. Launched by Decentraland Events, a 3D virtual world that runs on the Eretheum blockchain, MVFW22 takes place from March 24 to March 27, and will showcase over 50 international brands and creators.

How can you have the complete Vogue Arabia experience at Metaverse Fashion Week?
Always at the forefront of fashion in the region, Vogue Arabia, it comes as no surprise, is also a part of Metaverse Fashion Week. The venue includes a fashion district which features inter-linked catwalks, panels, and galleries for the designers. Within these districts is the Luxury Fashion District, in which avid readers of the magazine can enter a Vogue Arabia universe.
Presented by both UNXD and Vogue Arabia, this section, created in celebration of our 5th anniversary, comes to life at the touch of a finger, taking visitors on a red carpet journey through some of Vogue Arabia’s milestone cover and shoot moments, from Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and more. Each striking visual unfolds to reveal a backstory you may not know, from the thought-process behind the powerful anniversary cover starring Huda Kattan, Nadine Njeim and Amina Muaddi, to special quotes from the likes of Halima Aden, Gigi Hadid, and royals including Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
To add to that, the Vogue Arabia pop-up will also give fans and followers the full red carpet experience, allowing them to pose for the cameras in true celebrity style. Along with a number of fashion houses, this area also includes Boson Protocol, which mimics a boulevard of metaverse stores, allowing brands to sell luxury and physical goods in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs.)
What can you expect from the shows at MVFW 2022?
Estee Lauder, Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, and Elie Saab are a few of the renowned brands participating in the virtual fashion week. Presenting their latest collections, designers are provided with the opportunity to dress avatars, straying away from the traditional fashion weeks in person. A milestone in the fashion industry, Decentraland’s MVFW22 introduces a new way of looking at and presenting fashion through AI and robots and what is termed as ‘phygital goods’, whereby physical and digital meet to produce a unique experience for users.
“Through MVFW22, we endeavor to broaden the horizon of what ‘metaverse’ means,” says Sam Hamilton, foundation creative director of Decentraland. “We just leveled up the playing field for the world of fashion and decreased the limitations. Even in the metaverse, you’ll be needing a ‘fit.’”
By signing up for free, users can attend all MVFW events, but an Ethereum wallet is necessary for purchases. The exhilarating experience includes a lot more, as Decentraland has also organized after-parties, panels, and film screenings.
Read Next: Is Digital Fashion an Eco-Friendly Replacement to Fast Fashion or a Virtual Illusion?

Aisle 3 Launches to Revolutionize E-commerce, Product Search Experience

Aisle 3 Launches to Revolutionize E-commerce, Product Search Experience

“Shopping is broken,” according to U.K-based e-commerce start-up Aisle 3 — and the company’s panacea is a streamlined solution that takes aim at condensing and refining perusal into a dramatically upgraded consumer experience.E-commerce entrepreneur Thomas J. Vosper, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aisle 3, spent 15 years in e-commerce roles at Amazon, Tesco and Lastminute.com. After studying the ins and outs of e-commerce — and its many snags and stumbling blocks — Vosper and his co-founder said they refused to accept this “broken shopping experience.”
“We started the business as first-time founders at age 40, during the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K.,” Vosper told WWD. “I took out a personal loan to bootstrap the company and try and prove an innovative approach that was solely focused on making shopping cheaper, quicker, easier and more joyful.”

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Beginning with footwear, Aisle 3 is tackling the woes of product search through its proprietary technology that involves machine learning and AI to weed out the products consumers don’t want and help accurately populate desired products with ease.
Here, Vosper talks to WWD about the back-end technology behind its solution and plans for partnerships, expansion and development in the tech start-up space.
WWD: What was the genesis of Aisle 3, and how does it simplify the online shopping experience?
Thomas J. Vosper: Shoppers seem to have become numb to the fact that what you see is what search engines want to show you and marketplaces are now populated with promoted listings and own-brand products. At Aisle 3 we are passionate about removing the need to open another tab or app to shop. We can’t remember the last time a start-up went out with something this powerful to contribute.
It is simple to book flights, reserve hotel rooms and order complex services such as insurance or energy, but I became increasingly frustrated that online shopping leaves us all having to open a myriad of tabs across a bunch of retailers just to find a pair of sneakers in the right size. Many of us now spend so much more time in front of our screens and it’s simply exhausting just how time-consuming it is to wade through ads and broken links to shop online — and that’s before we think about how hard it is for exciting new brands and retailers to get found online.
In less than 18 months we built a business entirely remotely, across the planet, established a business in India and pulled together an expert team backed by investors involved in some of the biggest names such as Snap, Amazon, Money Supermarket and Catch. It was a journey that I was privileged to share at a TEDx event at Oxford University in the summer of 2020.
WWD: Walk us through Aisle 3’s unique back-end technology that streamlines product search. Why is this solution differentiated in the market?
T.J.V.: Many prices comparison sites and discovery platforms have tried and failed to create a destination that shows shoppers the best deals, stock availability, delivery availability, etc. However, the common source of failure is not the platforms trying, but the relatively low standard of data, which results in poor quality aggregation. This data is generally only obtainable from poorly maintained product feeds or by crawling retailers whose web page structures are frequently changing and is not standardized.

