IRL or URL? The difference disappears with the Metaverse

The fashion industry shows how fluidly off- and online retail could soon be intertwined. Blockchain, NFTs and Metaverse offer enormous digital potential, says insider Jeff Carvalho, co-founder of the streetwear blog Highsnobiety. In this interview, he gives us an insight into the industry.
14 April, 2022 by
IRL or URL? The difference disappears with the Metaverse
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

GDI: What was your best or most surprising online or offline shopping experience lately?

Jeff Carvalho: Token gated shopping is quite interesting and surprising in nature. It involved a person or persons to hold a specific digital asset, either an NFT or token, in a wallet as a "pass" or "access point" to allow for commerce to happen. Shopify and their dev partners are building some of the smartest tools to help current clientele turn on gated opportunities. A clear winner here in Adam Bomb Squad and Bored Ape's with their Apecoin access.

Offline, my favorite activities are short run or temporary shops that solely focus on one item or a category of items. Fast food with their limited menus, and merchandise pop-ups for releases from bands to Gucci are winning here.

Are brands still setting trends, or are customer demand, and the ever smarter sales analytics generated from it, forcing brands to produce what customers want?

Brands are not forced to produce what customers wants, but they are pressured more and more by consumers to have a "stake" in what's happening in politics and culture. Everyday, we see new research showing that consumers expect brands, even more than politicians, to help make the world a more equitable place. Brands, in the consumer mind, has more power to force change in the world, through their messaging and their footprint on the global retail front.

You once said “in the future we will see fashion in sizes from S to XL as well as the same garment in NFT”. Could you explain what you mean by that?

When it comes to fashion as digital wearables in metaversal experiences, there are some that want a 1:1 representation of themselves, similar to a second life, but others want to represent themselves as something beyond their IRL form, something more abstract, say with more than two arms or two legs. The metaverse allows for people to be whomever they want to in whatever form, many with a sense of pseudo anonymity.

The line between what's IRL and what's URL will become finer, with almost no differentiation in how the consumer considers their experience.

With this in mind, today we see NFTs and wearables as a secondary marketplace to a brand's direct first level marketplace. But, if I'm buying a garment for the brand why do I need separate storefronts for what I buy in IRL v. URL.

My belief is that as web3 continues to impact fashion and retail, IRL clothing and metaversal wearables with be sold through the same channel, or when you purchase one you will receive the other (buy a physical shirt, you'll get the wearable NFT; buy the wearable NFT, you'll get a physical shirt).

The experience is better when segmenting IRL from URL vanishes.

Is the metaverse an opportunity for luxury brands to reach younger generations?

The metaverse offers luxury brands an opportunity to join a contribute to new platforms and new technology rails that will continue to impact culture, ownership and how we shop. To a young consumer who sees no difference between a celebrity as a real person or avatar, the same holds true for luxury goods, but they must have functionality in some way.While a JW Anderson NFT sweater is great, it is even better if it can be actually worn or used in a function beyond a 2 or 3dimensional object. 

Jeff Carvalho will be a speaking at the 72nd International Retail Summit, which takes place at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute from 8 to 9 September 2022. Sign up now!

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