The metaverse has revolutionized our understanding of how we build social connections and respectively value tangible and digital objects and concepts in art and entertainment. The rising trend in NFTs has broadened the scope of possibilities for artists of all mediums to monetize their creations as digital assets. While many of us are still learning to fully grasp the quickly-evolving technology that’s transforming art, as well as economic and social engagement, many brands and companies are already embracing a metaverse-driven future that’s gaining popularity amongst a Gen Z audience.
Enter: social networking app IMVU. IMVU isn’t just another digital app in the metaverse. It’s hailed as the top social simulation platform for 3D avatars to explore picturesque chat rooms and interactions amongst one another— mainly to show off fantasy customized outfits as users’ avatars pose in front of ornate digital backgrounds. Users can purchase a wide range of digital clothing and accessories to deck out their head-to-toe looks tailored to their ideal avatar representations, using real money to buy directly from the app’s virtual goods store.
In May, IMVU debuted a first-of-its-kind two-day metaverse fashion show hosted by Princess Gollum, the “dark empress internet sensation.” The show featured seven IRL designer brands, including Gypsy Sport, Freak City, Collina Strada, My Mum Made It, Bruce Glen, Mimi Wade, and Mowalola. Each brand’s wardrobe collections are currently shoppable as digitized garments for IMVU’s avatar users and as original NFTs.
The runway show headliner Gypsy Sport and brand Freak City presented in contrasting Alien-Utopian and Alien-Dystopian chat rooms with garments to match. Gypsy Sport, originally started as a blog by its creative director Rio Uribe, is no stranger to digital innovation. It’s become known for its street style that democratizes inclusivity and diversity through online model casting calls. Last year, Uribe’s collection was an eco-conscious ode to his Angeleno Mexican-American heritage. In an after-show interview with Princess Gollum, Uribe described the inspiration behind the IMVU collection as “all the past 10 Gypsy Sport collections representing one look in the show, so each look represents one collection from the past–it’s kind of like a greatest hits album.”
Freak City has also been very adept at merging both fashion and digital worlds in its rebellious designs. In their IMVU after-show interview, creative directors Justin Romero and Vally Campbell conveyed, “It’s so important that fashion and technology merge together mostly because of the endless possibilities. There are no limitations in a digital space, which really helps designers’ creativity. Our minds expanded by being able to work differently versus working in real life when doing the technical aspects that are involved in physically creating a garment.”
With luxury fashion houses now announcing upcoming NFT collections, we’re taking a look back at two of the first brands to step into the metaverse landscape on IMVU. Here are eight of our favorite stand-out digitized garments from Gypsy Sport and Freak City below.
Gypsy Sport NY Orange Hoodie
The opening look to the collection centers their iconic GS (Gypsy Sport) logo in a campy iteration of NY-style tourist memorabilia. The hoodie’s bold orange background contrasted with stand-out white lettering and a red GS logo reinvents the classic “I heart NY” slogan T-shirt.
The outfit is draped on a blue alien-being (Princess Gollum’s avatar). She effortlessly floats out of what seems to be a Gypsy Sport spaceship with orange strappy heels, strutting down an effervescent digitized oceanic water runway before taking off on a white pegasus to introduce us to the utopian seapunk-esque GS fashion planet. Dressed up or down, the nuanced take on a familiar street style staple merged with a fantasy wonderland makes the “NY Orange Hoodie” a versatile digital fashion garment.
Gypsy Sport Logo Bodysuit & Durag
A utopian tropical getaway would not be complete without a resort-style boat neck and bell-sleeved bodysuit patterned with Gypsy Sport logos. The luxury-meets-cool garments evoke both ‘70s and Y2K stylings paired with a matching du-rag which have become a glam accessory thanks to Black designers like Atira Lyon. Gypsy Sport ties the vacation-ready look together on avatar model Native.Vu with white slide sandals and layered gold chain jewelry for an overall slinky sensibility.
