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MVFW 2023: A Passion for Meta-Fashion?

As soon as we have entered a new ‘meta’ era of fashion, will we just as soon exit it?

Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 has nearly come to a close, recieving mixed reviews. Image Credit: "Metaverse TV -" by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

In 2022, we saw the peak-hype of the fashion metaverse. Most major fashion brands took note and set up shop on the digital milieu, with Nike raking in the most NFT revenue of any fashion brand in 2022. In 2022, there was also the high-profile debut of Decentraland’s MVFW (Metaverse Fashion Week) – a virtual real-estate platform where crypto is king. MVFW 22 caused an internet storm of a mesmerised internet generation, countered by confused critics.

In 2023, meta-fashion has been propelled by youthful online consumer base – with the NFT market spiking in January, raking in $946 billion. Whilst the majority of leading fashion brands have gotten in on the virtual action, it is the heritage brands like Tiffany, Hermes and Burberry that have made waves with their pieces. Heritage brands have modernised their output for the age of Web3, with products like the Hermes MetaBirkin and the Burberry X Blankos Block Party hitting the headlines. These moves have inspired the theme of the MVFW 2023 – ‘Future Heritage’.

This year, Decentraland has partnered with digital platforms Spatial and Over. The partnership with Over is specifically due to the corporation’s specialisation in augmented reality, with Decentraland aiming to create a greater cross-platform experience. Yet, this attempt at interoperability has materialised to mixed reviews – with critics dubbing the experience as ‘slow’.

Whilst fashion’s migration to the digital realm has brought forth a new-age concept of couture and in turn, technical issues – these NFT collections are not inconsequential to the fashion industry’s ‘irl’ issues.

Sustainability in fashion has become a major issue and focus over the last five years, as the climate crisis has worsened. In particular, Gen Z have become increasingly concerned with sustainable practices in fashion.

The hashtag "#SustainableFashion" has over 3.9 billion views on TikTok - where 60% of users are Gen Z.

Lucy McConnell, a fashion and textiles historian at the University of Huddersfield, has recognised the growing consciousness with sustainable practices in fashion that Gen-Z have, explaining: “The platforms through which younger generations engage with news, current affairs and fashion have enabled increased knowledge of the flaws of fast-fashion production, garment worker exploitation, materials used, production methods and garment lifetime.”

Lucy continued: “Clothing designs and production practices by fashion houses and high street labels are being more exposed and questioned – money people are investing into pieces are more thoroughly thought out. Having more informed decisions has influenced the ways many people view clothing as well as the fashion industry as a whole, impacting the way in which clothing choices are made immeasurably.”

At first glance, one may believe that NFT couture is somewhat of a sustainable remedy to the current crisis, due to the immaterial nature of the artefacts not creating physical waste – which may partially explain the expanding Millenial and Gen Z consumer base. However, the concept of NFTs being more sustainable is questionable.

Whilst NFTs and digital garments massively reduce water usage, physical waste and reliance upon supply chains – all NFT transactions still contribute to the fashion industry’s huge carbon footprint. The blockchains, by which NFTs are sold, use huge amounts of electricity – with research conducted by The Digiconomist showing that in from May 2017 until September 2022, each NFT transaction that occurred used at least 260 kilowatt-hours (kWh). To put that into perspective, that average UK household uses around 240 kWh in a month, according to Ofgem.

Amidst calls to become more eco-friendly, many fashion houses have opted to create NFTS and use blockchains with a much lower environmental impact. The ‘Barbie X Balmain Barbie tries a new look: NFTs’ collection, for example, used less than 1 kWh. Yet, there is still much online rhetoric about whether this is enough for the NFT market to be regarded at eco-friendly.

Lucy also noted that the success of the industry is relying upon the success of sustainable practices, saying: “With Millenials and Gen-Z driving the NFT industry – should NFTs wish to remain prominent and not become simply a ‘fad’, sustainability must be greatly considered.”

Despite sales of NFTs hitting a peak in January 2023, interest in donning digital garments is notably dwindling since last year. Marcus Carr, a graduate designer at Burberry, has compared the fashion NFT business to the failed Google Glass.

Graduate designer at Burberry, Marcus Carr predicts that NFT fashion will not remain a 'focus' of major brands. Image Credit: Marcus Carr

“The whole NFT fashion business is very much like Google Glass. At the time it was released, everyone was freaking out over it. It was dystopian and we’d never seen anything like it before. But now they’re no longer in production and hardly anybody remembers them. It’s because they were too advanced. It’s a great contemporary technology but it’s in the wrong generation.”

“In 100 years, maybe, NFT fashion will be of more value to the average person but right now, it’s just for people who are ‘in the know’. For brands, it’s a great tool for investment and revenue – but I doubt it will be a focus for much longer. The hype has been and gone.” he said.

NFT fashion is a shiny new toy for tech-savvy fashionistas to play with, but it appears to be a novelty – irrelevant to the average person. It seems that amidst a crypto-winter and a growing consciousness around sustainability, this novelty may not have a lasting power.


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