“Fitting” In The Metaverse. How Spanish Luxury Apparel Brands Might Find A New Path To Battle Fast-Fashion

It is Saturday, and Paula, a fifteen years-old from Barcelona (Spain) finds herself sitting in her room, looking for an avatar ‘skin’ in the Epic Games’ Fortnite. She could be shopping a pair of red striped pants to match with her boots in a mall downtown. Instead, she is about to purchase a ‘wearables’ from the Spanish-brand Balenciaga using a token, ready to be immersed in the online game, again.

The popularity of acquiring ‘skins’ - or digital outfits-, that are used exclusively in a virtual environment is not a new concept. Millennials have been doing so in games like League of Legends or Minecraft, followed later by their successors, the so-called Gen Z, in platforms such as Roblox or Fortnite. Both have grown up blurring reality with fantasy, embracing the virtual world as it would be their second home.

“When I play Fortnite, I’m constantly shuffling through different accessories to fit my mood”, she says, even though she will never touch or try these clothes.

Balenciaga is the first Spanish luxury-fashion brand to enter that universe and has joined others in doing so such as Gucci or Vans and its distinguishable sneakers, both in the gaming platform Roblox.

According to a research note from Morgan Stanley (MS) published last November, the luxury market does not generate now much digital gain, but Metaverse could represent a revenue opportunity of 50 billion euros by 2030 as they are exploring collaborations with gaming environments, which are in fact platforms fuelled by ‘Gen Z’, whose view to consumption and relationships with trademarks are already different, seeking uniqueness and a feeling of belonging to a brand or creator.

“The new generations increasingly value the assets of the digital world,” says Javier Pastor, sales director of Bit2Me. Indeed, the “Direct-to-Avatar” economy, which refers to the business of selling products directly to digital identities, could serve as the next stage for approaching fashion, an industry that has been recently under the environmental spotlight.

According to the website Statista, the Spain-based retailer Zara, for instance, released 500 thousand tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions during 2019, and earned around 20 billion Euros in a period in which it offered 24 new clothing collections. These tally, compared to the 15 million euros that the whole Kering group did in revenues, which comprises five brands including Balenciaga and Gucci, are part of a profitable business model that leads consumers to see cheap clothing apparel as short-lived goods. The current trend, however, shows a generational shift, motivated in part by the relationship the Gen Z has with brands, and towards ethics and sustainability in consumption, which could turn the Metaverse into the best showcase and luxury brands as the first ones to take advantage of such springboard.  

While some companies have made no reference to the Metaverse at all, others have created different virtual products. The niche crypto assets represents and the effects that could trigger in the environment are still very early to see in Spain. One way or the other, though, the key seems to be in who will be well-positioned to start building its own name in the virtual scene, and luxury fashion brands might be the first ones to enter that ‘perfect storm’.

“It’s all about playing as our favourite character, become who we would like to be”, says Paula, clicking on a disco-themed skin to try it on while the game goes on.

Guest author

Andrea Ariet Gallego from Spain

Contributions by external authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors.

January 2022