Dec 22, 2022
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The CFDA debuts metaverse fashion exhibition celebrating 60 years of American fashion

Dec 22, 2022

​Fashion is a cyclical exercise. In the 60 years of the CFDA, styles from days gone by have been reinvented too many times to count. While that remains the same, the technology used to digest fashion and new collections has changed by lightyears.

Curator Darnell-Jamal Lisby, left, and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, right, with featured exhibition looks from Anna Sui, Zac Posen, Norma Kamali, Off-White, and Willi Smith - Courtesy

To celebrate its 60th-year milestone in 2022, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) launches its debut metaverse fashion exhibition, 'Fashioning the Shades of American Design', working in partnership with the Sandbox platform. As a pillar of the CFDA's commitment to innovation and future growth of the fashion industry, the pivotal exhibit will inspire the often tech-reluctant fashion community towards the Web3 while introducing the industry's unique American fashion past and present to a generation of gamers.
"The metaverse exhibition is a new, innovative way to share the immense talent of our members while also allowing us to reach new audiences worldwide. It seems fitting to reflect on CFDA's past in a modern, forward-facing way, and we are proud to present the first-ever fashion exhibition in the Metaverse," CFDA CEO Steven Kolb told FashionNetwork.com

The 60 looks and designers represented were selected by fashion historian and assistant curator of fashion of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Darnell-Jamal Lisby. Guests can view the exhibit by creating one's avatar, choosing one from template avatars on the Sandbox, or connecting their crypto wallet to use an existing digital avatar. Visitors arrive at the exhibit, which is divided into five sections, similar to a real-life museum experience: Illuminating a Fantasy; Illuminating Romance; Illuminating the Avant-Garde; Illuminating Understanding; and Illuminating Soul, with a fun special side gallery called Studio CFDA, a play on Studio 54 complete with the cast of characters and designers present at that time.
The exhibition demonstrates the range and cultural breadth of contributions to American fashion. Featured looks reimagined in a voxel environment include Stephen Burrows' colorful layered lettuce hem dress created for the 1973 Battle of Versailles; Dapper Dan's 1980s custom design for hip-hop legends Eric B & Rakim; a grunge look from Marc Jacobs' famed Perry Ellis Spring 1993 collection; an eclectic 1970s-inspired look from Anna Sui's Fall 2000 collection, and a Thom Browne crinoline menswear ensemble from his spring 2020 collection. Lisby largely culled images of the looks mainly from the CFDA archives.
A Steven Kolb avatar greets visitors as they explore the various sections. Each look is highlighted with a text box and fun facts researched and edited by Lisby, allowing for a deeper historical context and understanding of the garments on display. Considering it's a game, competitive users can hunt for voxels.
"Gamers can't resist 100 percent-ing these things. It's trophy-hunting culture. Everybody will get their eyes on this interesting IP and catch people who maybe had a vague interest in fashion or someone with a special interest that gets even more out of it," said Carley Beck, a Sandbox gamer model conducting the tour of the exhibit.
There are practical aspects to putting together an exhibit of this scale in the physical which the metaverse can solve.
"The metaverse is global and accessible by anyone with a computer and internet; it's much more global. For Sandbox and the CFDA, it's important to put American fashion on such a big platform and celebrate how far its progressed. European brands have worked extensively in this space, so it's nice to see American designers in web3," said Akbar Hamid, founder, and CEO of The 5th Column, a PR firm representing Sandbox.    

Adding that experiences can also be phygital, and branding opportunities are possible in the evolving space. "It's a way to get fashion people to explore the Metaverse and gaming people to explore fashion; that is the intersection we are trying to create for CFDA and the fashion world that can expand the audience."
The exhibit closely follows a collection of exclusive, commemorative one-of-one NFTs launched by the CFDA earlier this month, titled 'Lighting the Path of American Fashion'. Powered by Polygon Studios and brought to life by BNV, a fashion-focused and curated NFT platform for the tokenization, collection, and trading of digital fashion assets, the CFDA member experiential one-of-a-kind NFTs included: Coach, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Vivienne Tam, Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera, and Willy Chavarria.

Both initiatives were developed to celebrate CFDA's milestone 60th anniversary, bridging the gap between the past, present, and future.

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