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AR collections and NFT runways: Digital fashion takes over New York Fashion Week

By Rachel Douglass


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Vivienne Tam AW23, NYFW. Image: Vivienne Tam

While the world of digital fashion may be making significant changes to the way in which brands and designers communicate with their consumers, it is yet to have been fully absorbed into physical fashion weeks. In fact, this AW23 edition of New York Fashion Week may have been one of the first where the concept really had a place in the spotlight, both in events on the official schedule and ones that ran alongside the event.

FashionUnited has compiled all the metaverse-related occasions that took place over the week, from parties for tech-heads to virtual collection drops.

Syky parties with fashion tech leaders

Syky New York Fashion Week party. Image: Syky

In what was its first inaugural event since its January 2023 launch, Web3 fashion platform Syky hosted an exclusive party alongside Calvin Klein and i-D, bringing together emerging designers and leaders across the fashion tech industry. The party looked to celebrate the future of fashion, which Syky believes to be in the bridging of luxury fashion and Web3 technology.

A particular highlight of the event was the showcasing of digital design collections by six Syky community members, including London-based designer Charli Cohen, New York’s Jacqueline Assar and UK creative Clare Maguire.

Founded by Alice Delahunt, the former digital chief of Ralph Lauren, Syky looks to provide a platform where users can create, curate and share their digital fashion collections. The company recently announced the closing of a 9.5 million dollar funding round, which it said would back its mission of being both a marketplace and incubator.

Private Policy takes nature-inspired collection to AR

Private Policy's digital coat made in collaboration with Zero10. Image: Zero10

For its AW23 collection, entitled ‘We Are All Animals’, New York brand Private Policy took to the metaverse with augmented reality (AR) iterations of three items from the line. The pieces were created in a collaboration with AR fashion platform Zero10, which, through its app, allowed users to try on the pieces of clothing following the runway show.

The collection itself referenced the dynamic between humans and animals, with baby versions of different species incorporated into the graphic design on specific pieces. Items took on utilitarian forms, with details like harnesses, tactile pockets and buckled fastenings, while also blending goth and grunge subcultures into the mix. Among the selection was that of reclaimed denim garments donated by the brand’s community, as well as outerwear made of recycled poly faux fur.

Digital Fashion Week NY expands the reach of metaverse fashion

Design by Emily Switzer @hardgrindhard. Image: Digital Fashion Week NY

This wasn’t the only place where Zero10 was present. The tech company also partnered with Digital Fashion Week NY on a collaboration with five designers to bring five looks into AR. The event took place alongside NYFW, albeit with no affiliation to the fashion week itself. Instead, it looked to act as an extension of the experience, offering those interested a way to explore the world of fashion tech and the metaverse.

Among the attendable events was an in-person networking and speaker summit, where visitors could listen to talks on how to adapt to the future of fashion. An animation screening was also exhibited, showcasing a range of phygital fashion, while it was additionally possible to take part in AR features, NFT drops and Metaverse experiences. This all added to a fully online experience, where attendees could explore an immersive space and take part in other panel discussions and presentations.

Vivienne Tam brings NFTs to fashion week

Vivienne Tam AW23, NYFW. Image: Vivienne Tam

CFDA member Vivienne Tam offered an alternative take on metaverse incorporation with a collection that brought the digital world right onto the physical runway. In her AW23 collection, ‘Weaving into the Metaverse’, the designer was inspired by a utopian vision of Hong Kong, a place where Web3, blockchain and gaming worlds already run rampant. On a selection of pieces, imagery of China’s 12 zodiac symbols sat next to visuals of Web3 NFTs, which Tam saw as weaving “the cradle of civilisation into the metaverse”.

In a release, the designer said: “From the beginning of civilisation humanity has used pictures to communicate and document our history, now humanity uses pictures to create new currencies, communities, environment and even worlds.”

Simultaneous to her NYFW presentation, Tam also mirrored the physical experience in an afterparty where guests were able to access both the in-person and metaverse worlds via live portals.

BCBGMaxAzria collaborates with Maeve Reilly on digital show

BCBGMaxAzria x Maeve Reilly Decentraland fashion show, NYFW. Image: Decentraland

Next to its physical collaboration with celebrity stylist Maeve Reilly, BCBGMaxAzria also unveiled its collection in a digital format during a show in open world platform Decentraland. The virtual event was hosted by avatar iterations of Reilly and the brand’s creative director Albino Riganello, who introduced a 16-piece eveningwear line. Each of the styles had already appeared in their physical forms prior to the online event, and are available to purchase in the real world.

Speaking on WWD, Tim Reid, executive vice president of Marquee Brands, the company which owns BCBGMaxAzria, said: “The goal is to really extend the campaign to a global consumer base. A lot of people don’t have a chance to go to a fashion show, or if they view it on video, they’ve seen that sort of thing a million times. Here, they can jump into this new medium and see something fun and exciting where they can check out the collection.”

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