Metaverse is emerging as the hottest trend in the Sri Lankan fashion industry with brands creating outfits existing either partially or completely in the virtual space Financial services company Morgan Stanley predicts, metaverse would add nearly 25 per cent to Sri Lanka fashion industry’s total earnings by 2030. It would be almost ten times Sri Lanka’s earnings from apparel exports in 2021.
Brands Dolce and Gabbana sold nine Non-Fungible Token (NFT) pieces worth $5.7 million while popular online game ‘Second Life’ held the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week on Valentine’s Day 2022.
Virtual apparels and ads on metaverse
Fashion brands are profiting through the metaverse by producing virtual apparel for digital avatars. In some cases, the items exist in metaverse but in others, they have a Real Life (IRL) counterpart. Fashion brands are also benefitting by advertising designs through metaverse equivalent of a retail outlet. They are organizing fashion shows like Decentraland’s Virtual Fashion Week, that allows one to virtually attend fashion shows and live music sessions at branded after-parties and buy and wear digital clothing directly from catwalk avatars
Enhancing Sri Lanka’s industry value
Yohan Lawrence, Secretary General, Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) believes, metaverse may shape the next decade of fashion with Web 3, 5G and the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, and NFTs and blockchain technology leading to entirely novel business models in fashion. Led by domestic multinationals like MAS, Brandix, Norlanka etc, the Sri Lankan apparel industry has grown into a high-value, highly complex industry within the global apparel supply chain. Science and technology have enabled Sri Lankan brands to produce more complex products such as the ‘Second skin’ E-knit range of intimates and athleisure lines, and more recently fem-tech and recovery wear, says Gihan Philip, Director Technology Commercialization, MAS.
These products were created after a considerable amount of research and development. However, brands are expanding their design capabilities with new investments in digitalization. It may also opt for creating fashion for the metaverse next, adds Philip.
Both brands and apparel manufacturers plan to collaborate for launching virtual collections with new and improved technologies, Phillip. says M&S has been engaged in scanning, imaging and simulation of materials. This enables the brand to generate authentic digital twins for its designs and make changes accordingly, he avers.
Metaverse facilitates social media involvement
Jeevith Senaratine, Director-Operations, Star Garments (Director of operations), points out, metaverse allows brands to simply scan a model and combine it with apparel designs to showcase them entirely virtually. Brands can also explore the benefits of social media to analyze consumer responses to particular designs, and alter their design accordingly.
Hirdaramani has benefitted from virtual designs and made significant investments in latest 3D-Fit software systems like: CLO, Browzwear, and Tuka Tech. This has increased its capabilities.
Brandix has installed advanced capabilities at its factory. It has introduced advanced motion sensing and seamless haptic actuator integration designs. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, these designs can measure the framework of an individual’s physique. Such technologies can create new applications in sports and fitness by integrating with virtual worlds, says Hasib Omar, Non-Executive Director, Brandix. v Another Sri Lankan apparel company Norlanka is adopting an asset-light business model. Owner of a few manufacturing facilities, the company, buys most of its capacity from SME partners. Currently, it develops only digital products for few of clients but is looking for opportunities to increase efficiency and add value for customers. Involved in digital sampling project, Norlanka has been able to clearly showcase every facet of a range to partners and buyers. It can produce both purely digital and hybrid designs for the metaverse, says Buddhi Paranamana, Chief Innovation Officer. These designs can also be used as NFTs in metaverse.
Currently, the world of metaverse is being explored mostly by high profile brands that are capturing most up-front value. To penetrate further, apparel makers need to build own brands and designers first.