Paris Fashion Week 2023 concluded on Tuesday. Plenty of labels had their moment in the spotlight, but it was L’Oréal’s showcase on Monday that should be of most interest to fashion innovators wanting to engage Gen Z shoppers.
That’s a smart move, considering the demographic wields immense financial clout, with an estimated spending power of approximately $360 billion. It’s a market that is best accessed online and, increasingly, through the metaverse of Web3-enabled gaming platforms.
The L’Oréal’s Paris Fashion Week 2023 metaverse-activated event was only the latest of its ongoing digital fashion initiatives, which have also included fashion week NFT drops and virtual spaces for digital denizens to engage with online.
The digital fashion market is poised to exceed $2 trillion over the next seven years, cementing the virtual realm as the future home for the fashion industry. So what exactly is L’Oréal doing, and what other digital fashion initiatives were on show at Paris Fashion Week 2023?
A Bold Leap: L'Oréal's Paris Fashion Week Virtual Runway
L’Oréal is no stranger to digital engagement. The brand sponsors e-sports teams in Asia and last year entered into a strategic partnership with NFT player avatar designers Ready Player Me. Its hair care division, L’Oréal Professionel, created a collection of virtual hairstyles that could be used to decorate player avatars across thousands of video games.
“L’Oréal Professionnel is one of the leaders in the haircare market in real life,” explained Virgile Brodziak, the managing director of the agency that worked with L’Oréal on the project, in an interview. “So we thought ‘let’s take that mission to the virtual world and become the leader of the virtual hair care category as well.”
So it’s no surprise that the company would add a virtual dimension to its Paris Fashion Week showcase this year. A mesmerizing display of female empowerment and the interplay between fashion and Web3, the “Walk Your Worth” event was streamed almost simultaneously on metaverse platform Roblox.
With over 66 million daily active users, predominantly from the Gen Z demographic, Roblox provided an unparalleled opportunity for L'Oréal to engage this emerging market. The move reflects a brand strategy that recognizes that capturing the attention of the next generation requires venturing beyond conventional social media platforms and into the virtual realities of the metaverse.
Web3 Platforms at Paris Fashion Week
While legacy brands have traditionally gravitated towards platforms like Instagram and YouTube for showcasing their seasonal collections, virtual worlds like Roblox remained a largely untapped resource for brand engagement.
Another such platform is The Sandbox, which more than doubled its registered user count in 2022 to over 4.5 million. There, too, L’Oréal has a presence. Its cosmetics subsidiary, NYX Professional Makeup, partnered with People of Crypto Lab to launch an NFT player avatar collection, alongside the first-ever diversity, equity and inclusivity hub in the metaverse.
“With more than three billion global gamers, our approach is to explore new beauty codes, while making the experience more accessible and inclusive,” L’Orèal Group Chief Metaverse Officer Camille Kroely said in a statement.
“Our brands are creating new, immersive, and virtual experiences using Virtual spaces (stores), In-game customized experiences, In-virtual world advertising, E-sampling activations and Virtual ambassadors and influencers. We are very excited to lay the foundations for the future of beauty on Web3 and Metaverse.”
Platforms like Roblox and The Sandbox are emblematic of the ongoing trend towards digital fashion metaverse activations. L'Oréal's strategic partnerships in the gaming sector and its entry into Ready Player Me underscore the industry-wide recognition of the potential within virtual realms. The convergence of high fashion with virtual experiences marks an exciting trajectory for the industry.
Augmented Reality (AR) Fashion
Virtual clothes and accessories in the gaming worlds of the metaverse are not the only manifestation of the Web3 digital fashion, however. Nor, perhaps, even the most promising. Another innovation showcased prominently at both London and Paris Fashion Weeks 2023 was the augmented reality (AR), smart-mirror, virtual try-on experience. It’s not hard to understand why. The ‘smart mirror’ market generated approximately $3.44 billion in revenue in 2022, and is projected to surge to $7.3 billion by 2028.
In Paris, guests were invited to try out an AR smart-mirror from digital fashion pioneer DressX, where they could see themselves in a range of designer outfits without ever putting them on. Retail giants such as JD Sports, Tiffany & Co, Tommy Hilfiger, and Coach have already integrated AR tech, particularly in the form of try-on mirrors, into their brick-and-mortar spaces. Brands are increasingly recognizing the value of AR solutions in driving customer engagement and ultimately, bolstering purchases.
When I see [the reaction of] a 19-year-old… in a mixed reality experience, that tells me what we're all doing is going in the right direction,” observed Andrea Abrams, Founder & CEO of digital fashion startup Phygicode, at a panel discussion held during Paris Fashion Week 2023 entitled ‘How to use Web3 tools to enhance physical experiences.’
“Some brands are aiming for unique experiences to draw in more customers, while others want to boost in-store time and ultimately increase purchases,” explained George Yashin, founder of Zero10, an AR smart mirror startup, in an interview earlier this year. “Objectives vary, but companies are starting to see the real value in the role of AR solutions for their businesses. The brands that have already embraced this innovation will be the frontrunners in this fast-evolving landscape.”
AR/VR Digital Fashion in Web3
The shift towards AR/VR digital fashion experiences goes hand-in-hand with NFT-powered ‘phygital’ fashion. Physical clothing is tied to a virtual twin, a digital asset, that can serve a variety of purposes, from certifying the authenticity and provenance of luxury goods, granting access to loyalty programs and brand activations, and even dressing virtual avatars on platforms like The Sandbox, Roblox, or - through initiatives like Ready Player Me - thousands of other games and online worlds.
A customer visits a brick-and-mortar store and tries on an outfit with an AR smart-mirror. Right there and then, the customer can purchase the outfit using the smart-mirror interface, and receive both their physical garment as well as their digital twin version, directly to their digital wallet.
Or perhaps a customer is too far from the physical store. They can instead visit a virtual store front in the metaverse, and try the garment on their virtual avatar before making the same purchase. And if they live in another country and their local payment method is not accepted? Cryptocurrency transactions carried out with a digital wallet overcome such barriers. The capacity of blockchain-based technologies to engage customers are only growing.
Paris Fashion Week NFT Frontier
As the fashion industry propels itself into the digital future, L’Oréal's bold leap onto the virtual runway is but a glimpse of what lies ahead. With the integration of AR, the metaverse, and NFT-backed 'phygital' fashion, the industry is undertaking transformative journey. Strategic partnerships between fashion labels and technology innovators will redefine how we interact with fashion and propel the next generation of trend-setters into the spotlight.