Last week was the first week of spring semester, it was also drop/add week at Buffalo State College. Fashion classes are filled to capacity and all fashion students seem settled in for the semester with their schedules.
I am teaching several sections of Introduction to Fashion Technologies. In this class students all get introductory experiences with MS WORD, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The goal is for them to attain a comfort level using these off-the-shelf programs for fashion related projects such as introductory employment, customer and trend research and reports, client presentations, product development, costing and specification sheets.
Gaining experience and skills using a variety of widely used off-the-shelf applications will strategically position fashion students for additional directly or indirectly related career path options.
This week there is a MUST READ article by By Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY titled,” Unlike reality, virtual retail sales are hot, especially for avatars. ” The article verifies the trends that the Fashion Research Institute has previously concluded. Millions of people are buying virtual fashion items and sales are booming.
There is a section that illustrates CEOS’ AVATARS: What virtual-world execs find fashionable. Mark Kingdon CEO of Linden Lab, Neil Edwards CEO of Cellufun and Cary Rosenzweig CEO of IMVU are pictured along with their customized avatars.
Second Life CEO Mark Kingdon states that perhaps the bad economic conditions in the real world are positively impacting sales in the virtual worlds.
“Virtual goods cost a fraction of what goods cost in the real world,” Kingdon says. “You can get a beautiful pair of white ice skates for … less than $2.”
The USA Today article has a short explanation of how the buying and selling process works in a virtual world but if you want to know how it works in Second Life – listen to Missy’s virtual internship interview. Missy’s SL Virtual Internship Interview I ask Missy to explain the entire buying and selling process of virtual fashion goods in Second Life.
The USA Today article goes on to state that:
“IMVU, a social-networking site and virtual world that caters to 13- to 24-year-olds, does more than $2 million in sales each month. Almost all of the virtual goods sold on IMVU are made by users, who keep the proceeds. IMVU makes its money selling the credits used to buy virtual goods. Overall December sales are expected to be up 20% over November, and sales will be about $22 million this year, mostly from the direct sale of virtual credits to users.”
In an earlier guest post FRI: Virtual Fashion Internships by Shenlei Winkler [CEO of Fashion Research Institute], she summarized current retail fashion trends for the virtual world:
“we think the virtual goods marketplace will burgeon rapidly. In 2007, virtual goods accounted for $2.6 billion in sales. Although the total value of virtual goods pales in comparison to the $1.7 trillion apparel industry, this market compares very favorably with the accessories market which generates about $1.8 billion in sales. Various analyst reports indicate that the virtual goods marketplace is set to double in 2010. Fashion designers are often encouraged to move into handbags and other accessories to add a new revenue stream and enable brand extension. With virtual goods slated to open up further in 2010, designers should definitely consider this new niche market they can readily move into which can help them generate more sales in a completely new area.”
The growing trends of virtual fashion sales and the translation into real currency for this market translates into viable reasons for fashion education to begin addressing the niche market of virtual fashion.
Missy Lavecchia had her first solo in-world show and exhibition this evening from 7-8pm ET with Jewels of Winter. The show was well attended and the fashion model exhibits were exquisite. I tried to catch some snapshots but I was having technical issues – I only caught a few images. I was having difficulties with my video capture as well – what I did manage to get was choppy but it will give you can idea of the exhibits. [UPDATE: Here is a link to Missy’s Bella Fantasique – Midnight Sparkle Collection that was exhibited at her first solo show.]
The setting was a magical winter wonderland. You teleported in to a circular boardwalk that spanned around the exhibition area. The outside perimeters of the boardwalk had mini exhibits with Missy’s fashions and the central area of the boardwalk had multiple models skating and continually moving about. All exhibits had large wrapped presents and the tags contained the fashion garments that were for sale. The prices were exceptionally reasonable.
Kuddos to Missy and also to her in-world mentor Shenlei Winkler from the Fashion Research Institute.
Here is a link to her XStreet fashion items.
