NFTs, Fashion & The Metaverse

3 Jun 2022

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ruben-merre-co-founder-ceo-ngrave
Ruben Merre NGRAVE Co-founder & CEO

NFTs, Fashion & The Metaverse

Fashion in the Metaverse allows big brands and individual designers to market both physical and virtual fashion items, represented as NFTs.

  • Article Quick Links:
  • How can you own fashion items in the Metaverse?
  • How you create Avatar fashion in the Metaverse
  • How can a fashion brand sell physical items in the Metaverse
  • How NGRAVE leveraged the Metaverse building a shop
  • Metaverse Fashion - Fad or Future

It might seem pretty edgy that a parallel fashion scene is developing in digital worlds aka the Metaverse, but the concept is quite dated. Brands like Adidas, Calvin Klein and Jean-Paul Gaultier were active in Second Life almost twenty years ago. What is different with Fashion in the Metaverse are the opportunities that web3.0 allows big brands and individual designers to market both physical and virtual fashion items, represented as NFTs.

Dressing up human-based dolls has been a preoccupation of children for hundreds of years and remains popular today. The Barbie fashion doll was first launched in 1959 and Mattel is still going strong posting $1.6bn in sales in 2021, according to Statista. 

It’s clear that kids like dressing up fantasy figures but the age of individualism, rise of digital technology and the internet have increasingly allowed adults to create alt-personas online that represent different ideas of who we’d like to be. 

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that people earned a living - in Linden Dollars L$ - creating fashion brands specific to Second Life, a popular Metaverse game launch in 2003 that was estimated to have close to 1 million users at its peak. 

Though there was a system for exchanging L$ to real $, the web2.0 operating model makes owning and monetising what you create online difficult. Big-name fashion brands advertising within Second Life did so in the expectation that exposure within the platform would translate into sales IRL.

Web3.0 and blockchain-based Metaverse experiences are creating a buzz they fix those issues.

  • NFTs are based on standards that make them portable & exchangeable
  • The Metaverse is open-source & permissionless so anyone can create
  • Smart Contracts can connect actions in the Metaverse to outcomes in the real-world including the sale of physical items
  • By holding a stake in the platform users can have a say in their function through structures called DAOs - Decentralised Autonomous Organisations

This opens up the possibility for both virtual subcultures, such as Avatar fashion, and NFT based retail of physical clothing items directly in the Metaverse.

How can you own fashion items in the Metaverse?

Ownership, identity and control in the Metaverse are exerted through a crypto wallet. They are software applications that share some similarities to traditional payment apps, allowing you to send and receive cryptocurrencies that function as money - such as Bitcoin and Ethereum - but also cryptographic tokens that represent unique digital assets in the Metaverse called NFTs - non-fungible tokens.

All the common elements of web2.0 games like Minecraft or Roblox that are bonded to the platform, such as in-game items and anything you create can be expressed as an NFT in the web3.0 metaverse, which includes Avatar clothing and accessories. 

The game logic functions as an open economy with its own currencies. The common set-up is to have two currencies, one providing utility within the game and denominating NFTs and one building value into the DAO community that owns the game (like shareholders) which gives holders the right to vote on the platform’s evolution.

So NFTs are records of ownership of the things you create or purchase in the Metaverse recorded on public blockchains like Ethereum, like an item of clothing that your 3D Avatar wears, that can be traded for real-world value.

Metaverse applications allow users to create individual items or entire fashion ranges and

your crypto wallet will allow you to transact these items within marketplaces, both within the Metaverse platform or on external exchanges such as OpenSea. 

This is the game-changer that allows you to own what you create in the Metaverse, build a business around with a shop and marketing and if you choose, sell it for real-world value.

How you create Avatar fashion in the Metaverse

When you create an account in a Metaverse game like Decentraland you are assigned an Avatar and can choose from customisable body features, clothing and accessories that are free by default. These are collectively called Wearables.

Decentraland also supports the creation of custom Wearables represented by NFTs. The list includes:

  • Body shape
  • Hat
  • Helmet
  • Hair/Facial hair
  • Head
  • Upper & Lower body clothing
  • Feet
  • Skin
  • Mask
  • Eyewear
  • Earring
  • Items that sit on the head (crown) and on top of the head (halo)

You can create these items through a Wearables editor and then mint copies as NFTs to create a collection applying relative scarcity through the NFT attributes feature, then sell them in a marketplace. 

