The digital avatar’s new clothes
On this first day of the year, as the world pledges to undertake purposeful self-improvement, my humble resolutions for 2022 were to understand what a podcast is and to understand what the “metaverse” is, a term so generously spread these days, actually means.
In a burst of enthusiasm, I also promised myself to learn about cryptocurrencies. It’s late June and I’ve been halfheartedly listening to podcasts (a fancy word for online talk. It’s perfectly fine to go through life without listening to one). But my knowledge of complex topics like blockchains and bitcoins remains abysmal.
There’s always a bewildering amount of technological advancements to catch up on. I suspect a lot of people know the buzzwords but lack real understanding like me.
My interest in what I would normally consider deadly boring was piqued by an announcement from luxury fashion brands Balenciaga and Prada, when they announced they would be selling digital designs for people’s avatars on Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
Apparently, there are people out there who are willing to spend real money dressing up to look super fashionable in their online life.
You might be lounging on Uniqlo runways at home, but if you’re shopping for digital fashion, your friends on social media will.
see you wearing three-piece jeans and distressed trench coats from the Balenciaga Fall 22 collection.
The idea of buying clothes that don’t exist seems crazy at first; but if people can spend millions on digital assets in art, without caring that their purchases have no tangible form – content merely with digital bragging rights – the rise of virtual clothing shouldn’t be surprising.
Aspects of new technology cause sneering ridicule because we middle-aged obsolete relics are prone to ask a reasonable question: who cares about the marks a cartoon-looking avatar wears on a computer screen? ?
Our generation was brought up in down-to-earth wisdom, taught to always keep in mind the gap between projection and reality – in other words, the lies – but the virtual world calmly accepts the frailties human beings and the restless impulse that we constantly have
delete to escape our lives.
As our current world seemingly rushes towards destruction, war and displacement, the urge to flee to a safe online haven only increases.
For much of humanity, reality is frustrating and tragic, so an imaginary avatar, over which you can exercise complete control, must be hard to resist.
So ! Now, even if you’re short, fat and hairy in person, there’s the possibility of being a sexy blonde persona, donning shimmery gold on Instagram.
Is it a lie? Not if we stop thinking that digital lives are rooted in an illusory dystopia. Technology has proven that reality doesn’t have to be the singular version we know.
The idea that we contain multitudes is not new. Gabriel Garcia Marquez noted at the beginning of the 20th century that all human beings have three lives – public, private and secret – and they are all crucial to the human experience.
Life is hard and long, but not too long to explore other, myriad, sides of oneself. We should take inspiration from 15-year-olds, who do not make hierarchical distinctions between their online life and their physical life to shamelessly exploit the limitless possibilities that the virtual world offers. How do we know the world is real? Philosophers have been thinking since the time of Plato. The Matrix made us wonder if we were being manipulated into a simulation.
Perhaps it is more important that humanity has readily embraced the idea that the real is what we want it to be. Head over to British influencer Daniella Loftus’ Instagram handle @thisoutfitdoesnotexist, where the imagination knows no bounds in clothing.
In one image, darts shoot out of her bodice and in another, liquid fire pours from a leopard-skin skirt. It’s wildly escapist, a rich blend of sartorial performance and self-expression.
It’s new, uninhabited design territory, perhaps a conceptual leap too far – but that doesn’t make it any less real.