Another week, another missive from the Metaverse that bewilders the Internet.
This time, it was an Instagram post featuring Facebook/Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar standing in front of a virtual Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.
Zuckerberg was quick to point out that the graphics were preliminary.
But not before thousands of trolls — and even industry stalwarts like Fast Company — weighed in on everything from the pallor of his virtual skin to the lighting of his eyeballs.
But the Metaverse’s critics may be missing the point.
Although Meta has spent over $10 billion on developing its technological backbone and encouraging developers to code applications, the parallel universe where we will work, study, and party without physical limitations has not yet been built.
Nor, if the past is any guide, will it be constructed in the image of a single company, much less a single individual.
Instead, the Metaverse is shaping to be a grand, collective adventure — albeit on an unprecedented scale.
Initially, the Metaverse attracted commerce; now, creatives are beginning to dip their toes.
One such player is Toronto-based fashion label Aria Noir, a maker of high-end sneakers, eyewear, and sweaters.
Aria’s brand ambassador, musician Jalal, remains excited to explore virtual fashion, music, and relationships.
“Creativity begins when you turn off the television or whatever screen you’re staring at and explore something that has not yet been created,” says Jalal. “Just as Aria Noir is a fusion of music and apparel, the Metaverse will be a fusion of both the familiar and the unknown.”
Earlier this year, the label announced that it would mint non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, featuring its apparel and accessories.
Aria Noir is known for its premium materials, including single-sourced alpaca wool and Peruvian gold, so the label’s embrace of pixels surprised some industry observers.
But Aria Noir has been intentional about how they show up in the space and has chosen to wait out the frenzy surrounding events like the first-ever Metaverse fashion week.
In addition to last year’s Art Basel Miami, Hermes sold an NFT Birkin Bag for about $50,000 in Ethereum cryptocurrency.
In the interim, Aria Noir has focused on developing its program.
Their NFTs will be embedded with unique intellectual property (IP). Therefore, the owners (“artistas-aria”) benefit from fractional ownership of the NFTs containing their IP.
“These tokens are a clever convergence of visual art, music, dance and design, as articulated by the artist,” Jalal observes. “And to live up to the Aria Noir brand, we are also marketing our merchandise in melodic vessels that possess appreciable value outside of our own ecosystem.”
In other words, Aria Noir’s artists will make royalties whenever their tokens are bought or sold, forever.
The brand is working with artists such as Roberto Antonio, the king of techno merengue, with 26 albums and a music video.
It will feature Aria Noir’s sunglasses, Fede Ruben AKA Rich Rasta, a grammy contender who also recently released a video featuring the label’s sunglasses.
And lastly, guitarist-singer Isa Nielsen—who just released an original Aria Noir music video in late September.
The label says it’s been worth taking their time rather than jumping in with everyone else.
While the media has become skeptical of the Metaverse lately, as the price of many NFTs and crypto tokens has fallen, fashion has been pushing forward.
As Vogue Business recently reported, “beauty brands including Nyx, Nars, and YSL Beauty are investing further in Web3, opening virtual stores and deepening ties to communities in the space, signaling a strategy shift for the industry.”
Web3 is a catch-all phrase for the latest iteration of the World Wide Web. Moreover, this includes decentralized web applications and blockchain technologies like NFTs.
Not surprisingly, Aria Noir finds itself more aligned with the fashionistas than the technologists.
“Our customers tend to be younger than the legacy brands,” Jalal explains. “That means that they are more tech-savvy and perhaps a little more cynical.
They expect us to be authentic and also a little fearless.
So, of course, we must ‘log in’ to the Metaverse, but we must also surprise them with new creations. It can’t just be cutting and pasting from the real to the virtual.”
Appealing to a younger demographic means showing purpose.
The brand recently held talks with Centennial College about sourcing local Canadian talent to design the NFTs. Which are minted each time a customer makes a product purchase.
“By partnering with young, talented local musicians we get our brand articulated through the arts and they get great exposure,” says Jalal. “They also get NFTs to market to their own fan base. It’s a win/win/win.”
In addition to NFTs of existing products, the label will be minting so-called “utility NFTs.”
For example, to reward existing customers with special privileges, such as invitations to virtual product launches and musical events.
Jalal points to the success of creative virtual events like last year’s VR-driven Burning Man Festival as possible inspirations.
“While the Internet is busy critiquing, there are thousands of us creating,” he says. “Once someone acknowledges the beauty of something new, others are inspired to explore that much further. The Metaverse is an exciting space for us because it will be 100% organic and 100% creative.”
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