Other blog postings related to Missy:
Please try to attend the student fashion installation in Second Life this Monday, December 7th from 7-8PM ET [4PM SLT/PT] for Missy Lavecchia, a Buffalo State fashion student. Missy has been interning for the past 9 months with Shenlei Winkler [aka: Shenlei Flasheart in SL] from the Fashion Research Institute. This installation will represent Missy’s first solo show in Second Life.
Shenlei Winkler, CEO pf the Research Institute states that:
“Missy will be showing formal gowns developed in rich jewel tones in honor of the holiday season. Her gowns, fittingly enough, will be presented in an opulent winter wonderland of snow and ice. A dozen gorgeous models and 4 handsome gentlemen callers will showcase Missy’s romantic gowns in a tableaux befitting the set.
Please join us on Monday December 7th, at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT in Shengri La Second Life to celebrate the outstanding work of this star performer as her models show her work with aplomb.
Here’s the SLurl Link to teleport you into SL for Missy’s show: The set will not be open to the public until 7 pm ET promptly – early arrivals will just end up wandering aimlessly around in our marketplace so please wait until 7pm ET to teleport over.”
Missy has the Bella Fantastique boutique in Second Life. Here is a SLURL link to her boutique.
Other blog postings related to Missy:
[Note: this is a guest post by Shenlei Winkler, CEO of the Fashion Research Institute, Inc., 419 Lafayette, NYC, NY 10013 [ph 646-688-4042] [fx 646-688-4043]
- Author, Designing Dreams: Best Practices for the Art & Business of Avatar Apparel Design & Development
- Author, Shengri La Spirit: A Designer’s Perspective of the Making of OpenSim
Fashion Research Institute has been working in virtual worlds for the past few years, exploring them as platforms and tools for use by the $1.7 trillion apparel industry. We have since developed a design application, Black Dress Design Studio, which is currently in closed alpha. Black Dress shows promise of being a disruptive technology for the industry, as well as a game changer for the way product is developed in both apparel and in the much larger soft consumer goods industries.
As we worked in the virtual world space, our understanding of both the potential power and range of the platform, and our understanding of how to educate fashion designers using virtual world platforms grew and changed. We knew that understanding how people learn is as critical to our success in bringing our application to market as making sure the application is ‘right’. With that understanding as a basis, we launched a series of educational programs, which currently include our Shengri La Marketplace program and our student internships.
Both of these programs focus on educating designers and helping them achieve their dreams. There are critical differences: the Marketplace program is intended to help designers of virtual goods, or ‘virtua’, develop their label in these virtual spaces. These designers have varying educational backgrounds and they have a burning desire to create within virtual worlds. Their product is not intended to ever be manufactured in the industrial complex, nor will it be sold through usual apparel industry retail channels. This product is sold to the users of avatars for some of the same reasons we buy real life apparel – we want to customize our appearance in a way that sends a message to people who see us. Obviously in a virtual world we don’t need to be concerned about fit or function, nor on manufacturability, which can be very freeing for the creative spirit. The Marketplace program has a rolling admission deadline.
The internship program, in contrast, is designed to teach fashion student designers how to go through the process of developing a collection from original concept to final runway show. Using virtual worlds as the platform, we take our interns through a fast-paced development sequence where they learn about both the art and business of design and development.
Our internships run about sixteen weeks. In that time the interns are expected to develop marketing concepts for their label, which include logo, showroom, storefront, customer service policies, packaging, and an overall look and feel for their line. They use these concepts to present their actual collection to the virtual goods marketplace in Second Life. The interns are expected to create all components of a collection during their internship – we have them create a mood board, color stories, and materials story, which we keep displayed in their workspace for reference.
The interns are taught to develop product using the in-world content creation tools. We maintain presence on several grids, and we usually have them prototype their designs on one of our OpenSim grids because there is no cost for developing on our grids. When they are ready to develop for the marketplace, they develop their product on the Second life platform, package up their outfits, and place them in vendors. They receive immediate feedback – either their outfits sell, or they don’t!
