Following designer Victor Weinsanto’s latest fashion collection showcase in the Marais district of Paris, there was the typical post-show scrum you’d find at any Paris Fashion Week event: models with their hair in elaborate styles that give Bjork a run for her money, photographers snapping street style shots, and a lot of cigarettes being smoked and gossip exchanged.
Two floors down, however, in a subterranean room with all the lights shut off, was something very different: a series of glass cases displaying 3D holograms of apparel that exists only in digital form.
These designs were the result of a collaboration between the designer's titular Weinsanto brand, Korean pop group Lightsum, and virtual fashion company BNV.
Dubbed the M3talove collection, the eight virtual looks were made in-house at BNV using digital 3D tailoring techniques. Each one reflects the personality of a different member of the K-pop band.
The outfits look like something that could be worn on stage, with little pops of glamor—a black feather trim here, or a beaded hem there. But unlike real stage outfits, they never need to be cleaned and will always maintain their texture. The way they were presented, on silvery doll-like avatars of the band members, tempted viewers with the impulse to play a game of dress-up.
And fans can soon do just that when the designs are released as Ethereum NFTs sold on BNV’s website. But first, it was important to BNV founder and CEO Richard Hobbs to host a real-world event to connect a physical fashion experience to the rapidly-expanding digital world.
“Whatever happens in the metaverse, it’s got to have relevance to people’s real lives,” he told Decrypt.
To that end, the NFTs will have various digital and real-world benefits attached to them. At the event itself, attendees could mint a free POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol) NFT—kind of like a virtual ticket stub—as part of a partnership between BNV and Decrypt.
“It’s about experiences,” Hobbs said. “That’s what people want these days.”
Blurring the lines
The M3talove collection debuted with a preview and a cocktail party, immediately following Weinsanto’s official Paris Fashion Week show. And it’s not the only Web3 presence at this season’s shows, which have already seen Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks avatars on the catwalk at Vivienne Tam’s recent show in New York.
Like many, Hobbs sees Paris as the ideal place for a digital fashion event, because of the confluence of growing crypto activity and the city’s illustrious fashion history.
“It’s the combination of fashion and tech,” he said. “It’s the home of fashion, and there’s this symbiotic thing happening here.”
The way the traditional high fashion industry has embraced Web3 marks a contrast with its slow adoption of online shopping in the 2000s. Hobbs suggests that this is partly because the ownership elements of Web3 suit high-value items, as NFTs are able to mirror the scarcity of real-life designer products within digital spaces.
Another advantage of making fashion for the metaverse is the opportunities it offers to let imagination take over, enabling designers to explore far-out and even physically impossible apparel and accessories.
“Creating looks in the metaverse offers such an incredible design opportunity to express yourself in an entirely new way,” said Weinsanto at the debut of the M3talove collection.
Even in Weinsanto’s in-real-life show, there were hints of a designer keen to push the limits of what is possible with clothing. Models wore headpieces too large for the door frames and skirts too wide for the aisles. They carried clutch bags the size of bollards. The creator’s vision is quite literally larger than life, which matches well with one of the ways digital fashion advocates say the medium will create new opportunities for designers.
Hobbs said BNV is working to help create a digital fashion future in which there is space not just for virtual designers, but also for stylists, editors, and many of the other traditional fashion professions. But awareness needs to grow over the next few years for digital fashion to achieve its full potential, he said, which is why crossover events like this are so important.
“We have a number of routes we’re following to get more people into digital fashion, and what Web3 can potentially offer,” Hobbs said. “It will get people to go: ‘OK, that’s not what I thought it was.’”