At this year’s Circular Fashion Summit, global thought leaders in fashion, culture, and science are meeting in the metaverse.
One of the greatest challenges of the metaverse has been to define what it actually means.
Coined three decades ago by author Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel “Snow Crash,” the term is used today as an umbrella term for a range of interactive, immersive, and interconnected virtual experiences leveraging augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain.
Thinking of it as a digital “place” parallel to the physical realm, proponents say that the metaverse offers a chance to rebuild the world as we know it, for the better. Particularly for fashion, which “has always been about creative freedom and about challenging norms,” according to Anna Wintour, chief content officer of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue, the metaverse presents an opportunity to reduce waste, minimize impact, and fundamentally reshape consumption for a cleaner future.
This is the big idea behind the Circular Fashion Summit (CFS), an annual event hosted in the metaverse by Lablaco. It comes at a critical time, when humanity’s current consumption rates are using up the earth’s natural resources at almost double the pace that they can be regenerated.
Now in its fourth year, CFS 22 is a virtual platform where international thought leaders from fashion and culture convene with pioneers of the science and technology communities—or rather, it’s their digital avatars that will rub virtual shoulders—as they discuss innovative alternatives to unsustainable practices throughout the fashion industry.
Themed “Render the Phygital Reality,” CFS 22 is set in a highly symbolic location. Hosted within lablaco’s SPIN Metaverse, inside a digital replica of the Grand Palais Éphémère, the conference space embodies the “phygital” concept, or the idea that an object or place can exist both physically and digitally.
Designed by the world-renowned architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the building’s physical counterpart is a temporary structure that has played host to the Saut Hermès and the Chanel fashion shows. Created with circularity in mind, it can be reconfigured and reused after it is dismantled from its current position on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris.
Every year, more than two million tourists visit the Grand Palais. By visiting its digital twin in the metaverse rather than flying to France, CFS 22 attendees inherently do their part to reduce tourism’s toll on the environment. This is a positive step, given travel today is responsible for 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; a number predicted to double by 2050. Instead, event goers will travel by a metaversal mode of transport: a Meta Quest 2 VR headset.
The four-day event agenda embraces the reality that our lives are neither offline or online, but a mix of both.
In a notable debate about the emergence of luxury digital fashion, speakers from Christian Louboutin, Brave Virtual Xperience (BVX), Aura Blockchain, and metaverse-native fashion house, Auroboros, consider if web3 (a new version the internet driven by blockchain technology) is merely a fleeting trend or the beginning of an entirely new digital paradigm. Also joining this panel is Terry Gates, the photographer who created the world’s first interactive 360-degree ad campaign for Sass & Bide, as early as 2014.
Crosby Studios, an interior design studio that has created a VR-driven retail pop-up at NYFW and digital spaces for the likes of Valentino, Nike, Vogue, and Hypebeast, will discuss how different companies can interpret retail architecture and interior design in the metaverse and materialize it in ways that are authentic to them. Joining him is Tommy Hilfiger and Burberry, and the metaverse magazine, Red-Eye, to bring a new media perspective.
Another key theme of discussion will explore how emerging technologies can further fashion’s circularity goals. More than just recycling, the circular economy requires a rethinking of every stage of the product life cycle, so that materials never end up as waste.
Denim manufacturer ISKO, a member of The Jeans Redesign project since 2021, will speak at the CFS 22 on the topic of catalyzing action and progress toward circularity. Launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2019, Jeans Redesign is targeting a future where 85 percent of all denim production consists of recycled materials and renewable inputs.
One of the greatest barriers to achieving this level of sophistication in circular systems thinking, however, is the lack of transparency and traceability in global supply chains. Accelerating Circularity, a nonprofit that turns textile waste into mainstream raw materials, will join a panel with Cartier and Kering, the latter being the global luxury group behind Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent, to explore how web3 can help to advance circular retail.
With the ability to digitize real-world objects and make them trackable through decentralized ledgers, blockchain can improve visibility of a product’s journey while facilitating data sharing for more effective industry collaboration.
In addition to enabling manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers to keep tabs on how their products are used and where they end up, web3 makes use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to usher in a new era of ownership for brands, designers, and creators, allowing them to sell directly to customers and take a fairer share of the revenue split.
A panel titled “The right way to create a phygital NFT” covers the web3-native skills and strategies required of metaverse-based commerce, diving into design considerations such as functionality, utility, scarcity, and intellectual property. On the panel are speakers from Dapper Labs, creators of NFT hits such as CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot, and Sotheby’s, the 278-year-old luxury auction house that is using NFTs to guarantee the authenticity of their physical pieces. Also joining is Balmain, who recently partnered with Mattel Creations to deliver a collection of Barbie-themed NFTs and launched a web3 hub at Paris Fashion Week.
With the metaverse economy projected to be worth $13 trillion by 2030, web3-focused investors Exelixis Capital and blockchain startup accelerators, Outlier Ventures and Cronos Labs, will speak at CFS 22 on the complexity measuring its true reach and impact. Adding to this, tech titans of web2 including Meta (formerly Facebook), and Google ATAP, will share how their billions of existing users are navigating identity and self-expression as digital humans.
This marks a pivotal moment as society grapples with the meaning and purpose of this new internet. Despite its many promises, the metaverse is still in a nascent stage of development and in need of early adopters who can set guiding principles for the new digital frontier.
At CFS 22, a cohort of visionaries will don their headsets, customize their digital outfits, and join the virtual crowds, as they move toward a fashion-forward phygital future.
CFS Summit 2022 Key Visual. Courtesy of lablaco
Photography: ChouMo, Fashion: bettter, 3D Art: Foggy Incense
Visit www.cfs.fashion to join the Circular Fashion Summit