The avatars wear Prada – The New York Times


That’s it.

Last October after Mark Zuckerberg revealed his vision for the new meta (formerly Facebook) and the amazing future that awaited him in Web 3.0, and he was roundly teased for his decision to do so over an avatar wearing the exact same thing Mr. Zuckerberg wears in his everyday life – and that in a world of infinite possibilities! — Meta took up the issue and threw down a kind of gauntlet.

“Hey, Balenciaga,” the company tweeted“What is the dress code in the Metaverse?”

This week, Balenciaga, along with Prada and Thom Browne, responded courtesy of Meta’s new Avatar fashion store, which began rolling out to users in the United States, Canada, Thailand, and Mexico. Although the social media company has offered a variety of free (and generic) outfits for avatars to use on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, for the first time, it has hired big-name designers to create looks for virtual selves to purchase.

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

Also, ripped jeans and a plaid shirt, a motocross jumpsuit, a black skirt suit and low-rise jeans paired with a crop logo tee and logo briefs (four outfits total). In other words, the signature Balenciaga looks for those who have followed the brand. Just like Thom Browne’s offering, a shrunken gray three-piece suit, a pleated gray skirt suit, and a shorts outfit are Mr. Browne’s trademark uniform. And at least one of Prada’s four looks — a white tank top with a logo triangle and tiered skirt — appeared to be straight off the last runway (although they also offer the enduring logo sweatshirt).

But still, is that it?

These are four of the most creative and respected fashion designers working today – Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons of Prada and Mr. Browne – designers whose clothing fundamentally explores the way social and political forces shape identity sculpt levels; Designers whose work has explored climate change, gender, war, capitalism, value issues and viral fame. And all they (or maybe their digital, merchandising and marketing teams) could come up with when they set themselves the task of imagining clothes in a space free of gravity and any kind of physical limitations are cartoon- Copies of the most well-known garments they already sell?

Well, Mr Browne emailed when asked how he chose his outfits: “It took me two seconds, not a second, to know what it had to be. I thought the gray suit needed to engage in 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 users (on the meta-store, the price range is $2.99 ​​to $8.99) , democratizing the otherwise inaccessible. Which is commercially true, essentially positioning the meta-look as the NewGen equivalent of a lipstick: the ultimate lines of diffusion, almost all barriers to entry removed.

And while it’s good that the tech world, which has shied away from fashion since trying to make wearables chic, has pretty much blown it, recognizes that it’s best to invite the experts in when they’re in the world of clothing, these special offers seem to be based on the lowest common expectations of ourselves in the virtual world.

The whole point of the way of fashion Mssrs. Gvasalia et al. create is that it’s more than commercial: it shows us who we are, or who we want to be, at a given moment in a way we didn’t even understand until we saw it.

If creative minds could imagine what a paradigm shift could look like, you would think they would.

Mr. Browne does that sometimes in his IRL shows. He recently designed a top that looked like a giant, wire-covered cross between a tennis ball and a turtle shell, and turned a woman into a toy soldier. Mr. Gvasalia takes the mundane – terrycloth bathrobes, Ikea bags – and makes it extraordinary by subverting all expectations. You’d think jumping to the metaverse would be a piece of cake for them.

Yet the “clothing” this troika designed for the meta-store show appears to be largely an opportunity to demonstrate brand loyalty and utilize their archives in the most straightforward of ways. The implication is that users want to wear the same clothes in a digital space as they would in a physical space – or at least the same clothes they want to wear – and not something entirely new.

in a (n Instagram Live Talk Along with Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, Ms. Chen introduced the new store. Ms. Chen showed sketches of Mr. Zuckerberg’s avatar in different outfits and asked him about his reactions. “It takes a certain confidence to wear Prada from your shoulders to your toes,” Mr. Zuckerberg said, implying he didn’t have that confidence in IRL, although he might in the Metaverse.

But that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of fashion — and the whole idea of ​​self-expression. After all, who wears a look entirely by a designer in real life? Celebrities paid by the brand in public situations, fashion victims and models on magazine shoots where the brand only lends clothes when not mixed with the work of other designers.

in one Facebook post In store, Mr. Zuckerberg also said Meta wanted to create an avatar fashion offering because “digital goods will be an important way of expressing yourself in the metaverse and a big driver of the creative industries.” But self-expression doesn’t mean swallowing a designer look whole. Self-expression is about using the tools that designers develop to create something individual.

It doesn’t take confidence—it doesn’t even take thought—to sport a look that’s entirely dictated by a designer. It just takes a desire to be a vehicle for brand promotion, which Meta is currently enabling. Maybe some users really want to go there (maybe it’s always been a fantasy), but that won’t lead to an expansion of the world as we know it, but to even more fractionation.

Mainly because avatars aren’t cross-platform creations. So if you want your virtual self to wear Prada – or Balenciaga or Thom Browne – you can only do so on meta-platforms. Just like if you want your virtual self to wear Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, or Gucci, you need to be on Roblox.

To be fair, maybe this will change as technology changes, just as the ability to dress up your avatar can change. Now when you select any outfit in the meta wardrobe you have to select a complete premade look instead of building with one garment at a time. In the future, a Balenciaga hoodie could perhaps be paired with a Prada skirt and a pair of no-name shoes.

Mr. Zuckerberg has said that Meta will eventually open up shop to digital-only fashion brands and other new creatives – the kind of designers/inventors who already sell their wares on the digital marketplace DressX, which is where most of the truly alternative interpretations of “clothing” happen. to find.

If so, getting your avatar dressed in the morning feels less like playing paper dolls and more like a unique form of signaling and experimenting with values. may seem additive rather than just imitative. But not yet.

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