This results in data sets with no common IDs or product codes, so even the most powerful and sophisticated ML models are at the mercy of “garbage in garbage out” — meaning that what is displayed to shoppers is often inaccurate or incomplete and insufficient to instill trust to purchase. It’s the reason we all end up opening that extra tab to check one more site.
Our biggest challenge was to automatically identify the same product across retailers and unstructured data sets without the need to match offers using product IDs or barcode numbers.
We focused the business on the technical solution before going to market as we knew the very biggest businesses had not come close to solving this problem and, whilst we were comfortable backing ourselves with our own cash, we didn’t want to engage with investors until we knew we had the technology that even the big tech businesses hadn’t created (it’s a reason we’ve been approached about acquisitions six times already).
Initially, we built a set of unsupervised deep-learning models to identify and assign each product a unique “Aisle 3 code,” which creates a single view across multiple retailers and sources. The outcome is creating a time machine that reduces hours of shopper research into a single, simple 30-second product search.
Now is a superexciting time as we can access huge training datasets; open-source software developed by the very largest corporations and shrinking processing costs that would have required millions of dollars of investment and data centers as high as skyscrapers just a few years ago.
We employ about 15 people across the globe and have a subsidiary business based in Ahmedabad, India. The team includes Ph.Ds with expertise in AI, ML and Mathematics. Alongside more than 1 million euros of private investment, we’ve been lucky to have received funding from the U.K. government to continue our research and take on the big tech businesses from our humble U.K. beginnings.

Thomas J. Vosper, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aisle 3.

WWD: Why is footwear the first retail category for Aisle 3? Are there plans for expansion?
T.J.V.: Tackling footwear presented a huge technical challenge and it’s a hugely exciting category. As shoppers we are all familiar with the frustration of having to traipse across the internet, wading through endless ads or broken text links taking you to poor search results on random websites. Whilst price is important for many shoppers, the volume of products and variations outside of size, brand, collection and color makes it very hard to simply discover and be inspired by a new brand or simply the latest trends in running shoes.

We knew that it wasn’t just important to tackle the aggregation of offers for deal-hungry shoppers, so we’ve been focusing on presenting all the information so shoppers can make an informed decision — such as delivery speed, proximity for local collection or retailer preference. This is incredibly challenging, as it involves recognizing and standardizing rich product information from multiple sources.
Sneakers are visually stimulating, and brands are usually at the front line of innovation, such as Nike’s dive into the metaverse. We are really excited to be able to turn the mishmash of data across the internet into a rich, exciting, shopper-focused view that best represents the products that brands and retailers care deeply about.
Over time we look forward to expanding into the U.S. with the right commercial and investment partners and exploring categories with different technical data challenges (such as electronics) where we all share frustrations trying to find the best specification and price for a TV or laptop.
WWD: How has the pandemic changed the way consumers shop? What trends/behaviors have emerged in retail?
T.J.V.: We’re spending an increasing amount of time in front of our screens; meetings are virtual with hours of Zoom calls; content is consumed digitally with the likes of TikTok exceeding even Google’s usage, and online shopping has catapulted 10 years into the future.
We genuinely believe that we tap into the consumer zeitgeist matching what’s on people’s minds and helping to shape a new shopping future. Despite the online boom, much of this is concentrated on the very largest marketplaces across the planet and the commercial opportunity sits with big tech-listed businesses that generate most of their revenue via advertising models.
Amazon’s ads business is now bigger than Snap, Twitter and Pinterest combined and promoted listings or own-brand products now litter search results, creating suboptimal shopper experiences, obfuscating the products you are looking for. We’ve seen the shift over recent years (heightened due to the acceleration of e-commerce during COVID-19) where the incumbents focus on convenience/logistics; payment transactions, and advertising budgets. At Aisle 3, we care about the shopper before the “buy button.”

