Luxury conquers the metaverse

Welcome to the next world. In 2022, not a week goes by without a label announcing its foray into the universe of the metaverse, this parallel virtual space with strong creative and commercial potential. This obviously applies to the so-called “new generation” brands, but also to the luxury giants who, like Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Prada or Balenciaga, are embarking on the digital adventure, each with their own methods of communication and ideas. For non-Gen Z people, this phenomenon is quite complex at first glance. We talk about blockchain, NFT, cryptocurrencies, virtual products and video games …

Specifically, what does a house do that launches itself into the metaverse? It is mainly about creating clothes, fashion accessories, jewelery and sometimes even digital champagne bottles – Dom Pérignon did it – from existing products. “Luxury homes, sometimes more than a century old, have built their reputation on their know-how and inspired creative proposals. Most of the time, they want to keep this notion of luxury when offering items in the immersive universe. À ce stade, the idée n’est donc pas de remplacer le réel mais d’offrir la version virtuelle d’un bel objet réel “, explique Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, cofondateur d’Arianee, une plateforme qui conseille les marques sur ce subject.

In the game “The Ralph Lauren Winter Escape”, about Roblox.© Ralph Lauren

These digital products evolve on the web, generally between social networks and online games. These “skins” – as these fictitious clothes and accessories should be called in the jargon – offer the possibility for gamers and Internet users to dress their digital doubles – avatars – with strong and stylish pieces. A way for homes to reach out to a new generation of consumers who are as connected as they are influential and to communicate through channels that are more powerful than they seem. Thus, at the end of 2021, the American giant Ralph Lauren launched a digital collection of clothing dedicated to winter sports, inspired by the Polo Sport line of the 90s. All this was for sale exclusively on the Roblox video game platform. An operation that was accompanied by a digital experience: The Ralph Lauren Winter Escape, a game that allows fashion lovers to explore the universe of Ralph Lauren in the metaverse. “Our foray into the metaverse is a natural extension of our lifestyle brand, which has always been about bringing customers into the worlds of Ralph Lauren,” said Alice Delahunt, director of content and digital at Ralph Lauren. Our partnership with Roblox builds on years of digital innovation and underlines our confidence in the potential of economies and virtual spaces, particularly in our relationship with the next generation of consumers. ”

This is not an isolated case. Last December Louis Vuitton imagined a virtual game to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of its founder. Soberly christened Louis: The Game, the experience saw Vivienne, a mascot with the monogram, who went in search of 200 birthday candles against the backdrop of the house’s story. 30 NFTs were also hidden (these non-fungible tokens, or non-fungible tokens, which are equivalent to ownership titles of virtual objects), 10 of which were signed by the artist Beeple, a precursor of the sector. “The media is changing at such a speed that you need to be able to tell your story constantly with new ways of communicating,” explains Michael Burke, President and CEO of Louis Vuitton.

A parallel world to invest in

After seducing the art market, precious NFTs, valuables in the metaverse, have in fact fallen in favor of the world of luxury and fashion. Out of service, Dolce & Gabbana presented “Collezione Genesi”, a series of nine NFT haute couture pieces (three jackets and a men’s suit, two suits, two crowns and a diadem) unveiled in Venice during Haute Couture; Burberry created its NFT accessories in association with the Blankos Block Party video game platform; and Gucci has just launched “SuperGucci”, a collection of 250 NFTs that will be marketed in three phases … Digital as they are, these new types of products sometimes get astronomical sums. Thus, the sale of Dolce & Gabbana NFT, which took place on UNXD, a specialized platform, brought in over 5 million euros.

A haute couture NFT from the “Collezione Genesi” series, Dolce & Gabbana.

A haute couture NFT from the “Collezione Genesi” series, Dolce & Gabbana.© Dolce & Gabbana

In this parallel world, each house moves forward at its own pace and without losing sight of its identity. This is the case of Fendi which, in January, unveiled real cases with futuristic accents (in polished aluminum) designed to house the physical electronic cryptocurrency wallet of the Ledger company (a kind of USB stick). “Fendi is synonymous with innovation and craftsmanship and we like to ‘fool the eye’. For us, creation is as much about the invisible as the visible, which is why it is so important for us to embrace this near future and become a bridge between physical and virtual luxury. The Fendi codes applied to the innovative Ledger devices are an exciting first step. Who knows where this might lead us? commented Silvia Fendi, artistic director of accessories and men’s collections.

Beyond the products, the big fashion events are not immune to this digital revolution. During the last week of haute couture, creator Julien Fournié proposed a filmed work called First Love, in which two silhouettes were imagined for the Pubg Mobile game. Another scenario: at the end of 2021 across the Channel, on the occasion of the British Fashion Awards, it was the turn of the British Fashion Council to adapt to the times by presenting a brand new award: the Metaverse Design, awarded to cSapphire, a creator who speaks on the Roblox platform. It is clear that connected youth has not finished shaking the established codes. Recently, Balenciaga announced the creation of a department specifically dedicated to this parallel market (the Metaverse Business Unit). All the signs confirm it, the metaverse is about to become the new playground and expression of the fashion and luxury industry. And the opposite is probably true.

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