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Microsoft’s Linda Pimmeshofer explores fashion business opportunities in the metaverse

Camilla Rydzek
29 November 2021

Microsoft Industry Advisor Linda Pimmeshofer explored what business opportunities the metaverse holds for the fashion industry in a keynote at the Exthereal conference.

“The metaverse feels a bit futuristic, it's hard to grasp what it is - but the business opportunity here is real,” she said.

Pimmeshofer gave this keynote on the first day of the virtual Exthereal conference, which explores the future of fashion in the digital world.

She explained that while fashion might be new to the metaverse, which she described as a virtual world where “the internet breaks free from its two dimensions and where we can exist together,” it should look to the gaming industry for guidance, and consider the fact that gamers have been spending upwards of $100 billion dollars every year on virtual goods for their avatars.

She also presented the idea of the metaverse as a natural continuation of consumer’s changing attitudes, where increasingly purpose has become more important than price and where physical stores are less transactional and more experiential.

“If we look at the garment itself - if the purpose of fashion is to express and expose an identity, the question is, do we really need to own garments to do that?” she asked in the keynote.

“The ability to use and show digital clothes in the real world is still a bit limited and the devices we can use. It's not so convenient and fashionable at all actually, but while the metaverse is growing, this dematerialisation of garments will as well and it will change the fashion industry as we know it,” she added.

Pimmeshofer works with the biggest retailers and consumer good companies from different countries spanning across Europe, including Farfetch and H&M as well as start-ups and partners to build new customer experiences and services.

From virtual fashion shows to an improved try-on services, here are the key business opportunities for fashion in the metaverse that Pimmeshofer identified.

Virtual fashion shows

She started off the keynote speaking about a virtual fashion show and collection she designed with Rag and Bone in the Spring. “This digital collection is not only cool and really shareable it also enables Rags and Bone to not only show the collection to the limited amount of people in the front row of a fashion show but to the whole world without producing one piece of garment.

“If we imagine all that data that they can collect about the different parts of the collection, how it resonates with different types of customers, different demographics and geographies - these are truly valuable insights if you want to plan a supply chain and minimise overproduction.”

NFTs

RTFKT x FEWOCiOUS

"The demand of NFT's is soaring and players like DressX prove that you can sell digital clothes. The collaboration between the design studio RTFKT and the design artist FEWOCiOUS sold virtual sneakers for over $3 million in less than five minutes. This is real."

Virtual outfits in video games

balenciaga fortnite

"We see luxury brands like Balenciaga offering a digital twin to your garment, so you can match your avatar in the video game Fortnight. It's 3 billion people that are gaming today, that is 1/3 of the world's population, which makes gaming the leader form of entertainment today. So, it is logical we are talking about "screenwear is the new streetwear" and we see these brands collaborating with the big games to build relevance with that audience."

Enhancing the design process with "digital twins"

3D design

"The possibilities with digital garments and digital twins, start with the design process. Designers can design in 3D without any physical samples and fabrics and render digital twins - a digital asset that can be used in many scenarios, from collaborations between design and production without sending samples across the world, but also in terms of procurement and merchandising. They can visualise the collection everywhere, anywhere. One thing that is interesting when we are moving the design process into the digital, we can add capabilities like the Circulator design tool that H&M is testing, which is helping designers to make better climate decision."

Real-life fashion with AR capabilities

H&M and Jacob Felländer

"I like this example from a collaboration between H&M and the artist Jacob Felländer. This is digital fashion in the physical world. And what you see here is a garment that triggers the AR experience that in this case is moving towards you and it plays music. And this is to expand the experience to tell a story or just deliver beautiful moments to share. (The AR capability could be discovered using the collection's dedicated app, called 'The Great Escape'.)"

Avatar try-on

reactive reality

"The try-on experience, I think we have good potential for improvement here. We all know that size and fit is everything in fashion, and also the biggest reason to return and is a really big problem, not only for the industry but for the planet. There is an easy solution from our partner Reactive Reality, which creates a digital twin of you with your own measurements (and you can add your face if you want). Imagine all the scenarios that we can use this in, starting with digital dressing room to support experiences and maybe get rid of these orders of three sizes, with the intent to return at least two, which is really bad for the environment. I would also love to have this avatar with me in the stores to be able to quickly scan a product and see how it fits my avatar before I might decide to go into a line for the dressing room and get naked and all of that process."

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