WWD: What’s next for Aisle 3?
T.J.V.: It was exciting to be in New York City for the NRF “Big Show” and to unveil Aisle 3 to investors and independent retailers. If I wasn’t from London, I’d say it’s the best city in the world!
Although we’ve recently closed over $1.3 million of funding, we’re keen to find the right commercial and investment partners to help turbocharge the business. Our site is in its final development and will be launching with the U.K.’s largest aggregated selection of sneakers in a few weeks. With the right partners, we’re confident of scaling the business and launching in the U.S. in the next couple of months.
From a technical perspective, we’re looking to extend our product-matching technology where products are nearly indistinguishable (iPhone 11 versus iPhone 12) based on the image and the metadata, which is a huge technical challenge itself.
Of course, there’s a lot of buzz around Web 3.0 and NFTs and we are already taking advantage of the latest capabilities to develop smart contracts, tied to purchases, that provided authenticated proof of ownership.
We’ve just closed our latest investment backed by angels from the likes of Snap, Money Supermarket and Catch we’re exploring the right partner to turbocharge the opportunity to eliminate shopper frustrations and create a shopping destination that words in line with brands and retailers to reduce friction and instill confidence for shoppers just like you and me.
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Rami Kadi Works on His First Ever Computer-Human Fashion Collaboration

Rami Kadi Works on His First Ever Computer-Human Fashion Collaboration

Photo: Courtesy of Rami Kadi
Once more, Lebanese designer Rami Kadi is stepping out of the norm and embarking on an elusive project that pays tribute to building connections between the human and computer mind. A year before Covid-19 stormed the world, Kadi was the first-ever Middle Eastern designer to present a cyber fashion show. This time, his work stretches way beyond that. His new collection, ‘Lucid Algorithms’ demonstrates the first ever human-computer collaboration of its scale, and is reshaping the stigmas around the relationship between reality and the digital sphere.
Kadi often challenges design barriers by working on new concepts that have never been applied before. For ‘Lucid Algorithms’, the designer conceptualized the main elements that would create the basis of his new line, then fed them into a special algorithm, understanding how the artificial mind breaks down physical beauty. The collection of 40 ensembles features the visuals that were co-created with the algorith.
Rami Kadi’s digital-physical collab will be showcased at Paris Fashion Week, during which he will also conduct a private viewing of his SS 2022 collection, that releases on January 25. This private viewing highlights how the gap between traditional couture and modern age technology can be bridged.
For the house of Rami Kadi, 2022 is all about digital innovations. In case you missed it, the Lebanese designer will also be releasing his first NFT collection on February 2. This collection will act as the first step towards a new journey that the house plans on following in the following years, and reflects its commitment to the metaverse. The launch will follow the mint by a week, where 120 tokens will be available to purchase on Rami-kadi.com, making him the first designer to launch a collection on the Cardano blockchain.
Read Next: Abu Dhabi Art to Sell an NFT of the UAE’s Gift to Pope Francis for Charity

Year in Review: What Exactly Is the Metaverse? The Simplest Explanation of What It Means for Fashion

Year in Review: What Exactly Is the Metaverse? The Simplest Explanation of What It Means for Fashion

Welcome to the metaverse 101, your lesson in understanding that thing that keeps coming up in the news, as the new icon when you open Facebook and Instagram…and that most are feigning their comprehension of.Sure, Ralph Lauren released a Roblox-only collection, Tommy Hilfiger’s mulling his metaverse play and Fortnite avatars are donning digital Balenciaga — but is the metaverse a place? A thing? An idea? It’s actually a nascent concept, but one that could be as far-reaching for the world as the advent of the internet.
Before the conversation goes far enough that it’ll be entirely uncool to admit to still not knowing what the metaverse is, WWD is endeavoring a “For Dummies” explainer of sorts on the still cryptic concept that will command much more of fashion’s attention whether the industry is ready or not. The brands and designers coming in hot with the metaverse news of late are paying attention and recognize that even with the concept still under construction, there’s too much opportunity at stake to risk getting left behind.

