Last October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media platform would enter the metaverse, changing its name to “Meta.”
Three months later, fashion is following suit. As another season begins, brands large and small are considering what exactly the metaverse is, what role fashion plays in it and — most importantly — how they can fit in, keep up and profit from it.
That seemed to be the general consensus of Milan Men’s Fashion Week. But what metaverse fashion actually looks like in practice is still up for interpretation.
Fendi’s actual runway collection may have been full of gender-bending, retro-tinged pieces such as pearl necklaces, knee socks, leather skirts and Mary Janes (complete with old-school timepieces attached to one of the straps), but the brand was keen on bringing things up to digital speed with the debut of a partnership with Ledger, a digital asset management company that specializes in secure and user-friendly digital wallets for cryptocurrencies, NFTs and the like.
For the collaboration, Silvia Venturini-Fendi designed miniature versions of the brand’s iconic Baguette handbags to house Ledger’s Nano X digital wallet, a small key fob-like piece that resembles a flash drive but is actually a Bluetooth-enabled device that connect to one’s phone with a secure code. Fendi’s mini bags are made of polished aluminum (and complete with a chain for slinging over one’s shoulder), leather and cubic zirconia accents.
It was a very physical response to the metaverse, a carrying case for those still needing to wrap their heads around what to do with their own metaverse. At Dolce & Gabbana, glasses and masks were key accessories of its fall ’22 men’s collection, taking inspiration from both within the metaverse and externally, as in what a metaverse-attuned individual would wear in real life while taking part in a virtual reality.
Both collections skirt around — and attempt to update — the idea of wearable tech, a concept that fashion first explored in a contemporary way back in 2014 and 2015, when the Apple Watch first debuted. Brands latched on to the watch’s physical components, offering blinged out straps and bracelets for it. Ideas on other wearable tech began to pile up, from self-heating coats to jackets that could answer your phone. But around the same time came Google Glass, a notable failure that seemed to dampen the spirits of any fashion brands looking further into wearable tech — after all, if Google couldn’t do it, how could they?
While it may not have been part of Milan Men’s Fashion Week, the debut of Gucci’s new SuperGucci initiative came in the middle of the shows — and offered another clue as to how brands might look at the metaverse. For the launch, Gucci partnered with Superplastic, one of the best known companies specializing in the creation of animated celebrities and digital collectibles. The brand coupled the initiative, which launches as a limited edition on Feb. 1, with updates to its Gucci Vault (which specializes in special, rehabbed archival pieces). Here, Gucci offered a possible roadmap for entering the metaverse — go physical and digital all at once.