Text: Paula Kiessling
Vision 2030 – a future in which we humans will have conquered virtual clothing for ourselves. There are now digital fashion houses and the major fashion labels have long since discovered the metaverse (MV) of the digital brand world for themselves. How will fashion evolve in the metaverse?
Aspiring fashion journalist Paula Kiessling (PK) talks about this question with cyber security expert Jean-Claude Kiessling (JCK).
THE HYBRID OF DIGITAL AND REAL FASHION WORLDS AS A FUTURE SCENARIO
Hyperpersonalized products and artificial intelligence (AI)-based marketing have become indispensable. Also
so-called NFT’s (Non-Fungible Tokens) have been introduced into the market. These real-time electronic certificates prove that a digital product is an original. It is a kind of receipt that is entered on a global data list in the blockchain. With this advancement, individual collections of labels can now be made counterfeit-proof. Customers subscribe and purchase real fashion products for themselves in what is called “glocalized” commerce. They can touch the fashion haptically and wear it personalized on their own bodies – or simultaneously give the same clothes to their digital twin (avatar) at a hybrid or digital event.
PK: Jean-Claude, you are a cyber security expert at Deutsche Telekom. How is Telekom related to the metaverse and the fashion industry?
JCK: The MV is a big step into the digital future of the fashion industry, complemented by more and more virtual products in the future. Digital telcos provide an essential element of communication with their networks and thus provide one of the technical foundations for the MV. This also applies to the clouds of the tech giants, such as Google, Amazon or Facebook. Digital communication networks are the roads on which data travels. The MV is a new dimension of digital interaction. How big and significant this step is; becomes clear when you realize that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not only renamed Facebook to Meta, but is completely reorienting Meta to the MV as THE center of his company’s future business content.
Jean-Claude Kiessling, Deutsche Telekom Security GmbH
PK: The Metaverse – what is that actually?
JCK: Simply put, the MV is a virtual space where people can interact with each other as avatars using virtual reality technologies. It’s a connection between physical reality and virtual worlds. It is a digital space where new virtual products can also be created and marketed, transactions and business can be conducted, and dialogues can be exchanged with so-called bots via apps.
PK: What was the original idea of the MV and where is it headed?
JCK: The concept of MV is already over 30 years old. Back then it was science fiction books such as “Snowcrash” by Neal Stephenson. There are avatars running around in a kind of global, virtual reality. Some of these original visions are now being used in digital applications, such as in games or even in interactive, digital training on specialist topics in society.
THE FUTURE OF FASHION
PK: Let’s talk about fashion. What impact will the MV have on the fashion industry?
JCK: The MV is revolutionizing the fashion industry in several ways: trade, production, supply chains, sustainability and profitability. Glocalized commerce – that is, a connected layer of “think global, act local” – will significantly increase brand loyalty through digital personalization of products.
PK: Did I understand that correctly, glocalized, not globalized commerce?
JCK [laughs]: Yes, the question keeps coming, glocalized is a neologism, introduced from sociology. It describes the impact of global effects on the regional level and its interrelationships. This also affects the buying experience both in e-commerce when ordering online and in the store, the so-called point-of-sale (POS). Mobile apps and micro-fulfillment, i.e. extremely fast delivery of goods through the shortest possible delivery routes, will make fashion a completely new experience at the POS. The MV is an essential part of the digital fashion future.
PK: What are the advantages of a hybrid fashion world?
JCK: The digitized sales economy is getting a boost, it increases efficiency along the entire production chain and controls networked logistics in real time. Most importantly, the MV will establish itself to create the much-needed revolutionization of production, due to environmental pollution, and thus really achieve sustainability goals, such as sustainable consumption and production.
PK: Does the MV have an impact on how fashion is presented and how fashion labels present themselves?
JCK: Fashion show presentations will evolve into a new dimension in the MV. For the first time in 2022, due to the pandemic, Fashion Week had to be held essentially virtually via the so-called MVFW (Metaverse Fashion Week) platform Decentraland.
PK: Has the virtual Fashion Week been well received?
JCK: Yes, it was a trend-setting success! Over 100,000 so-called “unique attendees”, i.e. visitors identified beyond doubt, took part. 70 fashion shows and many first appearances by fashion brands in on-site and virtual presence also presented themselves to the market virtually. Top labels showed, often in limited edition, first NFT products that make fashion also combinable with gaming, for example Burberry does. Other brands such as Louis Vitton, Gucci and Karl Lagerfeld established digital games or even digital art associated with the brand label. So in MV, virtual goods are now being added to the fashion industry, and more and more fashion labels are using this to present themselves in a more individual way for customers. Digital products, for which a
Digital products, for which a willingness to pay arises, allow new sources of revenue to be tapped for brand manufacturers. The differentiation of the respective label through digital personalization is also made possible in a completely new way.