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In the simplest of nutshells, the metaverse is “a whole new 3D interactive internet,” according to Faisal Galaria, chief executive officer of Blippar, which creates augmented reality experiences for brands and retailers, including projects with Net-a-porter and Boohoo. It’s like an internet that’s everywhere, not just accessible via phones and computers.
Really, it’s kind of the internet of life instead of the internet of things.
Here’s a “Star Wars” explanation if that’s more palatable: “There’s a line in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ where Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, ‘It surrounds us, it’s in everything.’ It’s the fabric of the internet, the metaverse, and anything that you can imagine will be interactive and 3D,” Galaria said. We will get to a point where “everything that we do is the metaverse, inside the metaverse, so it’s like the force.”
And, he added, “If you’re not part of it today, then you’re not going to have a stake in its future.”
First off, to be fair to those for whom this is only beginning to make some sense, it’s because we’re at the stage now with the metaverse that we were with the idea of e-commerce while we were still booting up chubby internet-free desktops with a string of weird codes just to play Tetris in black and white. At that point, conceiving of a phone that would function as a pocket-size personal computer with a screen that would respond to touch and clothing we could order with a couple of clicks would have been equally difficult to wrap our heads around.
“If you think about that, we had desktop computing in the ‘90s and e-commerce is coming of age 30 years later. There’s a common concept in technology that we overestimate the impact of technology in the short term but underestimate it in the long-term,” Galaria said. “So, again, if you think back only 15 years ago, who would have thought that we’d have these magical devices that do so much for us today? You have to think like that again.”
But, how?
Just like desktops and the power they could pack shrunk to petite phones, petite phones are going to shrink down to things like AR glasses (think Google Glass, which may have just been ahead of its time) or even contact lenses that do the same thing (yes, sounds a little scary). In the metaverse, accessing this 3D interactive internet could be as simple as having glasses on or your eyes open, or even asking your AirPods a question. Those projector display dashboards some cars currently have could start to pop up in more places if we opt in to find out more about the things we see around us, for example.

“We’re about to go on another change where, rather than just buying online and everything being 2D and flat — and that hasn’t changed for 25 years, looking at a pair of sneakers or a dress or a coat online on a computer like this flat, 2D hasn’t changed in 25 years — but is and will change fundamentally when, actually, people aren’t staring at screens like this [phone] or this big screen that we’re using for Zoom all the time and actually the internet is all around us,” said Galaria, who was an early employee at Skype and part of the team that sold the business to eBay for $3.1 billion in 2005, and who led teams at Kayak and Spotify, among other things, before his latest venture. “We don’t have a screen to look at, we don’t have a keyboard to touch, the internet is everywhere, so everything changes again.”
Wait…what?
Imaginations are necessary when it comes to things that don’t entirely exist yet. And there’s no hard and fast definition of the metaverse because there’s no hard and fast metaverse yet. Its possibilities and parameters are still being figured out and discovered. But here’s one way Shaan Puri’s thinking of it.
The tech expert and entrepreneur — who was formerly chief executive officer of esports tournaments platform Bebo, which was acquired in 2019 by Twitch, the leading livestreaming service for video games in the U.S., and who was then senior director of product, mobile gaming and emerging markets at Twitch — thinks of the metaverse as “a moment in time where AI becomes smarter than humans.”
In a string of trendy tweets in October, Puri said: “The metaverse is the moment in time where our digital life is worth more to us than our phsyical [sic] life. This is not an overnight change. Or an invention by some Steve Jobs type. It’s a gradual change that’s been happening for 20 yrs.
“Every important part of life is going digital. Work – > from factories to laptops. boardrooms to Zooms. Friends – > from neighbors to followers. Where do you find like minded people? Twitter. Reddit. etc. Games – > more kids play Fortnite than basketball & football combined.
“Identity – > filters are the new makeup. Stories are your personal billboard to broadcast who you are. What matters more. What you look like in real life? Or what you look like on Instagram?…

