towards the merging of physical and digital identities

While not entirely new, the metaverse is a concept that is still in full development. It is described today as a “multiverse” composed of different virtual environments that users can explore and within which they can find their place. A new round table organized during Met Ams, a conference recently created in Amsterdam and devoted exclusively to the accessibility of the metaverse, has just highlighted this new phenomenon.

The panel, held on June 16, consisted of influential figures in the digital fashion industry. Ashumi S, founder of digital creative agency Mad XR, Giancarlo Pazzanese, lecturer at Amsterdam Fashion Academy, and Kerry Murphy, founder and CEO of digital fashion platform The Manufacturer, took turns to present their perspective on merging digital and physical identities in the metaverse.

The discussion quickly identified the concept of identity in the virtual world, which the researchers each described as a result of their upbringing and personal experiences in the physical world. “Real” experiences that can often conflict with how we – often unconsciously – want to portray ourselves in the metaverse, even though users tend to build their characters from scratch.

“The world we live in is framed by limits, starting with the laws of physics,” said panel moderator Diego Borgo, a metaverse and non-fungible token (NFT) specialist. “The exciting thing about the metaverse and virtual reality is the ability to get out of the box, to become whoever you want. It becomes all the more exciting when you understand the possibilities this represents for fashion and digital fashion”.

“Create more characters”

For Giancarlo Pazzanese, the idea of ​​total freedom can also be applied to clothes. The Metaverse gives creators the ability to completely reinvent silhouettes, reshape how we think about a garment, and wear it beyond the limitations found in the physical world. For the members of the panel, there is no doubt: fashion brands must take advantage of this freedom that the virtual space offers and explore this new field of expression, especially in terms of fluid identities in virtual reality.

“We don’t have to be one person, the metaverse allows for the creation of multiple different characters,” said Kerry Murphy, founder of The Fabricator. “That’s the power of the metaverse and Web3. These new playgrounds offer the tools to allow us to express ourselves in a much more personal way. Hopefully experiences in the metaverse will also come into our real lives where we can be brave enough to to find new ways of expression that would not otherwise have been possible.”

According to Ashumi S, founder of Mad XR, children today shape their identities through role playing directly inspired by their gaming experiences in the metaverse, helping to create their own way of expressing themselves and being. However, Kerry Murphy adds that children are just as confronted with the weight of social constructions as adults, which often prevents them from adopting the way they have chosen in the metaverse in the real state, for example with a boy wearing a dress .

“Develop a safe space”

“It’s quite remarkable how social constructs fit into the metaverse,” comments Murphy. “I still think that children need to learn to break down those barriers. It’s a space where they can learn to express themselves in a much more complete way than in their ‘physical’ lives, but we need to make it a safe space, and not just a copy of our society, at the risk of n ‘advance nothing’.

For Giancarlo Pazzanese, the security of the metaverse is an essential point today, but it is often neglected. According to the specialist, it can inhibit the development of our unconscious prejudices play out there. “To be free, express ourselves and try new things in fashion, we need to feel safe,” he said. “There is real, invisible diversity, and that’s what creates community, when you’re recognized and accepted for the things you don’t see, but want to express in some way.”

To get there, the panelists highlighted the need to diversify the space itself, each noting that there is a distinct lack of gender diversity and cultural inclusion in the web industries3 and metaverses. A discovery that becomes clear when we observe the often overtly sexualized female avatars present in online games and created by male designers, or in the low diversity of characters and the typology of digital creators, very often men. Everyone agrees that action for more diversity is imperative.

“As designers, we are responsible for the images we put out,” added Giancarlo Pazzanese. “The metaverse must be built by people with a long-term view, not just seen as a technical challenge. It is important to involve other designers, people who can define the values ​​of the metaverse, an environment today dominated by men, and in that case we will only reproduce the same space that already exists. The metaverse is an extension of our existence, and it is meant to be a better world, not the other way around”.

In conclusion, if the metaverse allows great freedom and flexibility, companies must still take responsibility for the images they broadcast. Giancarlo Pazzanese thus hopes that the metaverse can become this “safe space” for those who seek to explore their identity, to deconstruct themselves and to promote a more inclusive environment.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.com. It was translated and edited in French by Maxime Der Nahabédian.

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