“Creating a virtual fashion show in the IMVU metaverse was the perfect escape from the harsh reality that I was experiencing in the real world,” said Rio Uribe the creative head of Gypsy Sport.
What does ‘the metaverse’ actually refer to? The expression implies a collective, shared virtual space, which is brought to life by the union of online and face-to-face realities.
Considering various restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic this past year fashion labels had to seek alternative ways of showcasing their newest collections to keep up with the resilient customer demand. Hence the newly found popularity of such multidimensional,metaverse platforms, which offer an online utopie-like experience. One such online platform is the IMVU, with millions of active users joining every month. IMVU offers the opportunity for its’ subscribers to create and customize their own avatars and unleash their creative fantasies by designing garments online for free. The particular selling point of the metaverse -in addition to online social interactions- lies in the online retail market.
One must think of the IMVU as a large, virtual clothing store, that carries the unique designs of over 200,000 young designers worldwide. It also established its’ own cryptocurrency called ‘Vcoin’. The currency is specific to IMVU and enables the users to purchase the online garments designed by their fellow creatives and thus to create outfits for their individual avatars. However, subscribers can then also buy their chosen items in real life with real currencies.
7 young designers (including Collina Strada, a BruceGlen, a Mowalola, és a Gypsy Sport) collaborated with IMVU on a two-day virtual fashion event in may 2021, showcasing their latest haute couture collections. All brands involved possess a rather rebellious public image and have tried to highlight pressing issues caused by the fashion industry over the last decade. For example, one of the principles of Collina Strada is the importance of sustainability and recycling- this being the reason for their 2021 pre-fall collection debut, by means of a video game showcasing the issue of global warming and climate change.
“I’m such a small brand, I don’t have the team to make everything that I want to make.”, disclosed Hillary Taymour the current designer at Collina Strada in a recent interview with Vogue. Thus, it is safe to say, that the rise of virtual fashion and design does not only provide a novel and exciting experience to the consumer, but creates a free space for upcoming talent and start-up brands.
The seven fashion shows were available to watch on youtube and following the recently popularised „see-now, buy-now” market construct, all garments were listed on sale immediately after the live shows ended.
Over the course of the past year, the number of accounts created on IMVU have doubled, with over 7 million active users every month. “Fashion is at the epicenter of why people create avatars and connect with others on IMVU,” shares Lindsay Anne Aamodt, the platforms’ marketing director. “Part of that is because dressing up an avatar in a digital space gives people access to anything that they want to look like, and it’s hard to do that in the real world.”
In contrast to the real world, IMVU serves as a safe place for its users, where creative freedom and unique ideas are applauded. Not only are young people offered an amazing creative opportunity but metaverse platforms immediately provide their users with an audience. They get the chance to attend and host their own virtual fashion events, which is a privilege not many have in the real world. The average age of IMVU users according to recent data falls between 18-24 years. This may not come as a surprise, as majority of young creatives are not offered such opportunities, and even if they are they have to work within concise creative boundaries. Online creative platforms erase these boundaries in addition to giving a sense of anonymity and confidence to the young creatives, encouraging them to sign up.
While it seems that during the post-pandemic era traditional (offline) fashion shows will be limited regarding the audience, the demand of accessible fashion events will continue to rise amongst the public. Therefore, metaverse platforms such as the IMVU will play and important role in satisfying the growing public demand in the near future.
Words by Anna Teszler