“Everything goes digital. Your friends, your job, your identity. And now with crypto, your assets are online, too. Bored Apes are the new Rolex. Fortnite skins are the new skinny jeans. If everyone hangs out online all the time, then your flexes need to be digital.”
Now, whether or not you subscribe to the metaverse as a moment in time, what Puri points to is a lot of the “why” behind the whole fashion in the metaverse play.
As Dr. Ahmed Zaidi, cofounder and chief technology officer of U.K.-based machine learning company Catalyst AI (which was just acquired by made-to-order fashion services firm PlatformE to bring machine learning into its efforts to reduce fashion supply chain waste), says, “If the metaverse is a point in time, it is the point in time when information lead time truly goes to zero.”
Right now, the time it takes for us to get information is limited by how quickly we can check our phones or laptops, he explained.
“Whilst it is close to zero, it’s not yet zero unless we eliminate the need for an end-point such as a smartphone. This need for an end-point creates friction in our lives. We have to either spend time on our phones in ‘the digital world’ or experience ‘the physical,’” Zaidi said. “When information lead times go to zero, it will be difficult to distinguish between our digital reality and our physical reality as they will become one and the same. Interweaved to form a single reality.”
Which brings us back to the AR glasses or contacts or whatever the big tech companies will develop to make access to information even easier and more instantaneous than it is now.
“It’s putting that digital layer on the world around us,” as Galaria puts it.
Now, what is an NFT and where does that fit in?
It would seem, in the midst of an already confusing sort of post-pandemic-but-not-really 2021, that new tech terms were just flying around left and right. Metaverse, NFT…
But, in understanding the metaverse, it’s best to think of an NFT as something entirely separate.
“NFTs might have just come into vogue at the same sort of time, but they should not be conflated, they are not the same thing. An NFT is an exclusive digital asset, it’s really simple. It’s, I’ve got the only James Bond Omega digital watch. It gives me bragging rights in the same way as if I bought it from a jeweler shop,” Galaria said. “And you can buy an NFT right now, pay your money and you’ll have the rights of ownership.”

Again, this goes back to “flexes,” or social capital, being virtual versus physical for people who spend a lot of time online, because that means more opportunities to “be seen” or to show off in the same way people are keen to in the world of physical fashion.
“But the difference with an NFT is, it’s real, it’s there, it’s now. The metaverse is lots of people trying to figure out what it is,” Galaria said. “People are trying to figure out what the metaverse really is and how are you going to be able to buy a pair of Balenciaga shoes and go from Roblox into Fortnite and into TikTok, how will that work because nobody knows today because they’re completely different systems. But buying your NFT and saying I own the Balenciaga 001 of this new pair of shoes digitally [is a completely separate thing].”
The origins of the metaverse
Let’s go back a second before going any further forward.
The term metaverse may have only entered the popular culture lexicon in the last few months, but its origins date back just about as far as the internet. The word itself is a combo of the Greek word “meta,” which means after or beyond, and the word universe which is, well, everything.
And it made its debut in a 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson called “Snow Crash.” In the story, there’s a sort of dystopian world that humans had messed up (sound familiar?), so they would don goggles and escape into an alternative 3D reality that they’d experience first-person with avatars, and that was a much less messed up version of the world.
“It strikes me as if some people have read that book and, rather than seeing it as science fiction, are taking it as a book of instructions. So as we screw up the real world, don’t worry about it because we’re going to put on these AR things to escape to a completely alternative reality. And that’s some people’s vision of the metaverse,” Galaria explained. “There’s no one definition of the metaverse. My vision of…what we’re building is to enhance, using augmented reality, the information, the engagement, the fun that we have, the way that we interact with technology all around us.”
So what makes the metaverse different from virtual reality?

“Why it’s the metaverse and not virtual reality is what you buy in Roblox would work in any other environment, then it’s the metaverse and not a universe,” Galara said. “So it works in Facebook and it works in TikTok and it works in Fortnite and any other ‘verse’ as well.”
So who will own the metaverse and is it Mark Zuckerberg?
How exactly will we interact with technology all around us? Mark Zuckerberg with his new Meta has one idea, but it’s not one everyone subscribes to.
Right now, the only fully functioning space that could really be considered a metaverse is gaming. It’s a 3D interactive, internet-based space where players are already more excited about their digital flexes, which include — but are not limited to — dressing their Fortnite avatars in Balenciaga or outfitting their Roblox avatars in the Ralph Lauren winter collection.
But gaming won’t be the only metaverse. And neither will Meta.
“At the moment, you have different constituents trying to claim what the metaverse is. You have, for example, Meta, Facebook, saying we can be the whole of the metaverse and everyone can build content on Meta and therefore we are the metaverse. We’re the payments gateway, we’re the content creation platform, we’re the e-commerce system, you can do everything and build everything in Meta. And they’re saying, ‘so we’ve built the metaverse,’” Galaria said. “And there are other people who say that’s not the way the internet was built and that’s not the way the metaverse should be built. What should happen is, if I spend most of my time in Fortnite or Roblox but I also spend time in Snap and Tiktok, then the content that I own and buy in Snap or Roblox should work across any platform and anybody should be able to build anything they want and people should be able to create payment gateways and content creation platforms and it’s a whole new 3D interactive internet. But just like the internet was created by everybody who created websites, the metaverse should be a completely decentralized space where there’s no one overall controller.”
Broadly, think of it like this: The metaverse could be considered like the university system — there are universities all over the world, each with their own leadership (no one university controls the other and no one controls them all), their own caliber, their own essence (Ivy League, party schools, commuter schools, for example), and their own clubs and groups (young business clubs, sororities — read: target markets) within them. With all of their differences, they are still all places for higher learning that follow a similar format or structure.

