FASHION, CRYPTO AND THE METAVERSE
Walk into a store and make a purchase using Bitcoin
GERRY CUPIDO firstname.lastname@example.org
African News Agency
IF SOMEONE had put the words “fashion”, “cryptocurrency” and “metaverse” in one sentence 10 years ago, people would simply have assumed they were talking about something based on a science fiction novel. However, if we had to break it down today, most people would have heard words like cryptocurrency and the metaverse but not many might know how they relate. Unless you’re living completely off the grid, people know what cryptocurrency is. While they might not fully understand the ins and outs of it, everybody is familiar with Bitcoin – the most popular cryptocurrency. The movement towards using crypto currency as a way of a form of actual payment is steadily increasing. You can now own a physical card linked to your cryptocurrency to be used in the same way you would your debit or credit card. One can even draw cash from an ATM using the card. With the growing popularity of online shopping, it makes sense that many brands, such as Shopify and Overstock, are now accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. One would never have thought you could walk into a physical store and make a purchase using Bitcoin, but Burger King outlets in Venezuela and KFC Canada will now accept your coins for your favourite meals. But what does all of this have to do with fashion? If you, like an increasing number of people, hold Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, you can now get your hands on luxury fashion items as international brands are now accepting the crypto currency. In April this year Off-White, which was founded by late designer Virgil Abloh, announced that they had started accepting cryptocurrency – including Bitcoin, Ether, Binance coin, XRP – payments across its flagship stores in Paris, Milan and London. Most recently, Italian high-end fashion label Gucci announced that they too will begin accepting cryptocurrency payments by the end of May in five of their US stores, with plans to extend the service to all of its 111 stores in North America. Gucci will accept 12 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin and Dogecoin. Luxury fashion brands have, however, been dabbling in the virtual world for some time now. Shopping with “virtual” money is a natural progression in the way we will soon be experiencing fashion. Virtual fashion shows became the norm during the peak of the pandemic, which opened the doors to other platforms for fashion houses to showcase their designs. Gaming is the most popular vehicle. Gucci partnered with gaming platform Roblox to curate a virtual garden in which players could discover and purchase digital collectable Gucci garments and accessories, with many digital pieces selling for more than their physical counterparts. Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton collaborated with the popular multi-player online video game, League of Legends, to create a collection of vibrant skins that characters were able to sport throughout the game. Balenciaga launched their autumn/ winter 2021 collection through an immersive video game – Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow. The game invited players to experience a futuristic world, simultaneously exploring the fall collection worn by 50 volumetric character models. Virtual fashion might seem farfetched but it in fact it is fast becoming a career option for young fashion designers. Creating skins (garments) for avatars (virtual characters) has already become a viable source of income. These skins are bought and sold using cryptocurrency. Therefore it’s easy to see how the two worlds are slowly merging. When Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook now known as Meta, introduced the world to the metaverse, creating an avatar was just one of the easiest concepts for folk to wrap their heads around. These virtual forms of you would be attending meetings and social gatherings within this metaverse. Which of course means that your avatar will need “clothes”. Where will you be shopping for those garments? Who will be designing those garments? How will you be paying for these garments? In 2021, Meta stated that the metaverse will not be built by a single company and that fashion brands are already using “new technologies such as augmented and virtual reality” to sell their products. Earlier this month Zuckerberg met up with a few heavy hitters in the luxury fashion industry. According to a picture posted on social media by Yoox’s founder Federico Marchetti, Zuckerberg met in Milan with Renzo Rosso of OTB fashion group (the parent company of brands Diesel, Maison Margiela, Jil Sander and Viktor & Rolf); Remo Ruffini of Moncler; Marco Gobetti of Ferragamo; Diego Della Valle of Tod’s; Geoffroy Lefebvre of YNAP (Net-aPorter Group); as well as with Lorenzo Bertelli, in charge of CSR (corporate social responsibility) at Prada; representatives of Brunello Cucinelli; and the CEO of Meta Italy, Luca Colombo. Zuckerberg also talked with Leonardo del Vecchio, president of FrancoItalian optics giant EssilorLuxottica, discussing the new smart glasses Meta and EssilorLuxottica are jointly developing. During the meeting Zuckerberg let Del Vecchio himself test a prototype of the EMG (electromyography) wristband designed by Meta, equipped with a neural interface through which it is possible to control smart glasses and other devices. Meta has already been heavily investing in the future of wearable technology and last year launched a range of smart glasses with Ray-Ban, which features a camera, audio, the latest tech from Meta and the iconic style of Ray-Ban’s shades. While the motives for Zuckerberg’s meetings with Italy’s fashion executives are unclear, one can only assume that it’s part of his future plans for the metaverse to launch new products for the ever-changing virtual landscape.