As Metaverse Fashion Week gears up for its second strut down the virtual runway, things look a lot different than they did a year ago, when the annual gathering of virtual and physical fashion leaders first launched in Decentraland.
People aren’t buying $2.43 million digital mansions like they used to, and major metaverse developers like Meta have since shed billions of dollars in thus-far fruitless quests to build digital utopias. Most jarringly, the term “metaverse” itself, just months ago the buzz of the tech and gaming worlds, has become a dirty word best avoided.
But to those who still dream of a constellation of virtual worlds teeming with life and bursting with all manner of digital wearable accessories, fear not: the march of metaverse progress pushes on.
This year’s Metaverse Fashion Week, which kicks off on Tuesday, will not only boast participation from an impressive constellation of luxury brands including Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain, Coach, and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as digital fashion mainstays like DressX and The Fabricant. It will also constitute the first major multi-platform metaverse event, one which will take place across multiple, interconnected metaverse worlds.
Events at this year’s Metaverse Fashion Week (MFW) will take place in Decentraland, as they did exclusively last year, as well as in Spatial, another metaverse platform, and via Over, an decentralized augmented reality (AR) layer that displays virtual assets on top of the real world.
Though technology does not yet exist to enable true interoperability—the seamless transfer of digital wearables across different metaverses—the fact that MFW’s organizers and high-profile companies involved are even attempting to conduct a live event across multiple platforms simultaneously marks a definitive step forward for proponents of an open, decentralized, and interoperable metaverse.
“Technically, people can’t jump across [worlds] exactly the way they are. That's not possible yet,” Kim Currier, social media lead at Decentraland, told Decrypt. “But what's really exciting is the intention of interoperability, showing the way of what's possible.”
One day, digital fashionistas may be able to walk from one metaverse into the next with their virtual outfits perfectly intact, as seamlessly as Bugs Bunny ran from a Dali painting into Munch’s "The Scream" in "Looney Tunes: Back in Action." While that goal may still be far-off, technically speaking, Decentraland and its partners hope that this year’s Metaverse Fashion Week will showcase the possibilities of inter-metaverse collaboration.
“The cross-platform agenda was designed to unite designers and expand the aesthetic possibilities for all of the [event’s] creators,” Currier said.
While the cartoonish Decentraland remains one of the most prominent decentralized metaverse platforms, Spatial offers a more lifelike animation style, one potentially even more conducive to showcasing traditional fashion pieces.
Portals placed throughout Decentraland and Spatial will shuttle MFW’s attendees back and forth between platforms over the course of the week’s programming. And new companies like Lighthouse—which likens itself to the first-ever metaverse search engine—hope to facilitate the easy and productive navigation of a sprawling multi-platform experience.
Launched in December, Lighthouse aims to solve a problem that has plagued metaverse platforms since their inception: despite being touted as the future of online togetherness, many metaverse platforms tend to feel, in practice, enduringly and crushingly lonely.
“Every time you jumped in a world it felt empty, not because the world was too big, but just because you didn't know where the hotspot was,” Jonathan Brun, Lighthouse’s co-founder and CEO, told Decrypt. “Now you can log in, see exactly where all your friends are, and make sure you always jump into a place that’s crowded or busy.”
Last year, according to Lighthouse, many Metaverse Fashion Week attendees reported having issues finding relevant events and avoiding vast, empty pockets of unoccupied digital space.
This year, using Lighthouse, MFW visitors will be able to see where all of their contacts are located in real time within both Decentraland and Spatial, and port to any of those locations instantly. They will also be able to organize contact information gathered from other MFW attendees via a networking feature.
The company, which currently indexes 26 metaverse platforms including Decentraland, Spatial, and The Sandbox, is also developing a trending areas function that will allow users to see where the party's at across all metaverse locales.
The existence of such a third-party service as Lighthouse will also aid metaverse platforms by providing them with new types of metrics—such as when and where users jump from one metaverse platform to another.
“People came in before the tech was really ready,” Brun said of last year’s metaverse hype-flop cycle. “The fact that those people didn't stay only tells you about the state of those platforms at that time.”
Even within a year, Brun believes, metaverse experiences—and, crucially, the external infrastructure supporting them—have made major strides.
“At Metaverse Fashion Week, you're going to have a bunch of people who come, and I'm pretty sure a lot of them are going to stay,” Brun said. “The experience is way more seamless.”
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to remove mention of Gucci, which an Over representative initially claimed was participating in Metaverse Fashion Week as a brand but ultimately will not.