Supporting the example, Galaria said that means, “Harvard can exist and Stanford can exist and Yale and Duke and Berkeley can exist and you can be a member of all of those. You can actually attend and be a member of two or three of those if you want to and all of those are valid and nobody’s trying to control the others.
“And in the best example, if you’ve done your undergrad at, say, Stanford and you want to do your post-grad at Harvard, Harvard recognizes the Stanford undergrad and says ‘That’s great and you can come and be part of my club as well,’” he said. “The alternative is what Meta, what Facebook is trying to do and say that I am the only education. And if you want to study economics, you can only study at my university and my college, nothing else will work.”
Each metaverse, just like each university, can decide its own rules and parameters, will be able to decide what’s possible in their “worlds.” The OG Facebook allowed for “pokes,” for example, but Meta Facebook could have many more possibilities (as well as many more potential risks to try to prevent, but that discussion’s for an advanced level metaverse course).
“In the same way as Roblox and Fortnite and Snap and Facebook, they have their own parameters and there are some things that are possible on the internet and some things that physically aren’t possible, it’ll still be the same in the metaverse in a decentralized world,” Galaria said. “Some things will be possible and some things won’t be possible, but what’s not possible won’t be decided by one dark overlord.”
Just like there’s no one owner of the internet and even Zuckerberg doesn’t own all of social media, there will be different, decentralized metaverses, or different virtual, interactive hang out spaces where different types of people want to spend their time.
“Microsoft announced that they’re doing a metaverse — they’re probably targeting enterprise and business, I can’t imagine them wanting to go anywhere else. Facebook’s probably going to capitalize on Millennials and older and then you might have TikTok or anyone else like Snapchat who’ll want to capitalize on Gen Z…and you might have Apple capitalizing on people who have more disposable income or want to seem like they have more disposable income and buy Apple products,” Zaidi explained. “I think there’s a whole discussion to be had about the sociology of the different metaverses and what is the makeup of people at different metaverses. And brands will probably want to consider different strategies for different platforms just like they do at the moment.”

OK, enough back story — what does this really mean for fashion?
If you’ve reached this far in the article, well done. And if you’re still not clear on the “why” for fashion, here we go.
“We’ve seen what’s happened with physical to online retail, how important now online is to sales. Now imagine you can go from that to you log onto whichever game or social media company you want and all of a sudden, all around you when you [look at your phone, or whichever devices emerge down the line] you are now in the Louis Vuitton store. You haven’t left your home, you’re in the Louis Vuitton store and it’s the best Louis Vuitton store you’ve ever been in. It has infinite capacity, it’s not constrained by the size of the store in Manhattan or Paris, it can be as big as you want and it can be personalized, so it knows what you like and it can have collaborations with your favorite designers and brands. Anything is possible in the metaverse,” Galaria said.
It would give an entirely new meaning to shopping or even window shopping, and it could certainly bring back the experiential excitement so many brands and retailers have been lacking and desperately looking to reignite.
Instead of the still flat Louis Vuitton website, Galaria said, “If that bag was in a virtual store and you could walk around it and you could pick up those shoes and look at them in 3D and try them on, that’s the metaverse.”
That may be where a social media metaverse complete with shopping opportunities (like Instagram has now) wins with consumers who don’t care about gaming. And if social media becomes a 3D interactive space you can “enter,” where maybe followers are hanging out inside the closets of their favorite influencers watching unboxing in a whole new way, perhaps they’ll want the digital avatars of themselves dressed in digital versions of the clothing they’d wear in real life. Here is where selling an NFT version in tandem with a physical product can prove a value add for fashion.
Something like this is already taking shape with Digital Village, a gaming/social media/e-commerce metaverse slated for launch in the second quarter of 2022. The in-development metaverse — which has already secured $2 million in pre-seed funding — will allow users’ digital avatars to explore digital stores and museums, trade digital fashion and artwork and interact in virtual spaces. All the while, they’ll be experiencing and contributing to a more ethical and sustainable alternate online world.