Wearables are minted on a Polygon side chain by default so creators don’t have to front gas fees and are categorised depending on scarcity as Uncommon, Swanky, Epic, Legendary or Mythic. Take a look at the guidelines Decentraland provide for creating wearables.

If you fancy yourself as a virtual fashion designer there are a few things you should consider in advance. Wearable designs have to be approved by a Curation Committee, one of the most obvious reasons being potential trademark violations. (Anyone that has uploaded designs to web2.0 t-shirt generators like Spreadshirt will have experienced this).

In order to build a shop, you’ll need to buy a parcel of land which will be a significant real-world investment and either use the in-built builder tool or the SDK if you want to code it independently.

Even if you have the commitment and skills to build a shop for your Wearables you’ll need to understand what drives fashion habits in the Metaverse and realise that the value of your collections will be tied to the success of the platform and the wider crypto ecosystem.

Metajuku is a 16,000m2 square shopping district within Decentraland (at coordinates 94,21) inspired by the Harajuku district of Tokyo, known for its street fashion. It includes a number of fashion outlets such as DressX which is the largest fashion house for digital-only collections.

How can a fashion brand sell physical items in the Metaverse

If you are sceptical about the potential for virtual fashion there are already solutions for selling physical items within the Metaverse. This approach is no different to any other form of online retail where the internet provides a medium for retailers to present their merchandise and consumers to review and compare from the comfort of their sofa. There just needs to be a reliable payment and fulfilment mechanism.

Working with existing payment channels, Amazon has made an art out of online fulfilment. The Metaverse already has its own rudimentary version: Commit and Claim.

Decentraland’s build logic includes Smart Items that allow shops to incorporate Calls To Action that Avatars can trigger when they want to buy something in display (like a button click). This will bring up an offer inlay with item details and price. 

If they are happy to proceed the user Commits to buying which will initiate a transaction through their connected crypto wallet essentially debiting the listed price in cryptocurrency and a deposit to deter abuse, receiving an NFT receipt of purchase in return. An intermediary escrow service built into a Smart Contract will hold those funds until the user Claims the item.

To Claim the item the user must go to a designated website, connect their wallet using the NFT to prove they made a purchase in the Metaverse shop then provide shipping details to receive the item. The deposit will then be returned.

The ability to sell physical items as NFTs opens up a huge range of opportunities and is made possible through services like the Boson Protocol, which connects real-world commerce with Smart Contracts.

How NGRAVE leveraged the Metaverse building a shop

NGRAVE participated in Fashion Week within Decentraland in March 2022 where physical items, such as NGRAVE’s ZERO, the coldest crypto hardware wallet, could be purchased as NFTs.

NGRAVE’s store was within the Boson Portal (coordinates -81,177) alongside a number of other major brands selling their products as NFTs. Our pop-up store also included the sale of limited edition fashion items - The Electric Ice Collection - to make your Avatar stand out in Decentraland. The collection featured a Neon Hoodie, terrifying Night Hunter Mask and Frosty Ice Wings with only 1,000 of each item available.

Metaverse Fashion - Fad or Future

In truth Metaverse retail experiences are currently very rudimentary so many people may well be asking ‘Why bother when I can just go to Amazon?’ 

Many people had the same reaction when faced with the first online shops which took minutes to load via a dialup modem ‘Why bother when I can just go to the mall?’ Jeff Bezos saw the future and is now one of the world’s richest men so it would be a mistake to discount physical retail from within the Metaverse, especially as the technology will rapidly improve, especially through the use of VR Headsets.

Technology will also be a key factor in the growth of the Wearables market, giving them greater resolution, definition and detail. We know there is an appetite for in-game items from existing web2.0 platforms and if Meta is right and we spend more of our professional lives in the Metaverse too, virtual appearance will be an important driving force in a growing market for Wearables.

ruben-merre-co-founder-ceo-ngrave
NGRAVE Co-founder & CEO
Ruben Merre

Ruben is a repeat tech entrepreneur. His focus is on digital asset security and financial empowerment. He is co-founder and CEO of NGRAVE, the creator of “ZERO” - the world’s most secure hardware wallet for crypto storage. In 2021, he was selected for Belgium’s 40 under 40. Before that, he was a finalist in scale-ups.eu’s Disruptive Innovator of the Year 2020 Award, and nominated in Google/PWC/Trends’ Digital Pioneer 2020.