Although not entirely new, the metaverse is a concept that is still in full development. It is now defined as a “multiverse” consisting of different virtual environments that users can explore and where they can find their place. A new round table organized during Met Ams, a conference recently held in Amsterdam and entirely dedicated to accessing the metaverse, recently highlighted this new phenomenon .
The panel, held on June 16, is comprised of influential people in the digital fashion industry. Ashumi S, founder of the digital creative agency Mad XR, Giancarlo Pazzanese, lecturer at the Amsterdam Fashion Academy, and Kerry Murphy, founder and managing director of the digital fashion platform The Manufacturer, took turns to present their vision of combining the digital and the physical. identity of the metaverse.
The discussion quickly identified the concept of identity in the virtual world, described by each of the scholars as a result of their upbringing and personal experiences in the physical world. “Real” experiences are often at odds with how we – often unconsciously – want to present ourselves in the metaverse, even though users tend to build their characters from scratch.
“The world we live in is framed by boundaries, starting with the laws of physics,” said panel moderator Diego Borgo, a metaverse and non-fungible token (NFT) specialist. “What’s exciting about the metaverse and virtual reality is the ability to get out of the box, to be whoever you want to be. It becomes even more exciting when you understand the opportunities it represents for fashion and digital fashion”.
“Create multiple characters”
For Giancarlo Pazzanese, the idea of total freedom can also be applied to clothing. The metaverse gives creators the ability to completely reimagine silhouettes, change the way we think about a garment, and wear it beyond the limitations that exist in the physical world. For the panel members, there is no doubt: fashion brands must take advantage of this freedom offered by the virtual space and explore this new field of expression, especially in terms of the fluidity of identities in virtual reality.
“It doesn’t have to be just one person, the metaverse allows for the creation of many different characters,” said Kerry Murphy, founder of The Fabricator. “That is the power of the metaverse and Web3. These new playgrounds offer the tools to allow us to express ourselves in a more personal way. Hopefully, the experiences of the metaverse will also enter our real lives, where we can be bold enough to find new ways of expression that would not have been possible otherwise.”
According to Ashumi S, founder of Mad XR, today’s children shape their identity through role-playing directly inspired by their gaming experiences in the metaverse, helping to create their own way of expressing themselves and identity. . To this, Kerry Murphy adds, however, that children are just as faced with the weight of social constructions as adults, which often prevent them from adopting the mode they choose in the metaverse in reality. way, for example a boy wearing a dress.
“Developing a safe space”
“It’s amazing how social constructs fit into the metaverse,” Murphy commented. “I think children need to learn how to break down barriers. This is a space where they can learn to express themselves in a more complete way than their “physical” life, but we need it to be a safe space, and not just a replica of our society, at the risk of development. nothing’.
For Giancarlo Pazzanese, the safety of the metaverse is now an important point, but it is often neglected. According to the specialist, allowing our unconscious biases to happen there can hinder its development. “To be free, express ourselves and try new things in fashion, we need to feel safe,” she said. “There is real, invisible diversity, and that’s what creates community, when you’re recognized and accepted for things you can’t see but you want to express in some way.”
To get there, the panelists emphasized the need to diversify the space itself, each noting that there is a clear lack of gender diversity and cultural inclusion in the web3 industries and metaverses. A finding that can be seen when we observe the often sexually explicit female avatars present in online games and created by male designers, or in the small diversity of characters and typologies of digital creators , mostly men. All agreed that action is needed for more diversity.
“As designers, we are responsible for the images we broadcast,” added Giancarlo Pazzanese. “The metaverse should be built by people with a long-term view, not just seen as a technical challenge. It is important to involve other designers, people who can define the values of the metaverse, an environment now ruled by men, in which case we will only reproduce in the same space we are in. The metaverse is an extension of our existence and it is meant to be a better world, not the other way around.
In conclusion, if the metaverse allows great freedom and flexibility, companies must take responsibility for the images they broadcast. That’s why Giancarlo Pazzanese hopes that the metaverse can be this “safe space” for those who want to explore their identity, to deconstruct themselves and to promote a more inclusive environment.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.com. It was translated and edited in French by Maxime Der Nahabédian.