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The metaverse is difficult to describe, and no one knows what it will actually look like until becomes integrated into our daily internet usage. Essentially, the metaverse is a cyberspace in which people can exist and connect with other users (people). It is an elevated version of social media. You can create an avatar and purchase clothes for it to wear that will exist across the metaverse in multiple apps, such as Zoom, FaceTime, and online games.
Instead of viewing content, you are able to become part of it. If you were to FaceTime a friend, rather than seeing their face on a screen they would be a hologram sitting in your bedroom, wearing the clothes they purchased for their avatar. New technology is being developed that will simulate physical touch and allow us to tell where other people in the metaverse are looking, as though we are actually with them. The metaverse will have its own economy just like real life.
It is hard to say how many people will enjoy the metaverse and how easily it will be integrated into our everyday lives. For starters, VR sets are clunky and very expensive, making them unpractical and inaccessible for most people. As well as this, there has been a lot of confusion as to why Zuckerberg and other influential figures in the technology industry want to simulate the real world online when we live in the physical world already.
Of course, the metaverse would require a lot of energy to run efficiently, which is undoubtedly for bad the planet. However, Zuckerberg suggests the metaverse proposes many solutions to environmental issues, such as reducing the need to fly and providing online alternatives to manufacturing items that produce a lot of co2, such as clothing.
Clothing is a huge part of the metaverse. People will be able to spend real money on clothing for their avatar that will represent them in the virtual world. Whilst it seems scary to think of the importance of physical clothing diminishing against electronic clothing, the metaverse does have the potential to reduce the number of physical garments produced.
Currently, we overproduce clothing - leading to large proportions of it going to landfill. In Britain alone, 30% of clothing ends up in landfill. 700,000 tonnes of textiles end up in recycling centers, which is enough to fill 459 Olympic swimming pools. That’s the amount of waste created by one tiny island out of 194 other countries in the world. In light of this, maybe the metaverse could help fashion become more sustainable, as online garments emit 97% less carbon than physical clothing, saving an average of 3,000 liters of water.
It seems strange to think of electronic clothing only existing online, but some brands have already started accommodating the metaverse.
Balenciaga has collaborated with Fortnite, producing a range of hats, shoes, and hoodies inspired by the video game. There are also online items you can purchase for your avatar on Fornite that are widely recognised as designer, giving your avatar prestige for wearing expensive clothes. Notice how the effect of wearing designer clothes in real life is mirrored online? The metaverse is already bridging the gap between real life and online.
Remember Pokémon Go? Cohen has collaborated with this well known game to give users the chance to find items of clothing rather than Pokémon. Users can log in and create a custom avatar before embarking on a journey to collect electronic items of clothing that they can wear in the game. They are also able to purchase physical items in this online universe making it one of the first examples of how digital and physical clothing can be integrated.
Dolce & Gabbana
One of the world’s major designers, D&G has decided to pioneer the age of digital fashion. D&G have reportedly sold 9 pieces of digital clothing already, amounting to a total of $6m. The enormous amount of money they have made from selling a mere 9 items demonstrates the potential for digital clothing to become mainstream. People are willing to spend hundreds and thousands of pounds on it already! If this is how it’s going in the early stages, imagine how many brands will want to create electronic collections when they see how much money D&G made - even before the metaverse is mainstream? Those who have purchased online articles of clothing already will undoubtedly expect them to go up in price. When the metaverse takes off they will become an electronic form of vintage clothing.
Minkoff has always been forward-thinking when it comes to technology and fashion. From covering her handbags in QR codes before they were widely used - to showcasing her fall collection on OnlyFans, it is not surprising to see her making clothes for the metaverse. Minkoff has plans to expand her electronic clothing line - as the metaverse could be the future of fashion.
With major designers already partaking in the age of digital clothing, the metaverse has undeniable potential to make waves in the fashion industry. But it’s not all good news…
Whilst the metaverse has only recently surfaced in mainstream conversations, it has actually been around for around 30 years. The term metaverse was first used in 1992, in the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Stephenson depicts the metaverse as a precursor to the internet, an online world used to distance oneself from dystopian realities. Snow Crash looks freakishly similar to our reality. World leaders lose influence to large cooperations, and the online sphere begins to put reality at risk. Actions in the metaverse have great consequences in real life, as the protagonist begins to spend more time online than in the real world.
It is not just Zuckerberg running the metaverse, hundreds of companies need to invest their time and money for it to blossom into its full potential. Therefore, we are running the risk of large cooperations having more influence over us than they already do. They will be responsible for an online reality that will grow in importance - as dependence on the internet and social media rises.
The book poses potential downfalls of the metaverse, such as the possibility that people would become addicted to it and withdraw from reality, or that the online world might skew the values of our existing planet. In order for the metaverse to be successful society would have to use it carefully and be aware of its potential to cause harm. When social media first started, no one had any idea how influential it would become. We must proceed with caution when it comes to the metaverse because no one really knows how it will actually play out.
As well as the social and moral disadvantages, the energy usage for data processing VR and AI will have a huge impact on the environment. To put it into perspective, a study shows that an AI model can emit 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide - almost five times the lifetime emission of the average car in America. The huge carbon dioxide emissions and energy usage will only increase as we inevitably become more dependent on the metaverse as time progresses. But the metaverse does have the potential to reduce flying, as online meetings will be far more realistic and intimate, reducing the need to travel. As well as this, clothing production may reduce as people become more interested in their electronic wardrobe.
It’s hard to say whether the metaverse is a step in the right direction for sustainability, or whether it will plunge humanity even further into the climate crisis.
What do you think? Join in the conversation on our Instagram @luxiders_magazine.
Florenne Earle Ledger