The upside for sustainability in the metaverse is outsize.
“Think about it this way, how sustainable is a digital handbag, pair of shoes, jacket or coat versus a real life one? And what’s the margin on that?” Galaria said. “The margin is infinite on a digital product.”
People will still need clothes because there will always be real-life needs that require going out — if even it’s just to get some fresh air and endeavor to escape the metaverse — but building a brand will again take on new meaning. Just like it did when e-commerce and greater consumer access birthed a new cohort of direct-to-consumer brands that spoke digital as their first language and left their slow-to-change brick and mortar store counterparts behind.
However, brands that are cool in the physical world won’t be able to assume their desirability extends to the digital world, or that just because they’ve proven a trend out in real life that it will translate to metaverse life.
“It probably won’t translate at the moment, primarily because the people who are in the virtual world are not the same as the people who are in the physical world,” Zaidi said, noting that Off-White, for example, tracks more with Twitch users than Nike does.
Soon enough, there’ll be direct-to-metaverse brands (whose founders could easily be 14-year-old kids in their bedrooms) that are keenly savvy about reaching their target consumer who’s always online, their margins will be through the roof with overhead almost entirely non-existent and they’ll be able to test anything with nearly no risk. And if it all works out, maybe then they’d consider creating physical product. Kind of like how d-to-cs mastered brand building and consumer acquisition and then considered opening a brick-and-mortar store or two.
So, what’s one way fashion brands can start to think of entering the metaverse and exploring the opportunities for potential value creation in the next year or two?
“I think one of those spaces is…being able to have your physical items in your digital world in a seamless way,” Zaidi said. “So every time a product is made, have a digital version of that and then people can redeem it on their game. And then you make a deal with Fortnite saying, ‘Hey, anyone who buys a [physical] bag has a code and they can use that to redeem it on their avatar.’ That’s one small branding thing.”

As Galaria added, “In the same way as you could go viral on social media today, you could go viral in the metaverse with these new sneakers or T-shirt or clothing. And that might be a trigger to going, ‘OK, we’re only going to produce 10 of these so they’re going to cost 10,000 pounds each — but you want one, right? So it creates economics that, whether it’s everybody can buy one and we’re going to charge $50 for the sneakers, or in the same way as you have special editions today you go, ‘No, you can buy the virtual sneakers for $100, but if you want the real ones it’s going to cost you $2,000.’”
Some brands, like the today versions of those who led when e-commerce was in its infancy, are just going to get it and, according to Galaria, “they’ll explode online.”
“This is why I think it’s interesting for big brands, why companies like Nike have a chief metaverse officer is because they know that if it’s this big opportunity for selling in the metaverse that has infinite profitability, then they want a part of it today and they want to understand it.”
If nothing else has been attention grabbing enough, “infinite profitability” should do it.
“You can bet your bottom dollar if you’re not experimenting, you’re not understanding this now, that you’ll be eclipsed by brands that are native to the metaverse and to augmented reality,” Galaria said. “In the same way as brands like Gymshark came out of nowhere and became great big fashion brands in the sports world, in the metaverse, it’s kind of the rules of building a brand in the real world won’t apply anymore. And they’ll have different ways of building followers and the rules for how you become a big brand in the metaverse are different. So, if you’re not playing and understanding that now, then you’ll get eclipsed.”
The most important thing for brands to remember, which should perhaps assuage some of the anxiety around the whole metaverse conversation, according to Galaria, is that this is a continuum.
“We’re at the start of a 20- or 30-year journey into the metaverse, which we don’t actually know what the contours or parameters are,” he said. “But what we do have right now are NFTs, we have limited editions, we have augmented reality product launches and try-ons and magic mirrors. And so, for the next 10 or 15 years, there’s going to be a lot happening in augmented reality, which is where we make e-commerce and marketing and advertising even more immersive and exciting and engaging. And that, over time, will help us understand what the possibilities of the metaverse are.”

So, for now, may the force metaverse be with you. And if it still isn’t, at least start getting comfortable with the idea.

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