The metaverse is here to stay. This was the assumption that inspired the Metaverse Luxury X Symposium, the first Italian event aimed at creating an intersection between the luxury market and this promising new virtual dimension populated by avatars.

Although the metaverse for fashion is today still in its embryonic stages and is defining its path empirically through unprecedented experiments, preparing for future - and perhaps sudden - developments is crucial, because Web3 will be a magnet for major investments in all sectors, including fashion.

This new digital frontier and the leap, first cultural than technological, needed to embrace new technologies was discussed on January 26, at the summit hosted in the UniCredit tower in Milan, in the presence of more than 50 C-Level executives from the luxury and tech sectors, organized by Limitless Innovation in collaboration with strategic partners in the field of innovation.

"Our mission is simple," said Stefano Galassi, founder of Limitless Innovation, in introducing the proceedings. "We wanted to bring here in Milan the best minds in the tech industry and connect them with fashion and luxury brands that have an innovative vision, to re-imagine together the future of the industry."

A moment of sharing with the purpose of discussing, learning, identifying through talks and live demonstrations the new scenarios that are taking shape, thanks to the presence of 28 Italian and international realities dealing with virtual fashion, AI, blockchain, circularity, sustainability and traceability.

"The world is changing very fast, just think of the incredible strides that have been made from the old modem to today, where the very powerful GPT-3, and soon perhaps GPT-4, artificial intelligence-based technologies are holding sway, with robots capable of writing books," said Nick Vinckier, head of Corporate Innovation, Chalhoub Group. "My mother always told me: you can do anything, but you can't do everything. So, in a world with 360° of opportunity, we need to focus on the 45° that matters.”

To do so, it is crucial to move with five major trends that are shaping the market in mind, such as sustainability, the important concept of experience, the complexity of ecosystems (with the presence of increasingly diluted and multifaceted groups), the privacy paradox (between the desire for personalization and the fear of profiling), and the technological revolution, with the advance of the immersive and decentralized Web3, according to Vinckier.

Andrea Lorini, Luxottica's head of Collabs & Head of NFT, Metaverse and Gaming, enumerated the four pillars of the group's strategy-Addition, System, Design and Disruption-providing concrete examples of the latest initiatives successfully carried out by the eyewear industry player with fashion brands. 

Fundamental is using NFTs to add value to existing business, connect products with new services, and revolve around community desires, in the belief that embracing new technologies disrupts the value chain in the traditional industry, but creates value that did not exist before.

Stefania Valenti, managing director of Istituto Marangoni, insisted on the responsibility of the  education group worldwide circuit involving 6,000 students-to create the right environment to promote and implement experiences in the metaverse, training "a new generation of managers and talents capable of using the new tools, the keystone for the transformation of the digital ecosystem of the future.”

The stage featured, among others, the case histories of realities such as the award-winning 3D and AR platform Threedium and the virtual fashion house born in 2020 DressX, which already have behind them several strategic collaborations with leaders in the luxury world and marketplaces such as Farfetch, among the first major retailers to test the practice of digital sampling.

Lucrezia Seu, as chief strategy officer of Vsk Shanghai, shared the vision of this hi-tech company that operates in the textile sector: in particular, the milestones achieved with the Nao Virtual Knitting Machine, launched in 2019, with the creation of more than 100 fabric structures through artificial intelligence: "A process," she said, "that opens up endless possibilities for customization with a sustainable approach, since it allows for accurate planning, before creating physical pieces.

Lucrezia Seu, VSK Shanghai, at Metaverse Luxury X Symposium
Photo: Metaverse Luxury X Symposium
Lucrezia Seu, VSK Shanghai, at Metaverse Luxury X Symposium
During the "Shaping the digital world" panel hosting Davide Gonzato, head of marketing Strategy and Planning at New Guards Group, Marco Bisato, founder & ceo of Customix, and Alexandra ILG, Web3 Commerce & Product Manager at The Dematerialised, all agreed on the great potential of the metaverse. A world, the immersive and three-dimensional one inhabited by avatars, that does not oppose the real but is complementary to it, because it can "amplify the brand experience," Gonzato said. Key word of the future, then, will be "integration."

