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Is there room in the metaverse for independent fashion brands? Australian designers hope so | Australian fashion




In the new film by designer Denni Francisco, models wearing clothes from her brand Ngali stroll through a virtual landscape. By using this digital medium, it was possible to take his collection on site, despite the confinement and the inability to travel.

This was especially important to Francisco, a Wiradjuri woman, as the landscape used in the film is based on the land of Taungurung, in central Victoria, where Francisco was born and where his daughter now lives. She says that when she conceives, connection to the country is at the forefront of her mind. We would often talk about how what we do belongs to the country, its connection to the country and its rightful place in the country, she said.

The VR film will be shown not at a fashion event, but at Melbourne International Games Week. Francisco is one of seven clothing and accessory designers included in a digital fashion incubator project, an initiative of Creative Victoria, which saw independent Victorian designers collaborate with Melbourne-based AR / VR studio Ignition Immersive. Some projects, like Franciscos, are artistic while others are more pragmatic, allowing potential clients to virtually try out accessories at home using AR filters.

Fashion designer Toni Maticevskis, Australia's first digital haute couture overcoat
Fashion designer Toni Maticevskis is Australia’s first digital haute couture overcoat, made in collaboration with Netherlands-based digital design house The Manufacturer. Photograph: The Manufacturer / Toni Maticevski

The creators of the incubator weren’t the first Australian fashion designers to play with augmented and virtual reality. In June, for Australian Fashion Week in Sydney, Toni Maticevski created a digital haute couture overcoat in molten silver that could be tried on by fashion week attendees, its sprawling lapel and dragging tails layered over guests, then saved as an image, to be shared on social networks.

But the measures, endorsed by Creative Victoria and Afterpay, Australia Fashion Week’s main sponsor respectively, appear to be timid of the efforts of global luxury fashion houses. As it stands, the metaverse is still an expensive playground, where the world’s biggest and wealthiest brands are quickly claiming territory.

In the midst of the pandemic, as stores closed and opportunities to dress evaporate, big brands rushed to existing online worlds like video games and developed their own virtual reality and gaming experiences. augmented reality.

Three huge luxury conglomerates, Kering, LVMH and Richemont, adopted virtual reality showrooms and lounges, which often required the development of digital samples of their collections. Gucci and Dior has teamed up with Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, to create AR sneaker fittings.

In September, Balenciaga has partnered with Epic Games Fortnite so that players can purchase outfits, accessories and weapons. This came after the two Burberry and Louis Vuitton introduced its own non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into the game in August. Burberrys came out for Mythical Games Blankos Block Party, while Louis Vuitton created a full mobile game.

Balenciagas Fortnite 3D Billboard in Times Square, New York
Balenciagas 3D Fortnite billboard in Times Square, New York. Photograph: MediaPunch / Rex / Shutterstock

Francisco is optimistic about the power of virtual experiences and their reach. Thus, many people will be able to immerse themselves in the culture, learn more and better understand using this type of technology.

Ignition Immersive’s Darren Vukasinovic, who collaborated with Franscico on the project, agrees: VR takes us further with heightened emotional connection.

Vukasinovic says there is profit in the future of virtual reality: we want to see designers monetize and create an economy in this digital world. He suggests that the way to do this is to sell a digital version of a design. There is a version of you who might want to spend a few bucks to wear an Ngali print in your digital avatar world.

This is already happening thanks to collaborations between the gaming industry and luxury fashion houses, and platforms like DressX, an international retailer that sells virtual clothes that are edited on a user’s image.

The potential for growth is clear. The gaming industry has grown by half a billion players in the past three years. Facebook has invested into virtual reality technology and plans to make it widely available, hinting at a future where Zoom meetings are replaced by more immersive 3D experiences in which everyone has their own avatar (and can dress them up accordingly).

Li Edelkoort, a trend forecaster who founded Trend Union in Paris, says: I have no doubts that this will be a major profit center. Is it good for society? It is a very different question.

Semblance World VR mode space, developed with a grant from Epic Games
Semblance World VR mode space, developed with a grant from Epic Games. Photography: Melbourne International Games Week

Edelkoort’s first concern is that the technology isn’t sophisticated enough to capture the tactility or texture of fashion, which makes fashion jaw-dropping. She also raises the issue of sustainability and says that while virtual reality and augmented reality may mean that the consumption of real clothing slows down if fantasy moves online, the technology required to create a digital world is also resource intensive.

From digital design to virtual reality tracks, from augmented reality shopping to sleek avatars, it seems the only limitation of metavers might be how far we can stretch our imaginations.

But like all new technologies, access is expensive. Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, financially supported the creation of Semblance World, a virtual fashion space that is also launching at Melbourne International Games Week, through one of its Epic Mega Grants. Some of the designers of the Creative Victorias digital incubator will have their works showcased on this platform.

Edelkoort believes the cost will bring together independent designers. She sees a future of collaborations and co-optation, workshops and workshops where these things can happen collectively.

This could signal an exciting new frontier of collective creativity for the fashion industry. But promises of freedom, a level playing field and open access were also made about the early iterations of cyberspace.

  • ACMI will organize a free online round table, New Reality Modes, with Denni Francisco and Darren Vukasinovic at 2 p.m. on October 8.




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