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the first virtual IT Girl configured through photographs and renderings, raxet codes and futuristic software updates.
Lil Miquela came into the world to advocate for racial rights and LGTBIQs, transcend the sterotyped canons of hypersuited beauty, and experience crossing the boundaries between the physical and virtual dimensions.
It is the avatar that inspired and gave rise to the Metaverse: an ideal world made up of digitalised characters who live and move in a timeless space. Like Sims but cooler.
Lil’s importance was not immediate, but rather recognized over time: she was an artist, successful influencer, R&B fusion singer with the single “Not Mine“, which went viral in August 2017; we saw her as a super model at the Prada FW18/19 show in Milan, where she took over the fashion house’s Instagram account during the show and wear brands such as Supreme, Chanel, Vetements, Stussy and Acne Studios.
Those who came after her found a terrain already ready to welcome this kind of thing. Today, the fashion scene is rapidly expanding its horizons into the virtual world with virtual influencers, the new fashion marketing players populating the Metaverse.
According to some studies, the fashion industry will spend around $15 million a year on influencer marketing by 2023. In 2019 it was “just” 8 billion.
Photo Above: Balmain campaign with digital model @shudu.gram
For some years now, China has been relying almost exclusively on influencer marketing to promote brands and conquer the global market. In Japan, where virtual influences have taken on the appearance of Manga cartoons, the phenomenon became more widespread in 2020: the pandemic helped the expansion process.
The fashion shows had to stop, the digital world naturally took its place.
From Lil Miquela to the current and growing number of virtual influencers, the phenomenon is becoming more and more ‘real’, i.e. it interacts more deeply with the ‘tangible’ world.
First of all, virtual personalities have a higher engagement rate than traditional human influencers, attracting the attention of Generation Z and bringing them closer to actual conversion.
In addition, everyone can “afford” a model or digital influencer; or better, brands can create their own personas and have a unique opportunity to reach communities that are far removed from fashion and social.
Brands can customise and create their own ‘image’ of virtual models and influencers, adapting them to their needs in terms of style, personality, context and performance. A real bargain.
It should come as no surprise that Nike has recently acquired RTFK studios, the virtual fashion platform best known for its digital trainers.
It is in the metaverse that RTFK makes its animated characters move, literally, and interact with real people: Nike is one of the very first global brands to have control over it.
This move will help the American giant to accelerate its “digital transformation”, also opening up to the NFT (non-fungible token) market.
So what can we expect from the virtual influencer phenomenon?
They will certainly not be a momentary trend. You can bet on it.
WORDS: Manuela Palma
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