When I met Jenny Svoboda, she was designing a beanie with melted cupcakes, sprinkles and donuts.
”That’s the kind of hat you’d never wear in real life,” she laughs. But Svoboda wasn’t designing the hat for the real world, she was designing it for the metaverse.
Swoboda is working in a new, slightly exotic niche: she’s a fashion stylist who creates or curates clothes for people in a virtual space.
On virtual platforms, “digital clothes” are untouchable. If you’re not on virtual platforms like Decentraland and Roblox, you can’t even see the clothes.
However, as more and more users seek help with dressing, metaverse stylists are becoming more and more sought after. Because these players usually go for experimental, highly creative looks, some even go against social and physical standards.
Most digital stylists balance their metaverse clients with real-world elements. For example, Mikaela Letz-Asklan runs a plus-size fashion modeling company in the real world, but after visiting the 3D virtual world Decentraland platform, her clothes were praised by strangers, So she decided to offer her services as a Metaverse stylist.
Another stylist, British reality TV fashion guru Gemma Shepard, got her start modeling in the digital space when her goddaughter wanted a pair of shiny $60 digital shoes.
But not all metaverse stylists work in the real world. Swoboda simply uses her unique sense of fashion to design digital clothing and accessories on Roblox every day, and players line up and spend money to learn from her.
As things stand right now, being a metaverse fashion stylist isn’t going to be a main business that pays all the bills. Letts-Asklan says the Metaverse figure can make up to 20 percent of her income during a better-paying month, and she has multiple jobs in real life.
However, they felt modeling in the metaverse was worthwhile, as the job offered the unique opportunity to work and learn new skills in a new media environment.
A few years ago, Letz-Asklan launched her metaverse styling business, meeting and talking to gamer clients on Discord.
She designed the lookbook to help players dress up their avatars on platforms such as Decentraland, Dress X and Auroboros.
Her clients get a curated outfit, and she gets paid $49 in cryptocurrency. Well worth the money for the customers of Letz-Asklan. “People would say, ‘I want to try something crazy,'” she said
. Shape the image and strive to be meticulous throughout the design process.
”We had to do trial and error,” she said. Svoboda typically scans a user’s clothing history, asks who their favorite artists and stars are, and then creates a look that matches their aesthetic.
”People feed me profiles, and I go into Roblox’s catalog and pick out things that represent them,” she says. Svoboda can also help people find clothing for their favorite stars (influencers), creating A page detailing “what they wore” with links to each item.
The fledgling fashion industry is growing rapidly, with companies like Roblox already raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in digital clothing.
In 2022, Roblox alone will have more than 11.5 million creators making 62 million clothing and accessories. DressX, an online digital fashion marketplace, has raised $4.2 million in seed funding since launching in 2020. It has become one of the few partners of Meta Horizon Worlds to provide virtual avatar fashion products for the virtual platform.
After successful runs on other platforms, high-end couture brands are also experimenting with standalone metaverse projects, such as Gucci’s “Vault” project, where customers can browse exclusive digital fashion products and play games.
Not all digital apparel is expensive. In fact, many things are available for free. But the Roblox platform is increasingly offering super-exclusive clothing with designers that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, according to three designers I spoke to. Despite the platform’s youthful demographics, it’s showing increasing diversity in terms of age and socioeconomic status.
If people can’t grab what they want, you can foresee a thriving second-hand market: “In the metaverse, you can sell things for more than you originally paid for them,” says Shepard, who once Design Charli XCX and the Grammys red carpet at Roblox.
A perfect example is the new spring-summer 2023 dresses of fashion brand Carolina Herrera. This sunny floral gown was presented by supermodel Karlie Kloss at New York Fashion Week.
With the support of the brand Carolina Herrera, Svoboda designed a digital version of the dress, which was later promoted by Klaus. The sale price of this dress is only 5 US dollars, a total of 432 sets, sold out within 4 hours. Today, the digital dress has a street price of more than $5,000.
Shepherd said that for ordinary people, spending so much money on virtual clothing may seem weird, even boring, but there is a deeper reason behind the behavior of people hiring professionals to design their virtual clothing. Why: It’s all about experiencing safe virtual social spaces.
Letts-Asklan believes that the Metaverse offers an opportunity for people to dress up their avatars and have fun doing it.
“In the real world, people get judged, but in the metaverse, you can be anything,” she says. Her clients are willing to experiment with edgy, eccentric fashion looks that they might consider too risky in real life Or not possible at all.
As a stylist, Letz-Asklan loves the freedom, and she can’t help but contrast it with real-world experiences. In the real world, fashion tends to be more restrained.
People are even using virtual clothing to play with and blur gender lines, exploring sides of themselves that they may have felt out of reach before.
A few weeks ago, Letz-Ascalan met a male client on Discord who gave her the freedom to dress him in whatever outfit she saw fit, regardless of gender or convention.
The final product was an iridescent blue-winged fairy dress with mesh sleeves and a crown of roses wrapped in blue vines, complete with lavender pumps. This set was a total surprise to the client, but he loved it.
Swoboda believes that exploring digital fashion can also help people shed their body deformity and discomfort with their appearance. It allows people to focus purely on the clothes and how they look on the virtual platform.
She said: “When I design a dress, it will fit the body of the avatar, whether they are a man or a woman, which is fantastic, and it can still be a dress that fits them.”
This point is echoed by Letz-Asklan, who often works with bloated figures. They often exhibit insecurities about body image as they do not conform to the prevailing aesthetics of today’s society.
In theory, anyone can wear anything in the metaverse. One’s digital self does not need to be in human form, or even have a body. This unlocks ways of expression that simply wouldn’t exist in the real world.
Both Svoboda and Letz-Ascalan have designed avatars of non-human beings, an area of experimentation that both of them are excited about.
People have realized that in the Metaverse, clothing doesn’t have to follow the rules: Want to be a centaur or a vampire with hairy spider legs? Let your imagination run wild.
Swoboda particularly likes this sense of freedom. She describes her signature style as having a Barbie girly aesthetic at its core, along with “Y2K (early 2000s fashion)” and “fantasy pink.”
But when I called her for an interview, she was designing a completely different look for a client: a bit like Zoe Saldana in “Avatar,” with blue-skinned sci-fi.