A REVOLUTION IN THE FASHION SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
PK: How is the shopping experience changing?
JCK: The opportunity to create a personalized and preference-based shopping experience is emerging. So-called. Loyalty programs (customer retention programs), to payment processing will transition into a new experience. Returning customers and their preferences are then known to the seller. This means that suitable, complementary products can be offered in a customer-specific and personalized way. The personal avatar could virtually represent already complete outfits or matching accessories to existing favorite clothing items as a digital clone, thus specifically awakening and promoting the need for new complementary offerings.
PK: What does this mean for the payment process?
JCK: The payment process in the real store could be completely eliminated for known, loyal customers – conceivably premium customers with good credit ratings – and the debit could be automated and moved to the cloud. Digitized customer loyalty also makes it possible to increase to exhaustion the so-called “share-of-wallet”.
PK: What is that, a “share-of-wallet”?
JCK: Customers spend their money on the products of the respective label, and work is consistently done to ensure that, through high brand loyalty, customers are not so quick to switch to a competitor’s product and the share of money spent on the company’s own product is increased. For fashion companies, this offers both potential for short-term sales growth through targeted supplementary marketing and long-term customer loyalty to the fashion label.
(Quelle: julientromeur, Pixabay.com)
CHANGE IN PRODUCTION AND SUPPLY CHAINS
PK: What benefits does the MV offer the fashion industry in terms of production and warehousing?
JCK: The MV offers the fashion industry an unprecedented opportunity through an end-to-end upgrade. That’s where the connection with the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the value chain plays an important role. This means that production will become significantly more target-, region- or demand-oriented by connecting the connected stores. As a result, manufacturing quantities will become significantly more plannable. There are also clearly positive developments on inventories in MV, by avoiding or at least reducing overproduction, both POS and wholesalers have the opportunity to significantly optimize the problem of excessive inventories. At the same time, a natural shortage of quickly sold-out items is avoided, which means that better, much more targeted quantity planning of locally demanded sizes, colors, etc. will be possible in the future.
PK: What impact does all this have on sales, supply chains and production?
JCK: Through the MV, production can be optimized, because through the digital data, desired quantities can be better predicted. This could significantly reduce overproduction in the future. Consequently, inventory risks can be limited and the capital burden reduced. In parallel, the sales market is optimized and promoted. This high level of personalization in combination with virtual visual clothing not only offers Modelables the maximum opportunity for differentiation, but could also substitute a significant part of e.g. fast fashion sales due to its fast realizability.
PK: Does the MV have an impact on the people who use it?
JCK: Interaction with other people and also the experience of products is being redefined by the possibilities of the MV, e.g. via Reskin. People are spending more and more time online, even in their working lives. Smartphones, social media, entertainment media such as games, also with VR glasses, the boundary between reality and virtuality is becoming increasingly blurred.
PK: What do you mean by the term reskin?
JCK: The term reskin refers to an artificial skin that is used for physical interactions in the metaverse. It is the link that creates the connection between the virtual and real worlds. Sensors could be used to measure magnetic flux densities. As soon as there is contact with other objects or a surface, the Reskin changes its magnetic field and forwards the information regarding this change via a manometer. The AI then evaluates the information. The contact and the force applied are determined.
PK: What will be possible with Reskin?
JCK: Currently, it is only possible to put on the acquired clothes in the MV to our avatars. However, we do not know how the fabrics feel. However, it would be useful if we could already feel the fabrics at home without actually having them in our hands. For this, Reskin was used to produce a mesh-covered glove that can let us feel the fabrics without actually physically holding the product in our hands. So through the Reskin sensory technology, we can simulate touching a fabric. A possible feeling of the material can significantly influence the purchase decision in the virtual world of the MV.
PK: How does the MV contribute to sustainability?
JCK: In the fashion industry, “3-R” is now a megatrend: “Reduce, Recycle & Reuse.” But fair trade and, in particular, compliance with agreed production standards are also elementary for fashion labels for both their image and, above all, for proving that they can achieve sustainability goals. Many fashion companies today are not yet fully capable of verifying their supply chains, compliance with socially and environmentally responsible production agreements, or actively ensuring compliance in the event of violations, or simply taking countermeasures, for example by quickly switching to alternative suppliers. Many labels do not have tracking systems for, for example, better material sourcing or compliance with company internally set sustainability targets to reduce emissions. This is where the MV provides technical tracking systems and creates transparency to provide an overview of the entire supply chain.
PK: Do you think it’s realistic for the MV to become established?
JCK: Yes, it will definitely become established, because a lot of what is technically possible in the market will find its fans and there will be groups that will use parts of the MV intensively. The only question is what will establish itself in the long term for the so-called mainstream, i.e. the mass market. This depends on the benefits for the consumer and the company, as well as the ease of the respective applications. In this respect, only time will tell what will become permanently established.
PK: Jean-Claude, thank you for talking to us.