A Digital Fashion House in partnership with Meta. Should we celebrate or mourn?


Meta, formerly Facebook, announced last week that it would begin selling virtual clothing made by DRESSX in its Avatar Store.

The news marked a watershed moment for digital fashion houses. Until last week, only three labels — Prada, Balenciaga and Thom Browne, all well-known brands in the physical realm — had been invited by the social media giant to create digital gear for metaverse avatars. For the first time, a native digital fashion company had a seat at the table—a table built by the most colossal corporation operating in the metaverse, no less.

There is no doubt that DRESSX’s partnership with Meta is notable. Why this is, however, starting to become controversial.

For some, the move is a big step forward for digital fashion as a whole: Soon, billions of Facebook, Instagram and Messenger users will have access to digital clothing for the first time.

For others in the digital fashion world, however, the move represents nothing less than one game of thrones-Betrayal of caliber: the leap of a supposed ally of decentralization to the camp of the cause’s biggest enemy, just as the final lines are being drawn in what some industry leaders have called “The Battle for the Future of the Internet.”

With us, or against us

When Facebook rebranded as Meta last fall, the move signaled the $450 billion company’s complete reorientation toward a single goal: dominating the metaverse. Almost immediately, the early metaverse builders condemned the developmentarguing that it jeopardized the online utopia they were trying to build.

That “open metaverse” was envisioned as a constellation of independently run digital neighborhoods between which a user’s private data and digital goods could flow freely. Meta’s critics worried that because the giant’s business model depended on controlling user data and analytics, the company would create a massive, closed hole at the center of their borderless world within which Meta could store ownership of user data.

In such a digital world, digital assets could not flow freely between platforms – a digital dress purchased on Meta’s platform, for example, would remain trapped behind the company’s impenetrable and proprietary walls.

Thus the implications of this great “battle”. were inevitable for the growing digital fashion industry: You’re either building digital clothing for a limitless metaverse, or a metaverse.

‘Digital Cage’

These issues have long been fodder for theoretical arguments. Now, as the metaverse begins to take shape and the deals are being documented, they are starting to have real implications.

For some in the intimate digital fashion ecosystem, DRESSX’s partnership with Meta is a very real betrayal of the potential for an “open metaverse.”

“Zuckerberg, Facebook, they’ve been really clear that they don’t want an open, decentralized, free metaverse,” Emma-Jane MacKinnon-Lee, founder of the digital fashion startup. Digatalaxsaid decode. “They want one that is tightly controlled … where they are the main choke point. And DRESSX partnered with them.”

For MacKinnon-Lee, the fact that DRESSX teamed up with Meta in this case is no coincidence, but rather demonstrative of the startup’s true loyalty.

“What this partnership has just shown is that they are not for an open, decentralized metaverse,” MacKinnon-Lee said. “They are too many to build a digital cage.”

Digital clothing offered on Meta’s Avatar Shop, including those made by DRESSX, are only compatible with the company’s platforms and cannot be removed from them.

“If you work on a blockchain, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re upholding the principles of decentralization, self-sovereignty, freedom and liberty for anyone who interacts with that network,” added MacKinnon-Lee. “Facebook controls what goes in and out of the network, who can do what. It’s the antithesis of Web3.”

The clothes for sale in the Meta Avatar Shop aren’t even built on the blockchain. Unlike NFTs, tokens that live on the blockchain and prove ownership of an item and can exist independently of any centralized platform, Meta’s wearables are “off-chain,” meaning they live and die on the platforms of the company, similar to a purchased asset. inside a video game.

For others in the digital fashion space, however, this fact is not a problem, and instead highlights the seemingly semantic but crucial difference between “Web3 fashion,” which MacKinnon-Lee champions, and “digital fashion “, which creates DRESSX.

“[DRESSX’s] The mission is about increasing the adoption of digital fashion as a medium, and, I would assume, breaking down barriers for creators and consumers around price point or freedom of expression,” said Dani Loftus, founder of the digital fashion platform. drip. “Instead their task is about the Web3 ethic of decentralization.”

DRESSX was founded in August 2020, making it one of the oldest brands in digital fashion. At first, the company sold digital devices that weren’t built into the chain. They then moved on to selling NFTs, and now sell off-chain and on-chain digital wearables. Its Meta wearables are priced from $2.99 ​​to $8.99.

For Megan Kaspar, a member of prominent digital fashion collective Red DAO, this breadth speaks to DRESSX’s versatility, as does its pact with Meta.

“The partnership is a powerful move for DRESSX,” said Kaspar decode. “The company is now the only digital fashion platform that offers both on- and off-chain products and services to centralized and decentralized ‘blue chip’ platforms.

For MacKinnon-Lee, DRESSX’s embrace of Web2 and Web3 products, cultures and companies over the past two years is disingenuous.

“They started as Web2 and then jumped on the NFT, decentralization hype train,” MacKinnon-Lee said. “They pretended to be Web3 on the rampage. And now as the markets calm down, they’re asking, OK, where do they move next?”

‘Questions for the Meta Team’

For the founders of DRESSX, the startup’s deal with Meta — the culmination of more than six months of talks — is a proud achievement, one with the potential to bring digital devices into the digital closets of billions of people who interact with Meta’s platforms every day. .

“DRESSX wants a future where every person in the world has a digital closet,” said the startup’s co-founder, Daria Shapovalova. decode. “And an opportunity to work with companies like Meta, especially if they believe in the concept of the metaverse, can definitely help us go faster.”

For co-founder Natalia Modenova, the deal was a perfect fit with the DRESSX ethos. “Our vision is that every technology company in the world should embrace digital fashion,” she said decode.

As for issues around interoperability, or whether digital clothing can travel freely between platforms, Modenova dismissed any concerns that the Meta partnership limited customers’ ownership rights. “I would say it’s interoperable across all Meta platforms,” ​​Modenova said. “For example, on Facebook and Instagram. They’ve already built an ecosystem.”

When asked if DRESSX had any issues with Meta’s vision of the metaverse, Shapovalova and Modenova declined to answer, saying only that it was “more of a question for the Meta team.”

Last month, Meta made a public promise to build toward an “open and inclusive metaverse,” but too much called this action a vague and empty PR stunt aimed to obscure the fact that the mega-corporation has made no commitment to refrain from storing users’ digital assets and data.

When asked if the company has any plans to ever allow digital assets, such as digital clothing, to flow freely in and out of Meta-owned platforms, a Meta representative said Decode: “Our goal is to make it easier for people to take their Meta avatar to more places.” The representative mentioned the current ability for Meta avatars to travel between Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and the apps that make up the Meta Quest VR ecosystem.

However, the spokesperson did not detail any future plans to allow external digital assets on Meta’s platforms, nor to allow assets purchased within Meta’s platforms to be moved from them. A Meta representative also declined to answer a question about the company’s control over user data in its ecosystem.

The Metaverse has been promised for years. Only now is that virtual world imagined by so many taking shape. And as tens of billions of dollars pour into a space that is expected soon it will be worth trillionsonce-hidden distinctions—between borderless and bordered virtual worlds, between public and proprietary control of user data, between, perhaps, Web3 fashion and digital fashion—may soon have very real financial and cultural implications.

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