If Marco Giacalone, chief Metaverse officer of Limitless Innovation (a company that connects the best international innovators with luxury brands), reiterated that high-quality content wins even in the parallel world, Gürkan Ünlü of Rooom (a company that specializes in creating immersive experiences) reminded that the metaverse is often experienced as a gadget or yet another social network, when in fact it offers much more.

The case history of Ready Player Me, which focuses on the development of avatars-it has produced more than 5,000 of them since 2020-was brought to the fore by Head of Strategic Partnerships Stan Georgiev. "The metaverse," said the manager, "is not a virtual planet, but a network made up of many planets within which our avatars move, connected to each other. The cross-game economy is powered by these cross-game avatars, who by frequenting, for example, virtual fashion stores can also positively affect physical business."

The consumer is looking for experiences, but also for transparency. "In this evolution blockchain and Nft are fundamental," pointed out Guido Mengoni, cmo and cdo of Temera (which makes IoT solutions for fashion and retail), an official partner of the Aura Blockchain Consortium, "being able to guarantee end-to-end traceability from upstream to downstream of the supply chain, which is very important especially in the high-end. Every product must have a digital twin so that it can be monitored 360°. The metaverse opens up possibilities for developing capsule collections, exploring the potential of 3D, and much more, but it is imperative that everything be traceable," he added.

To these words he linked, in a panel moderated by Marco Ruffa (digital transformation director of Pinko), Massimo Paloni, chief operations and innovation officer of Bulgari, with which, among other things, Temera has started a collaboration and is investing in the metaverse. "The challenge for a brand like ours is to further elevate the brand through the multi-level opportunities offered by Web3. If a brand is at the top of the luxury pyramid, it has to be careful to stay that way, calibrating its presence and investments between the real and virtual worlds in order to offer the best to both loyal consumers and Gen Z," said Paoloni. Marco Staglianò, CEO, Another-1, and Matthew Drinkwater, head, Fashion Innovation Agency, also participated in the panel.

Stefano Rosso spoke about his work as a board member of the Otb Group and Aura Blockchain Consortium, as well as founder and CEO of D-Cave. "In particular, D-Cave is a hub that builds a bridge between lifestyle and fashion brands and the Web3 audience. Through the arrangement with Bulova, we were the first to make watches for avatars, with a real-world counterpart," Rosso explained.

"As for Aura Blockchain, the Otb Group has been one of the architects with Lvmh and others of the belief that especially top-line products should be certified in their authenticity," he added.

Rosso is, in addition, CEO of BVX (Brave Virtual Xperience), a business unit of OTB that develops products, content and experiences for the metaverse. Diesel, one of the group's flagship brands, recently partnered with the Hape collective: this resulted in an NFT collection that will also be available in a physical version for its owners.

Last bars of the Metaverse X Luxury Symposium with Kerry Murphy (founder and ceo of The Fabricant) and with Marco Formento and Davide Sgherri, respectively Global Innovation & ESG director and head of New Media at Dolce&Gabbana.

Murphy traced the escalation of The Fabricant, since 2018 synonymous with high-end digital fashion, with collaborations with Puma, Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren, and others to its credit. "Ours is a sartorial approach to projects, because for us digital making has the same dignity as manual making. One of the frontiers to explore is co-creation with users," Murphy explained.

Much has also changed in recent years for Dolce&Gabbana, based on the motto, quoted by Marco Formento, "Transforming things rather than simply improving them." Davide Sgherri pointed out: "We are in the midst of a cultural shift, impacting business, communication, and product. Web3 is a marketing and monetization tool." 

Among the projects already grounded by the brand is an understanding with the Nft Unxd marketplace, which led to the establishment of the #DGFamily virtual community, whose members have benefits in the metaverse and the physical world. The brand participated last year in the first edition of Metaverse Fashion Week on the Decentraland platform, based on the Ethereum blockchain. The participants of the second edition, which will take place March 28-31, have not yet been announced.

In parallel with the summit, the Global Fashion Innovation Expo was staged at the Unicredit Tower Tree House, where tech live demos and new customer scenarios were experienced by 28 of the best Italian and international companies dealing with virtual fashion, AI, blockchain and circularity.  The event also hosted and a talk by its director, editor-in-chief and CEO, Marc Sondermann.

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