The metaverse, a virtual reality-based world where users’ avatars interact with computer-generated environments, may have gotten more media attention than mainstream adoption so far, but that hasn’t stopped major fashion brands from taking notice and selling digital versions of their products. After all, your avatar can’t wear the same outfit everyday. Gucci, Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana – and even Paris Hilton – have all made high-profile forays into the metaverse. Morgan Stanley estimates the market for virtual luxury goods could be as large as $50 billion by 2030.
And where there’s fashion, there’s stylists available to help navigate it – for a fee. Digital stylists are now available to help clients (as avatars) decide what to wear when they’re out and about in the metaverse.
“While it might seem the height of virtual vanity for individuals to professionally style their avatars as they prepare for entry into metaverse high society, it’s actually quite logical,” Michael Felice, an associate partner at consulting firm Kearney, told us.
“Image is the first means of differentiation in this new forum,” he said. “Metaverse consumers are becoming a brand unto themselves, similarly to how an IRL person’s reputation, personality, or way they dress help form other people’s perceptions of them.”
Some stylists are beginning to make a name for themselves by embracing fashion’s latest frontier. Out front was British stylist Gemma Sheppard who claims to be the world’s first stylist to join the metaverse, while Julia Levshina offers to find “rare unique outfits for unique you and your digital twin!”
Virtual garments for sale on DressX, a digital fashion marketplace.
And there are benefits to digital fashion over real world clothes that might be drawing in the younger consumers every brand will ultimately need to survive. Since the fashion industry is the second largest industry contributor to landfills (behind only the oil industry), digital fashion designers and stylists see their job as reducing consumer waste.
“Influencers are helping digital fashion and virtual clothing become mainstream and educating the new generation of consumers on the value of digital fashion as both environmentally friendly and an integral part of the future of fashion,” said Wahid Chammas, chairman at Faith Tribe, a company that creates NFT virtual clothing.
In a world where not only are major brands staking their claim to the metaverse, but a relative unknown like Canadian designer and influencer Monica Louise, who sells virtual clothing on South Korea's Zepeto platform, can make $100,000 a year hawking virtual duds (at least according to the BBC), stylists are increasingly looking to get into the game. We talked to one about why she got started and what it’s like working in the metaverse.
One stylist’s journey into the metaverse
Berlin-based Michaela Leitz shifted her business from working as an IRL fashion stylist to an online stylist and personal shopper for metaverse avatars in response to the pandemic.
“I first only started to style people online via video sessions, but after a while, I started to work also on the metaverse to style avatars,” said Leitz. “I love doing that, it gives me so much freedom of creativity, and I love stepping into this absolutely different world.”
“It is a lucrative business, especially now when a lot of people are still very hesitant to book a stylist because their work, and their social life is not the same as it used to be,” she said.
Clients are more willing to take risks in the metaverse than they are with their actual closets, she noted.
“There are not many competitors in the market,” she said. “The metaverse is a playground for avant-garde fashion, much more than what we wear in our everyday lives. I love to dress people up and make their unusual dreams come true.”
She dresses people through DressX, a virtual fashion marketplace where independent designers can sell their work, including Seoul-based designer Gyul V, who makes bright blue overcoats, Gary James McQueen, who designs shiny silver space shoes, and Paskal, who creates pink flowery dresses.
Working in the metaverse provides both designers and stylists with an additional layer of freedom, as they’re not limited by fabric, textiles or physics.
The job works differently from being a real-world stylist in other ways, too. Lietz explained that before going virtual, she would typically meet a client at their home and go through their closet. But now, she has client appointments in the metaverse, in places like Decentraland, where she only meets someone’s avatar and payments are made via cryptocurrency. She doesn’t ask clients once-standard questions like how much time they spend at work or at the gym to figure out what kind of clothes they need. “I ask them what they are dreaming of, how they want to feel and what they want to represent here,” said Lietz.
“Some clients speak through a microphone, but others want to be anonymous and just type via chat,” she said. “I do not 100% know who comes to me.”
Whatever reasons clients might have for choosing to remain unknown, Leitz is also committed to ensuring that the world of digital fashion is more welcoming than the fashion world has historically been to all types of people. She particularly focuses on making the metaverse more inclusive for plus-size fashion.
“The metaverse has the huge possibility to be an inclusive place which our real-life world is still not,” she said.