H&M is experimenting with virtual fashion via Roblox

In late 2022, H&M debuted the “Metaverse Design Story,” a real-world clothing collection inspired by the Web3. Think neon yellow dresses, futuristic jewelry and beaded bomber jackets.

Futuristic mannequins in the brand’s storefront in New York’s Times Square stood as a testament to Web3’s impact on physical fashion, which introduces design technology that can make dresses shimmer like water or change texture in response to temperatures.

But the opposite is also true, with brands such as Nike, Gucci and others rushing to design virtual clothes for the digital realm. Morgan Stanley has predicted that the digital fashion industry will be worth $50 billion by 2030.

Sometimes these items are sold alongside a physical counterpart, while others stand on their own. In either case, their very existence becomes a differentiator for brands looking to attract Gen Z consumers, who are increasingly looking for ways to express their identity and individuality online.

Jumping on this metatrend, H&M is also delving deeper into Web3 with its own immersive brand experience on the Roblox gaming platform. The show is part of an experiment that combines digital clothing with the Swedish retailer’s growing focus on sustainability.

H&M, Dubit

Launched on January 3, H&M’s “Looptopia” is a digital realm where people can jump between different worlds, play mini-games, attend fashion shows and collect materials to make clothes for their individual avatars. In partnership with metaverse studio Dubit, the experience also allows players to trade their digital clothes with friends or recycle them.

The virtual city combines circularity and social interaction in three different alternative worlds: Rainbooow Fields, Neon Studiooo and Fabric Foorest.

“At H&M, we’re always looking for new ways to reach our customers, and with so many emerging in the metaverse, it made sense to join them there in a new, playful and engaging way,” Linda Li, head of customer activation and marketing for H&M Americas, he told Adweek.

Virtual self-expression

The game will be updated regularly, with the possibility of adding new worlds in line with the brand’s goals.

“Now that we’ve launched, we’re eager to collect customer feedback, giving us valuable insight into how we can best continue to combine the physical and digital worlds of fashion and self-expression,” Li added.

She said that in the coming years, H&M will continue to explore this “fast-growing expanse” of virtual and augmented reality.

H&M isn’t the only fashion brand playing with Roblox. It joins the likes of Gap, Nike and Ralph Lauren in investing in a platform used by around 58 million people daily.

“Looptopia” comes at a time when these brands are beginning to explore the business potential of virtual fashion. Meanwhile, labels that don’t sell physical clothes, only virtual ones, are also on the rise from The Fabricant to Dematerialised.

H&M, Dubit

The commercial opportunity is ripe. A recent study by Vice agency Virtue found that 65% of people are willing to pay the same or more for a virtual fashion item than its physical equivalent and, on average, respondents expect nearly half (46%) of their wardrobe to be digital by 2027. This isn’t just about Gen Z—the sample includes an equal mix of Millennials and Gen Xers.

Andrew Douthwaite, chief commercial officer of Dubit, said H&M wanted to offer an experience that promoted fun and sustainability, while staying true to its brand DNA of “style, creativity and culture”.

“It’s been amazing to see the concept develop from the initial design and workshop to this iconic launch,” he said.

In recent years, the H&M Group—which owns the eponymous brand as well as others such as COS, Monki, & Other Stories, and Weekday—has focused on increasing its sustainability efforts with circular economy initiatives, including drop-off points in stores where old clothes can be recycled. However, the brand has been hit by a number of “greenwashing” lawsuits, the latest of which claims its “Conscious Choice” range misleads consumers.

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