The online universe becomes a laboratory for real products


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New York (AFP) – The online platforms that are precursors to the metaverse vision of the Internet’s future are already serving as workrooms for developing products for real sale.

From sneakers sketched in the virtual world but produced in the real world, to designers previewing clothes on avatars before making them, the line between the digital and the tangible is thinning.

“In real life, it’s extremely expensive to make any product,” said French couture designer Julien Fournie, who runs his own eponymous fashion house.

Online is “a place of openness to test things virtually and recreate an extremely precise connection to the real experience”, he added.

The clamor over virtual goods comes amid feverish predictions that the Metaverse – a virtual reality version of the internet – will eventually replace today’s web.

In recent months, a growing number of brands have tried to establish a presence on popular platforms, from Roblox to Fortnite, for fear of missing out on a major technological and societal shift.

How users interact with products online – what they flock to and what they ignore – provides companies with a relatively low-risk and low-cost opportunity to develop products.

It’s part of an underlying trend to leverage data collected online “to develop better collections, to make better predictions,” said Achim Berg, a partner at McKinsey & Company consulting.

The coronavirus pandemic has helped to reduce the distance between the virtual and the real by pushing many designers to create in three dimensions, for lack of being able to meet physically, added the consultant.

Opportunity for young creators

In late February 2021, studio RTFKT, in collaboration with Seattle artist FEWOCiOUS, launched a limited edition of 621 pairs of virtual sneakers through their NFT – digital items that can be bought and sold using blockchain technology. .

One aspect of the operation was to match each digital pair sold that day with tangible shoes, which each buyer could pick up six weeks later.

“We believe the emotional connection to physical objects is still important and can increase attachment” to digital products, Benoit Pagotto, one of the founders of RTFKT, which was acquired by giant Nike in December, told The Wall. StreetJournal.

The Aglet application, which mixes virtual sneakers and augmented reality, created its Telga shoes, like the heavyweights Adidas or Reebok.

Now it plans to make real sneakers, said company CEO Ryan David Mullins, who noted that the first batch of 500 had already sold out before production even began.

“Once you can quantify the demand within these platforms, it’s much easier to build the channel in the physical world to manufacture them,” he added.

Aglet noted that the company is starting to work with young designers, for whom the cost of entry to creating their own physical brand may be a little too high.

“But starting to design it virtually is much easier,” he said.

Another variant of online growth is high-end fashion platform Farfetch, which in August launched a formula allowing people to pre-order digital-only Balenciaga, Off-White or Dolce & Gabbana items.

The site collaborated with the DressX studio, which designs virtual clothing, to achieve the most convincing rendering possible.

The pieces are then manufactured in the workshop only according to pre-orders, a particularly attractive assembly for high-end brands rather than for ready-to-wear behemoths.

This way of working can also help avoid overproduction and unsold stock, which have become a concern for the environmental costs associated with it.

However, not everyone is sold on the vision of turning digital into tangible.

“Digital coins can be worn, collected, and traded in the metaverse, so there’s no need for physical counterparts,” said The Fabricator, a virtual fashion house.

Dutch society still sees the permeability between the two worlds as a good thing when people choose to “bring the aesthetics of the virtual world into their physical lives”.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to desirability,” said Berg, the consultant. “If it’s desirable in this (virtual) space, why wouldn’t it be in another space?”


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