Digital consultancy Balistik Art was a precursor in virtual reality for the luxury sphere when it designed an experience on Second Life for Jean-Paul Gaultier fragrances more than 15 years ago. Today the metaverse is seeing a growing number of initiatives from luxury players. In a preview of our feature interview to be published in Formes de Luxe Spring 2022, Stéphane Galienni, Associate Director of the Paris-based agency, shines a light on the metaverse phenomenon in the luxury sphere – just one of the issues addressed in Balistik Art’s latest report, WTF the NFT.
Why are luxury brands among the first to take interest in the metaverse?
Luxury is based on values such as rarity, product quality, precious materials and is often excessive or provocative. But it is also an industry that spends a lot of time and energy diversifying its offer to reach new generations of consumers. These brands' sneaker and sportswear offers, for example, have become moneymakers just as fragrance and small leather goods have been in the past, while attracting younger shoppers. Why not imagine - and this is already a reality - that those brands create replicas of their ‘real’ bags, shoes and clothes in the metaverse? After all, it's easy to model a shoe. The key is just to tweak the product to make it either a bit more extravagant or on the contrary stay realistic and stick as closely as possible to the real product. There is no denying that there is serious potential for growth in this area. Everything is possible as long as the object can be transformed into a 3D version of itself.
A recent initiative from Nike illustrates this quite plainly: when the consumer buys a pair of sneakers, he receives an NFT of the exact virtual replica so he can wear them in the metaverse. Imagine doing something similar for a piece of jewelry or item of clothing!
How does the metaverse work and how do you see it evolving?
First of all, today the metaverse applies to a single medium. Facebook’s metaverse, Meta Horizons, for example, is only one metaverse among many. I prefer to talk about "multiverses" because tomorrow we’ll be able to create an avatar that can navigate through different virtual worlds. Today the consumer can do a 3D scan of themself with their phone and transform the file into an avatar to send across different metaverses. The avatar can then enter a virtual store to buy couture dresses that the consumer cannot afford in real life.
If you purchased a Gucci handbag in one metaverse, for example, it will be stored in your digital wallet and your avatar will be able to walk around in another metaverse carrying that same bag.
Tomorrow we could be walking around these virtual worlds, conversing with others, purchasing items, reselling them, buying land, building on it... The idea behind the metaverse is to discover magical places, which at the end of the day is what luxury is selling.
What is the economic potential of this new world?
According to a recent report by Morgan Stanley, the entire ecosystem, NFTs and metaverse combined, will be worth $250bn by 2030, with $50bn for the luxury sector alone.
How do you see luxury evolving in the metaverse and what impact will it have on their presence in the physical world?
There will always be consumers who will never enter the metaverse and will continue to buy their luxury goods in physical stores. But there will also be younger people who will purchase virtual luxury products in the metaverse that will, of course, cost much less. To date, the experience, which closely resembles the gaming environment, is prevalent among Gen Alpha (teens and tweens). But this is set to evolve, and some of the early movers in the metaverse will grow to become major players, similar to the domainance of GAFA today. All of this is in the process of being put in place.
In the upcoming issue of Formes de Luxe Stéphane Galienni expands on the potential of NFTs and cryptocurrency in the metaverse.