MILAN — Unbridled creativity, imagination and innovation should be the North Stars leading the future development of the metaverse.
So believes Federico Marchetti, who has more than once said innovation is what has always pushed him to seek new challenges. He has surely accelerated the entry of technology in the fashion industry by launching e-commerce platform Yoox in 2000, merging it with Net-a-porter in 2015 and introducing the YooxMirror artificial intelligence-powered virtual styling functionality, the Daisy avatar, and allowing customers to create their own avatar by taking a selfie or uploading an image. The functionality, called YooxMirror Reloaded, mixed AI and Augmented Reality technologies, and was developed in-house by the company.
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In an interview with WWD here, Marchetti said he was “not surprised” by the interest in the metaverse but had nevertheless some words of caution for the industry.
Marchetti, who left his role as chairman of YNAP in July last year and has since taken on the role of chair of the fashion task force as part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative launched by the Prince of Wales, sees “some analogies with the onset of e-commerce in 2000. Nobody believed in it, brands were starting to experiment, dipping their toes to test the waters, and I think the same is happening now. They should show fantastical clothes in a parallel world, to reflect their technology and innovation, going beyond a mere T-shirt or a black top with a logos. They think they can attract young people and new territories, but I think they should be careful to avoid strategic mistakes. It takes time, just as it did for me to build Yoox, and brands need to form a precise strategy.”
Marchetti believes in a successful future for the metaverse, also because, in a general context, “young people will have less freedom and there will be more travel restrictions,” citing the existing limitations to go to Asia, Japan or Russia, for example.
“This will not change for five or 10 years and it has started with Brexit,” which is preventing easy exchanges between Italy and the U.K. in terms of internships, for example.
The metaverse, he contended, “can be a way to take a breather and blow off steam. Some things cannot be achieved physically as going to Japan for example, but you may be able to get a taste of its culture through the metaverse. It’s not the same thing but it will be increasingly relevant.”
However, the younger generations are used to “excellent quality” in terms of technology, he said, citing Netflix series, the sequel trilogy of “Star Wars” in 3D and high-fidelity vision effects, and DreamWorks’ top animation. This excellence, he claims, has yet to be reflected in the metaverse world and he lamented some technical snafus with Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week in March, for example. That said, he did allow some leeway to the organization, as he recalled how the initial quality of the images and functionality of e-commerce stores were not as evolved as they are now.
“It was all new at the time, just as is the metaverse now.”
Marchetti would like to see “more culture and creativity, more of the European aesthetics in the metaverse. The avatars now look all the same, like Playmobils. I wouldn’t want to see a bad version of myself as an avatar, I could go with the image of a unicorn,” he quipped. “We must think of a parallel world but not replicate it exactly, exalting our imagination. The same is said for the clothes, I see a lot of basic outfits with logos. Fashion is self-expression and creativity, and well-being, but it also has cultural values, it’s not only commercial, standardized or mass market.
“We must be careful not to reason on volumes. I’ve said this before, the new Coco Chanel is already born and she is a computer programmer. We need designers exclusively for the metaverse.”
With the Sustainable Markets Initiative, Marchetti is aiming to accelerate and ensure a circular future to fashion through innovation, as sustainability has long been a priority for the entrepreneur and he praised the metaverse as an obvious way to reduce overproduction and waste.
Marchetti believes it may take two to five years to perfect the technology, but he thinks the metaverse will be an avenue for the fashion industry to experiment, but “it should be the utmost expression of creativity.”