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The metaverse, laboratory for real-world products

Sports shoes created in a virtual world that take shape in the real world, designers who test clothes on avatars before making them: the metaverse asserts itself as a place of experimentation, meeting consumers.

In recent months, a growing number of brands have sought to establish a presence in these digital universes that everyone is talking about, from Roblox to Fortnite, while waiting for the one promised by Meta / Facebook, for fear of missing a major technological shift. And some are already thinking of coming back with, under their arm, concepts and models oriented by users, to decline them physically.

“In real life, everything is extremely expensive to make any product,” explains couturier Julien Fournié. “We could be wrong, these are huge bets. A pair of glasses, a bag, you put it in the shops and you don’t know if it will work. The metaverse is “a place of openness to test things virtually and to recreate an extremely precise link with the experience in real life”.

The use that Internet users make of what brands offer them in the metaverse, their choices, their tastes offer a wealth of information. This is part of a fundamental trend, that of using the data collected online “to create better collections, make more accurate production forecasts”, explains Achim Berg, partner at McKinsey.

The pandemic of coronavirus accelerated the rapprochement between virtual and real by pushing many designers to create in three dimensions, for lack of being able to meet in the same place, while a good part of the fashion world had still worked flat until now, underlines the consultant.

The model created in 3D can therefore live more easily on both sides of the screen, digitally or physically.

Quantify demand

At the end of February 2021, the RTFKT studio launched, with Seattle artist Fewocious, in a limited series, 621 pairs of virtual shoes with their NFT, a tamper-proof digital property certificate. One of the original aspects of the transaction was the pairing between every pair sold that day and real shoes, which buyers could pick up six weeks later.

“We believe that this emotional connection with physical objects is always important and can strengthen the attachment” to digital products, said at Wall Street Journal Benoît Pagotto, one of the founders of RTFKT, bought by the giant Nike in December.

The Aglet app, which mixes virtual sports shoes and augmented reality, has created its own shoes, the Telga, alongside heavyweights Adidas or Reebok. She now plans to make real sneakers, announces Ryan David Mullins, her managing director.

He claims that the first batch of 500 copies was sold even before production started. “When you can quantify the demand on these platforms,” he says, “it’s easier to create an outlet in the physical world, by having more data on how much to manufacture. “

Aglet works with young designers who can “start building their brand” on the platform, and then, if the demand is there, “make the transition” to reality.

The real becomes accessory

Another variation of the metaverse: the high-end fashion platform Farfetch, which in August launched a formula allowing the pre-order of Balenciaga, Off-White or Dolce & Gabbana items which are, as they are, only lines of code, a fantasy. The site collaborated with the DressX studio, which designs virtual clothes, in order to achieve a rendering that is as convincing as possible.

The parts are actually manufactured in the workshop only on the basis of pre-orders. The formula is especially attractive for high-end brands, more than for ready-to-wear behemoths. It also has to meet certain expectations of the time, namely to prevent, as much as possible, overproduction and unsold products, and thus offer a more eco-responsible approach.

Not all are convinced of the interest that there would be in physically making creations of the Metaverse. “Digital pieces can be worn, collected and traded in the Metaverse, so there’s no need for a physical equivalent,” says The Manufacturer, a virtual fashion house.

This Dutch company still takes a positive view of the permeability between the two universes, “when individuals transpose the aesthetics of the virtual world into their physical life”. “In the end, what matters is desire,” says Achim Berg. “If anything is desirable in this space [virtuel], why shouldn’t it be in another? “

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