By: Janelle Sessoms
Well, we have officially made it to the future. Welcome to the “metaverse.” Facebook has recently rebranded itself as to what we now know as Meta. I’m sure you are asking yourself, “What is the metaverse?”
Facebook describes the “metaverse” as "a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren't in the same physical space as you." Still don’t understand what that means? Don’t fret because most of us don’t. I mean, how can we? This is a completely new technology that none of us have ever seen or experienced before. This technological initiative is what you would expect straight out of a sci-fi movie. Until we see what Meta truly is about, we can only stay curious about this new digital age upon us.
Technology advancements have been on the rise within this past decade. Tech industries are the dominant force in the stock market, with Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta providing 20% of the total stock market alone. Of course, this shouldn’t be that surprising considering how deeply integrated technology is in our day-to-day lives. Nearly every industry today relies on technology to some degree. Fashion is no exception.
The fashion industry has completely embraced the idea of a mix of the physical and virtual world. Think back to last year during the height of COVID-19 when all of Fashion Month took place virtually. Even before COVID, the fashion industry saw an increase in the investment of the omnichannel experience and gave consumers better insight on how to shop through a digital lens.
This merge of fashion and technology definitely has its upsides. For one, it provides a better platform for small-owned businesses and minority-owned fashion brands. It is through technology that consumers have awareness of smaller businesses and can have easier interactions with them. Influencers can promote their clothes, journalists can spread their names, and the fashion industry can take part in being diverse and inclusive.
But there are also downsides to the merge of fashion and technology. One of the biggest issues that we are seeing today is bigger name brands stealing ideas from smaller companies and taking credit for it. The number of posts on the Instagram account Diet Prada (diet_prada) dedicated to calling out ideas stolen from small businesses is unbelievable. Beyond the abuse of power dominant brands take advantage of, there is a lack of connection that technology brings with it as well.
We get so immersed in our digital lives that we tend to neglect what is happening in reality. We try to split our time between the two worlds, but as more technological advancements occur, we become more and more unbalanced. We see this issue daily, and it’s very present in fashion. During Fashion Month, you won’t spot one person watching the shows that don’t have their phones out recording everything instead of physically enjoying the experience. Technology is how we now excuse ourselves from leaving reality. That’s why there is a level of concern about what the future holds with the development of Meta.
Meta may come new ways of connecting, better access for emerging brands to make a name for themselves, and further developed social networking opportunities. But we already face struggles of not completely disconnecting from our digital lives. Meta won’t make that fight any easier.
We already have so many issues to work out back in reality. From sustainability to racial equality to gender equity and a plethora of more calls to action we need to focus on. Fashion has done pretty well in using its platform for activism. Designers are using fashion for political statements, editors are diving into the deep conversations that should have already been discussed, and fashion companies are questioning if their corporations are as inclusive as they like to advertise themselves.
Meta and the creation of the “metaverse” has a possibility of doing more harm than good in the long run. Instead of taking time to focus on the big issues, in reality, we run the risk of being even more disconnected if fully immersed in all Meta has to offer. That also means we may find ourselves less committed to talking about the social and environmental issues we face since we can use technology as a way to escape it all. Fashion creatives may be less inclined to use their talent to make a difference if they see their audience isn’t as interested in the discussion.
On top of all these concerns, there is also the problem of money. The more well-known and financially established a brand is, the bigger the space they can claim in the metaverse world. Meta may be a well-intended platform for users of all kinds to come together, but we live in a capitalist society. The more money you have, the bigger the stake you can claim. We see it every day when big-name brands use social media to steal ideas from small businesses. Or when big companies can afford to promote their products to their target audience via social media while small businesses can only rely on the algorithms already created. There is a disparity in the fashion industry that is enabled by technology, and Meta may only increase that gap.
While Meta may come from a well-intended place, there are justified concerns on what that may mean for the future of fashion. Will smaller owned brands receive the same opportunities as big companies? Will Meta be a further distraction on the things we need to focus on in the physical world—things that fashion creatives have proven they are willing to take on? Until Meta fully launches, only time will tell on its effect on fashion.