Gypsy Sport BLM Patchwork Maxi- Dress
The pandemic and police brutality heightened awareness about the plethora of inequalities that detrimentally affect Black communities in the US and worldwide. The racial reckonings of 2020 demanded that neutrality regarding human rights abuse and discrimination have no place in art or fashion. In part, the metaverse reflects real-life, so even in a supposed hedonistic alien fantasy world, virtual creators, designers, and users have a responsibility to dismantle real-life inequalities that seep into the metaverse. Gypsy Sport’s three-quarter-sleeve maxi dress averts political subtext and instead boldly affirms “Black Lives Matter” across multicolor patchwork that reminds us of their 2018 Spring ready-to-wear collection.
Gypsy Sport Camo Puffer & Joggers
This oversized camo puffer coat and Joggers paired with digitized Timbs calls upon New York-inspired Y2K hip-hop fashion that’s also reminiscent of Gypsy Sport’s 2017 Fall ready-to-wear collection. In this virtual setting, the pieces take on a different rendition of the original look that uses a similar color palette. They manage to cross over from city style to island flare seamlessly. Presumably, metaverse chat rooms don’t have hot temperatures to contend with and aren’t relegated to the same fall/spring collection stipulations as IRL fashion shows, which makes it a perfect summer item to acquire for IMVU’s avatar wardrobe.
Freak City “Vida Debit” Ensemble (Bag,Dress, Boots)
Freak City sets its collection in a dystopian inner city that designer Justin Romero describes as blurring the line between chaos and beauty. The head-to-toe “Vida debit” card ensemble, worn by Instagram and IMVU model Sita Abellan, incorporates the Vida debit long sleeve bodycon dress, Vida debit mid-calf platform boots, and the Vida debit tote bag.
The pieces were all fashioned with an all-over sardonic twist on IRL national park-themed debit card skins. Perhaps it’s a commentary on capitalism as scenes of disarray and anarchy in a rundown abandoned city are the outfit’s backdrop. With the visual juxtaposition of nature, city, chaos, beauty, money, and dismantling systems, Freak City administers meta-humor even within this IMVU metaverse, propelled by the capitalist consumption of virtual goods.
Freak City Kamala Dress
Last year’s elections were one of the most politically charged and contentious in our lifetime. Many folks held their breath as a vote count spanned over days that felt like years and then collectively let out a sigh of relief when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were confirmed to be the election winners. Harris then became a representation by becoming the first woman, first-generation child of immigrant parents, Black, and Asian Vice President. A campaign-style screen print image of Kamala Harris set against a “Barbie-pink” drawstring puff sleeve midi dress styled on a Paris Hilton avatar once again juxtaposed two seemingly incongruent themes. But, it managed to be a softer and brighter cornerstone amongst the rest of the darker color dystopian garments and virtual backdrop. This dress is a conversation piece and an aesthetic statement.
Freak City Graffiti Plaid Tracksuit & Pants
These looks are somewhat less understated compared to many of the other slogan garments in the collection. Nevertheless, they add versatility as staple pieces for more of a laid-back everyday virtual look. Who are the avatars modeling the plaid graffiti suit? That would be rapper couple Black Kray aka Sick Boy Rari and Rapper Aok (Aunty Okaaay) aka BootyChaaain from Goth Money Records. Aok is styled in a PFreak baby-T that can pair well with just about anything but especially with her tan, red, and black graffiti plaid mini skirt, and Black Kray’s avatar blends comfy and cool in his tracksuit made of the same plaid graffiti print.
Freak City Graffiti Pants
The baggy jeans are provocative yet straightforward. These pants are branded with “Freak City” black throw-up and tag graffiti styles along with “anarchy” symbols that take on a more rebellious essence than the Graffiti plaid sets above. On the virtual runway, Billie Eilish’s avatar model spray paints “Freak” on a wall in an abandoned city street then runs to escape law enforcement attempting to evacuate all humans as the impending doom of colonizing aliens washes over. Freak city proves what makes street style so great is the versatility in its commentary on everyday life in any world, real-life or a metaverse. This is one item that not only looks great digitally but desperately makes us wish it were available to wear IRL, which according to Freak City, might be “coming soon.”