Why the calendar needs another Fashion Week is beyond me. As is the question of how that calendar, already something of a monster, a true perpetual motion machine, can even support another event. Yet, here we are. It’s 2022 and the response to both queries appears to be “The Metaverse.”
Which, as answers go, really only raises a whole new set of more complicated questions. Questions like, “What does that look like?”, “How does it work?” and, more broadly, “What does that even mean?” Which all seem fair enough. But, with the inaugural event scheduled to take place between 24th and 27th March 2022, there’s not much time to answer any of them.
The question of how MVFW will work is one probably best answered after the event. When we know whether or not it’s worked at all. What we do know, though, is how the week is shaping up and who’s shaping it.
Set to be hosted in Decantraland – a virtual world made up of plots of NFT property, each of which is purchased through a cryptocurrency called MANA, running on the Ethereum blockchain – and in partnership with the UNXD luxury marketplace, the week will consist of “catwalk shows and showcases, pop up shops, after parties, and immersive experiences.”
All of which, virtual setting aside, sounds more or less the same as any regular Fashion Week as we know them already.
As does the list of names who are set to appear: not just fashion upstarts and NFT studios looking to capitalize on the momentum to get a foot in the door, but established houses like Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger. Household names who are, from one perspective, being drafted in to give the event itself a sense of authenticity and credibility. And from another, their own chance at gaining some added contemporary relevance.
Where MVFW begins to diverge from IRL Fashion Week, though, is less in the optics and more in intention. While events like Paris or Milan double as global unveilings for months of creative work and as a chance for buyers to get a sense of what they should be ordered in for the next season, MVFW is a global shopping event in and of itself. A direct selling opportunity. Both for the brands involved and for the very concept of the Metaverse – a way to ground something that feels intangible and unfamiliar.
That Selfridges have signed on to carry the banner of retail respectability, the opening of the company’s flagship Metaverse store set to act as the event’s unofficial opening ceremony should clear up any questions about what the organizers are hoping to achieve.
All that being said, a Metaverse Fashion week does have the potential to be genuinely progressive. Hosted online, without the ecological burden of an entire industry’s travel emissions, MVFW has the capacity to pick up where all those pandemic-enforced digital weeks left off at the first sign of a return to normality. As well as sustainability, there’s also the prospect of a Fashion Week with greater accessibility – both in terms of more democratic access and in terms of provisions for disability.
Then again, there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that time and energy could be better spent addressing and redressing these issues when it comes to the existing calendar. And, of course, the fact that crypto mining is known to have a huge environmental impact. But sure.
In terms of what this whole thing will look like, in the most literal sense I think it would be fair to take a guess at “not good.” Despite all its supposedly endless creative possibilities, The Metaverse seems like a bleak place – one devoid of beauty because beauty has never been a priority for most of its creators and adopters.
As a concept, it also seems inherently childish. The lack of a tangible connection to Real Life makes the everyday escapism of fashion seem utterly sober by comparison, and it’s hard to imagine some kind of Runescape runway situation.
The very fact that Metaverse Fashion Week is even happening also goes some way toward answering the first of those three original questions. (Although, by this point, there are many, many, more.)
What MVFW looks like, more than anything else, is an event almost entirely willed into being for what feel like all the wrong reasons. Something that does not by any means need to happen. Something which has been created chiefly to satisfy parties not so much interested in creativity or artistry or, really, even fashion. But rather those whose main concern is the advancement of blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and the potential financial gains of the Metaverse.
Realistically, Metaverse Fashion Week looks like kind of a mess. Perhaps an opportunity seized too early with designs on cashing in on the ground floor. Like NFTs themselves, it has potential to do good things for the industry. The problem is that we’re just not there yet.