Home Science & Tech Avatars Wear Prada – The New York Times

Avatars Wear Prada – The New York Times

by YAR

That is all.

Last October, after Mark Zuckerberg revealed his vision for the new Meta (formerly Facebook) and the incredible future that awaited him in Web 3.0, and roundly mocked his decision to do so via an avatar wearing exactly what same one used by Zuckerberg. in his daily life, this, in a world of infinite possibilities! — Meta realized the problem and launched a kind of gauntlet.

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

This week, Balenciaga responded, along with Prada and Thom Browne, courtesy of Meta’s new avatar fashion store, which began rolling out to users in the US, Canada, Thailand and Mexico. Although the social media company had offered a variety of free (and generic) outfits for avatars used on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, this is the first time it has enlisted designated designers to create shoppable looks for virtual people.

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

Also some ripped jeans and a plaid shirt, a motocross jumpsuit, a black skirt suit and low-rise jeans paired with a logo crop top and logo briefs (four sets total). The quintessential Balenciaga looks, in other words, to anyone who has followed the brand. Like the Thom Browne offering, a shrunken gray three-piece suit, pleated gray skirt suit, and shorts ensemble is Browne’s signature uniform. And as at least one of Prada’s four looks, a white tank top with a logo triangle and layered skirt, seemed to come straight from the most recent runway (although they also offer the perennial logo sweatshirt).

But still, is that all?

These are four of the most creative and thoughtful fashion designers working today: Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, Prada’s Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, and Mr. Browne, designers whose clothes IRL grapple with how social forces and politics shape identity at its core. levels; designers whose work has addressed climate change, gender, war, capitalism, questions of value, and viral celebrity. And all they (or perhaps their digital, merchandising and marketing teams) could think of when given the task of imagining dressing in a space free of gravity and any kind of physical constraints are cartoon copies of some of the most familiar garments that you already sell?

Well, Mr. Browne emailed when asked how he chose his outfits: “It took me two seconds, not a second, to figure out what it had to look like. I thought that the gray suit needed to participate in this world.”

The argument is that simply by making these clothes, which normally sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars, available to a larger group of users (in the Meta store the price range is from $2.99 ​​to $8.99) , they are democratizing what would otherwise be inaccessible. Which is true, commercially speaking, and essentially positions Meta as the NewGen equivalent of a lipstick: the ultimate in diffusion lines, nearly all barriers to entry erased.

And while it’s a good thing that the world of technology, which has moved away from fashion since the attempt to make wearables stylish failed pretty badly, it realizes that if you want to play in the world of clothing, you had better invite the experts at , these particular offers seem to be based on common lower expectations of ourselves in the virtual world.

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

If any creative mind could imagine what a paradigm shift would look like, they would think it would be them.

Mr. Browne already does this sometimes on his IRL shows. Recently, he designed a spinning top that looked like a giant wire-covered cross sandwiched between a tennis ball and a tortoise shell, and turned a woman into a toy soldier. Mr. Gvasalia takes the everyday (plush bathrobes, Ikea bags) and turns it into something extraordinary by subverting all expectations. You’d think the jump into the metaverse would be a no-brainer for them.

However, what the “clothes” this troika has designed for the Meta store show seem largely to be an opportunity to show brand loyalty and leverage their archives in the simplest of ways. The implication is that users want to wear the same clothes in a digital space as they do in a physical space, or at least the same clothes they aspire to wear, rather than something entirely new.

In an Instagram Live conversation with Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, introducing the new store, Ms. Chen showed sketches of Mr. Zuckerberg’s avatar in different outfits and asked for her reactions. “It takes a certain confidence to wear Prada from head to toe,” Zuckerberg said, suggesting that he didn’t have that confidence in real life, though he might have in the metaverse.

But that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of fashion and the whole idea of ​​self-expression. After all, who wears a completely designer look in real life? Celebrities paid by the brand in public situations, fashion victims and models in magazine reports in which the brand will lend clothes only if it is not mixed with the work of other designers.

In a Facebook post to the store, Zuckerberg also said that Meta wanted to create an avatar fashion offering because “digital products are going to be an important way to express yourself in the metaverse and a big driver of the creative economy.” But self-expression isn’t about swallowing a designer look whole. Self-expression is about using the tools that designers create to make something individual.

It doesn’t take confidence, or even thinking about it, to wear a look totally dictated by a designer. It just takes a desire to be a brand advertising vehicle, which is what Meta is currently facilitating. Maybe that’s where some users really want to go (maybe that’s always been a fantasy), but that won’t lead to an expansion of the world as we know it, but more factionalism.

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

To be fair, perhaps this will change as technology changes, just as the ability to dress your avatar may change. Right now, when you choose any type of outfit in Meta’s wardrobe, you have to choose an entire pre-made look instead of being able to build on one item at a time. In the future, perhaps, a Balenciaga hoodie could be paired with a Prada skirt and a pair of no-name shoes.

Zuckerberg has said that at some point Meta will open the shop to digital-only fashion brands and other new creatives, the kind of designers/inventors who already sell their wares on the DressX digital marketplace, which is where most of the truly interpretations lie. alternatives. of “clothes” can be found.

If so, dressing up your avatar in the morning can feel less like playing paper dolls and more like a unique form of value signaling and experimentation; it may seem additive, rather than simply imitative. But not yet.

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