Avatars wear Prada – The New York Times

So this is it.

Last October, after Mark Zuckerberg revealed his vision of the new Meta (formerly Facebook) and the incredible future he expected in Web 3.0, and he was very annoyed at his decision to do so through an avatar wearing exactly the same thing Mr. Zuckerberg carries in his daily life – this, in a world of endless possibilities! Meta picked up the problem and tossed in a glove.

“Hey, Balenciaga,” the company tweets“What’s the dress code in the metaverse?”

This week, Balenciaga responded, along with Prada and Thom Browne, with the kind assistance of Meta’s new avatar fashion store, which has launched in the United States, Canada, Thailand and Mexico. Although the social media company offered a variety of free (and shared) outfits for avatars used on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, this is the first time it has attracted designer names to create purchase searches for virtual selves.

And the answer is … a red hood with the Balenciaga logo.

Also a few ripped jeans and a plaid shirt, a motocross jumpsuit, a black skirt suit and low-rise jeans paired with a T-shirt with a cropped logo and a briefs with a logo (a total of four outfits). In other words, Quintessential Balenciaga looks for anyone who has followed the brand. Just like Thom Browne’s proposal, a pleated gray three-piece suit, a suit with a pleated gray skirt and shorts, is Mr. Brown trademark uniform. And since at least one of Prada’s four looks – a white tank top with a triangular logo and a multi-storey skirt – seems to have come straight from the latest track (although they also offer a sweatshirt with an eternal logo).

But still, is that it?

These are four of the most creative, considered fashion designers working today – Demna Gvasalia from Balenciaga, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons from Prada, and Mr. Brown – designers whose clothing IRL struggles with the way social and political forces shape identity at the most essential levels; designers whose work deals with climate change, gender, war, capitalism, value issues and viral celebrity. And everything they (or perhaps their digital, merchandising and marketing teams) could come up with when they are tasked with imagining dressing in a space free of gravity and any kind of physical restraint are animated copies of some of the most famous clothes. who already sell?

Well, Mr. Brown sent an email when asked how he chose his outfits: “It took me two seconds, not a second, to figure out what it should be. I thought the gray suit should be part of this world.

The argument is that simply by making these clothes, which usually sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars, available to a wider group of consumers (in the Meta store, the price range is from $ 2.99 to $ 8.99), they democratize the otherwise unaffordable. Which is true, from a commercial point of view, and essentially positions Meta looks like a NewGen equivalent of lipstick: the best in the diffusion lines, almost all barriers to entry have been removed.

And while it’s good that the tech world, which has moved out of fashion since trying to make wearables chic, has fallen far down his face, he realizes that if he wants to play in the world of dress, it’s best to invite experts. in, these specific proposals seem to be based on the lowest general expectations of themselves in the virtual world.

The whole point of fashion, ma’am. Gvasalia et al. created is more than commercial: It shows us who we are or who we want to be at a particular point in time in ways we haven’t even understood until we see it.

If any creative minds could imagine what a paradigm shift might look like, you’d think it would be them.

Mr. Brown already does this sometimes in his own IRL broadcasts. He recently designed a top that looked like a giant cross between a tennis ball and a tortoise shell and turned the woman into a toy soldier. Mr. Gvasalia takes the everyday – bathrobes, Ikea bags – and does so in an unusual way, undermining all expectations. You would think that jumping into the metaverse would be meaningless to them.

Yet what the trio has designed for the Meta store show seems to be largely an opportunity to show loyalty to the brand and use their archives in the simplest ways. The bottom line is that consumers want to wear the same clothes in the digital space as in the physical space – or at least the same clothes they strive to wear – instead of something completely new.

In one Live chat on Instagram with Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships for Instagram, introducing the new store, Ms. Chen showed sketches of Mr. Zuckerberg’s avatar in different outfits and asked him about his reactions. “It takes some confidence to carry Prada from shoulder to toe,” he said. Zuckerberg said, suggesting that there is no such confidence in the IRL, although perhaps in the metaverse.

But this is a basic misunderstanding of fashion – and the whole idea of ​​self-expression. After all, who brings a vision entirely from a designer in real life? Celebrities paid by the brand in public situations, fashion victims and models in photos of magazines in which the brand will lend clothes only if they are not mixed with the work of other designers.

IN Post to Facebook in the store, Mr. Zuckerberg also said that Meta wants to create a fashion proposal for an avatar, because “digital goods will be an important way to express yourself in the metaverse and a major driver of the creative economy.” But self-expression is not about swallowing a designer’s appearance. Self-expression is about using the tools that designers create to make something individual.

You don’t need to trust – you don’t even need to think – to wear a vision entirely dictated by a designer. You just need the desire to be a means of advertising the brand, which Meta makes easier at the moment. Maybe this is really where some consumers want to go (maybe it’s always been a fantasy), but this will not lead to the expansion of the world as we know it, but rather to even more factionalization.

Especially because avatars are not cross-platform creations. So if you want the virtual that you carry Prada – or Balenciaga or Thom Browne – you can only do it on Meta platforms. Just like if you want the virtual you wear on Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren or Gucci, you have to be on Roblox.

To be honest, maybe this will change with the change of technology, just as the ability to dress your avatar can change. Right now, when choosing any type of clothing in Meta’s wardrobe, you need to choose a whole ready-made look, instead of being able to build with one garment at a time. In the future, maybe a Balenciaga hood can be combined with a Prada skirt and a pair of nameless shoes.

Mr. Zuckerberg said that at some point Meta will open a store for fashion brands only for digital and other new artists – such as designers / inventors who already sell their goods in the digital market DressX, where most of the really alternative interpretations of “clothing” are located. ”Can be found.

If so, dressing up the avatar in the morning may seem less like a game of paper dolls and more like a unique form of signaling value and experimenting; it may seem like an addition, not just an imitation. But not yet.

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