In late October, Facebook announced its rebranding as “Meta” to expand its brand across the digital metaverse it hopes to create. The concept of the metaverse, far from a new idea, encapsulates a kind of virtual reality experience that has until now been explored mainly by the gaming world, from the Sims to Roblox.
In recent years, a global pandemic has pushed a catalyst toward the digital workplace. It appears Zoom cannot cut it anymore for tech companies like Meta that have the tools at their disposal to create virtual desks and employee avatars. Now, virtual reality is moving quickly into the mainstream and one of the unlikeliest players to get a piece of the digital pie is luxury fashion.
Roblox x Gucci
In May, Roblox announced a partnership with Gucci by launching the Roblox Gucci Garden, an immersive multimedia experience based on the Gucci Garden Archetypes display in Florence. In the Roblox Gucci Garden, users can create their own avatars, explore the virtual space, and buy digital Gucci pieces. These virtual clothes can be worn in other Roblox experiences and are conceived as collectables, according to Roblox vice president of brand partnerships Christina Wootton.
The virtual recreation of the Gucci Garden experience achieves three important things for a luxury brand like Gucci: (1) it cements luxury brands as able (and willing) to hold a place in the digital future, (2) it casts an even wider marketing net as it reels in younger users who frequent Roblox, and (3) it creates a niche for luxury in the newest “universe” yet – the virtual world. According to a survey conducted by the Business of Fashion, 72% of individuals have accessed a virtual world to some capacity, and this number is only going to grow.
Paradoxically, however, while luxury goods may not be as accessible in the real world, the luxury experience may be in the virtual world. While not everyone may be able to fly to Florence for the Gucci Garden display, anyone with Internet access and a laptop can explore the virtual recreation on Roblox.
Gucci’s decision to partner with Roblox to create virtual rooms, including the Gucci Bloom Room, is a clever marketing step for the brand. While Gucci populates the real world, the rapidly developing digital world is boasting empty shelves, but not for long. The Roblox x Gucci partnership reinforces luxury goods as status symbols in the digital world, which is replicating our physical reality faster than we might think.
What the numbers are saying
According to a recent study conducted by the Business of Fashion, digital identity is important to many online users. 35% of the Gen Z population surveyed in the US ranked digital identity as a “very important” concept, and another 35% considered it “somewhat important.” Only 7% of individuals said digital identity was “not at all important.” The numbers were even higher for US high net worth individuals (HNWI) surveyed, arguably the majority of individuals who purchase luxury goods regularly and will be keen to bring that into their digital presence. 41% of HNWI responded that digital identity was “very important” and another 41% regarded it as “somewhat important.”
These results are important on a global scale as well. 54% of individuals surveyed at the Global Virtual Fashion Panel ranked digital identity as very important, with only 4% considering digital identity not important. Whether or not the survey respondents are fans of luxury fashion, they seem to agree that digital identity is going to be an important concept for the virtual world.
Virtual assets, NFTs, and the luxury metaverse
What Roblox x Gucci suggests on a larger scale is that something as small but necessarily detailed to our persona as apparel and accessories should be present in a virtual recreation of our world. Gucci wasted no time in staking its claim in the metaverse, and it has not been the only brand to play with virtual assets. Skincare brand SK-II created its own virtual world, SK-II City, largely inspired by SimCity. RTKFT partnered with gaming platform Atari to launch NFT sneakers. Asics later followed suit with its own NFT sneaker collection. In June, Ralph Lauren also announced a partnership with G2 Esports, and in September Balenciaga partnered with Fortnite.
It will also be interesting to see the role of money in the metaverse. As NFTs have taken the world by storm, digital luxury goods may operate under a similar structure. Just this summer, the Gucci Queen Bee Dionysus bag sold on Roblox for more than the original price of the bag in the real world. The bag sold for 350,000 Robux (Roblox dollars), approximately $4,115.
As the metaverse becomes a likely reality in our near future, we can well expect to see pieces of our known reality, such as a Roblox avatar carrying a digital Gucci purse purchased with Robux. It is clearer than ever that our material possessions are permeating the digital-physical boundary.