Avatars Wear Prada – The New York Times

So, that’s it.

Last October, after Mark Zuckerberg introduced his vision for the new meta (formerly Facebook) and the amazing future that Web 3.0 envisioned, and he was constantly teased for his decision to do so through an avatar dressed exactly like Mr. Zuckerberg wears in his daily life – it’s in a world of endless possibilities! The meta has caught on to the problem and thrown down a gauntlet of sorts.

“Hello Balenciaga” company tweeted“What’s the dress code in the metaverse?”

Balenciaga responded this week with Prada and Tom Brown, courtesy of the new fashion avatar store Meta, which has begun rolling out to users in the US, Canada, Thailand and Mexico. While the social media company offered many free (and versatile) avatar outfits used on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, it was the first time it’s enlisted big-name designers to create purchasable looks for virtual identities.

And the answer is a red sweatshirt with the Balenciaga logo.

Also ripped jeans and a plaid shirt, a motocross suit, a black suit with a skirt, and low-rise jeans paired with a cropped logo t-shirt and logo briefs (four outfits in total). The quintessential Balenciaga looks, in other words, for everyone who follows the brand. Just like Tom Brown’s suggestion, a cropped gray three-piece suit with a gray pleated skirt and shorts is Mr. Brown’s uniform. And at least one of Prada’s four looks – a white triangular logo tee and a tiered skirt – seems to have come straight from the latest runway runway (although they also offer the same logo hoodie).

But still, is that all?

These are four of the most creative and recognized fashion designers working today: Balenciaga’s Demna, Prada’s Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, and Mr. Brown are designers whose real-life clothing struggles with how social and political forces shape identity at the most essential levels; designers whose work touches on climate change, gender, war, capitalism, values ​​and popularity. And all they (or maybe their digital, merchandising and marketing teams) could come up with when they were tasked with envisioning a dress in a space not bound by gravity or any physical constraints were cartoony replicas of the most familiar clothes. which they are already selling?

Well, Mr. Brown emailed when asked how he chooses his outfits: “It took me two seconds, not one second, to figure out how he should be. I thought a gray suit was needed to deal with this world.”

The argument is that by simply making these clothes, which usually sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars, available to a wider group of users (the Meta store has a price range of $2.99 ​​to $8.99), they are democratizing what otherwise it would not be available. Which is true commercially, and essentially positions Meta as the equivalent of NewGen lipstick: limiting distribution lines, almost all barriers to entry have been erased.

And while it’s good that the tech world, which has shied away from fashion ever since the attempt to make wearables chic failed, understands that if it wants to play in the world of clothing, it’s best to invite experts in. These specific proposals seem to be based on the most low general expectations of ourselves in the virtual world.

The whole point of the kind of fashion that Demna et al are creating is that it is more than advertising: it shows us who we are or who we want to be at a given moment in ways we don’t even understand. until we see.

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

mr. Brown already does this sometimes in his Real show. Recently, he designed a spinning top that looks like a giant cross between a tennis ball and a tortoise shell, covered with a cable, and turned a woman into a toy soldier. Demna takes the everyday – terry robes, Ikea bags – and makes it extraordinary, shattering all expectations. You might think jumping into the metaverse would be a no-brainer for them.

However, what the “clothes” the trio designed for the Meta store showcase seems to be pretty much an opportunity to show brand loyalty and use their archives in the most direct ways. The implication is that users want to wear the same clothes in the digital space that they wear in the physical space, or at least the same clothes they tend to wear, rather than something completely new.

AT live chat on instagram with Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, unveils the new Ms. Chen showed sketches of Mr. an avatar of Zuckerberg in different outfits and asked him about his reaction. “It takes a certain amount of confidence to wear Prada from shoulder to toe,” Zuckerberg said, suggesting he didn’t have that kind of confidence in real life, though he might have in the metaverse.

But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of fashion – and the whole idea of ​​self-expression. After all, who in real life wears a look entirely from one designer? Celebrities paid for by the brand in public situations, fashion victims and magazine models for whom the brand only provides clothes if they are not mixed with the work of other designers.

AT facebook post at the store, Mr. Zuckerberg also said that Meta wanted to create a fashion offering for avatars because “digital goods will be an important way of expressing yourself in the metaverse and an important engine of the creative economy.” But self-expression is not about swallowing a designer image whole. Self-expression is about using the tools that designers create to make something personal.

It doesn’t take confidence, you don’t even need to think, to wear an image completely dictated by the designer. All you need is a desire to be a vehicle for brand advertising, which is what Meta is currently facilitating. Perhaps this is indeed what some users are aiming for (maybe it has always been a fantasy), but it will not lead to the expansion of the world as we know it, but rather to even more factionalism.

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

To be fair, this may change as technology changes, just as the ability to dress your avatar may change. Right now, when you select any outfit in the Meta Wardrobe, you need to select a fully finished look, rather than creating it one item at a time. Perhaps in the future, a Balenciaga hoodie could be paired with a Prada skirt and a pair of no-name pumps.

mr. Zuckerberg said that at some point, Meta will open a store for digital-only fashion brands and other emerging creatives — those designers/inventors who already sell their wares on the DressX digital marketplace, where most of the truly alternative interpretations reside.” clothes” can be found.

If so, dressing up your avatar in the morning may seem less like a paper doll game than a unique form of value cues and experimentation; may seem additive rather than just imitative. But not yet.