Our interns are expected to complete one look a week from their original sketches, developed in 3-6 colorways. Our goal is to help the interns produce a visual ‘story’ for their portfolio that shows they understand how the product development cycle works in the real life apparel industry. Using these low risk platforms enables us to take our interns through the process at a nominal cost. They are encouraged to explore the full parameter space of their own creativity.
Our final project with our interns is to help them produce a full virtual runway show with live models presenting their designs to a general audience. These shows are group shows where the interns collaborate to define their theme, name the show and determine the run order for the models. The interns are all individually responsible for styling their models and determining makeup, hair, and accessories to complete the look. They must also select pre-determined poses for their models to strike at the end of the runway.
FRI has a team of dedicated volunteer models who generously offer their time for fittings and the show. They also provide needed moral support and encouragement. The FRI team builds the runway and make sure that all of the models are correctly styled. We also manage the overall show including media and marketing. In addition, we have an audience of supporters who are gracious enough to come to the shows and demonstrate their support of our student designers by blogging about their work, buying their work, and simply being present and giving these new talents a bit of an ego boost.
At the end of the runway show, our interns have a chance to be recognized for all of their hard work by taking a bow on the runway. They depart with valuable experience in the real life development process. We stop short of pulling physical samples but the design cycle is the same and when the time comes for them to enter the work force, they will recognize the design process because they have already been through it. The educational process is fast-paced and demanding, and we set very high standards for them to reach.
Virtual Goods Marketplace Trends
We’re particularly excited to be working with our student interns from Buffalo State university because we think the virtual goods marketplace will burgeon rapidly. In 2007, virtual goods accounted for $2.6 billion in sales. Although the total value of virtual goods pales in comparison to the $1.7 trillion apparel industry, this market compares very favorably with the accessories market which generates about $1.8 billion in sales. Various analyst reports indicate that the virtual goods marketplace is set to double in 2010. Fashion designers are often encouraged to move into handbags and other accessories to add a new revenue stream and enable brand extension. With virtual goods slated to open up further in 2010, designers should definitely consider this new niche market they can readily move into which can help them generate more sales in a completely new area.
Not only is there a business case to be made for providing design for this niche, but designers can also use the low-risk OpenSim platform to explore new design ideas, and to show their work 24/7 on special runways, where models can walk the catwalk at a touch of the button and show off designs as they are meant to be: in 3D and moving.
Virtual/Real Runway 3.0 Project
We are very excited to be working with the talented students designers from Buffalo State University, and we’re very much looking forward to our Spring work with them. Working virtually, we will be helping them develop the exact same looks to present on our virtual runways as they will be showing in real life in their graduating senior runway show, ‘Runway 3.0’. Our work with them will extend even outside of our virtual space. We’ll be taking a day to tour them through the fashion district in New York City, the home of fashion. And finally, we’ll be working with them as technical fashion designers to help them create real world apparel with a decided technical bent: we’re going to help them add motors, lights, and more!
Virtual Intern Applications Being Accepted
We’re accepting new applications for our next internship cycle from Fashion Programs, which begins at the end of January. Admission is highly selective. For more information, please visit www.fashionresearchinstitute.com
I would like to include a link to the Bella Fantasique blog that Missy started when her virtual fashion brand concept was developed in the summer of 2009. If you would like to visit Missy’s Bella Fantasique store in Second Life to see all the virtual fashion garments she has developed for yourself here is a SLurl to teleport you there. If you do not want to visit in-world yet but would like to see Missy’s fashions here is a link to her fashion products on the XSTREET Marketplace. You can purchase something there and have it delivered in-world to you or to someone else as a virtual gift.
After Missy’s SL Virtual Internship Interview ended and I uploaded the podcast, I thought of some additional questions others may have for Missy regarding this entire virtual internship experience. I sent the questions to Missy and her responses are below.
1. Are your Second Life experiences relavant to any of your fashion education classes? If so in what way?
My Second Life experiences are related to two fashion classes I have taken at Buffalo State college thus far, FTT208:Introduction to Fashion Technologies and FTT308: FashionCAD. Both are fashion CAD classes, using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Once I learned the basics in those two classes, I was able to learn so much more about those programs.
2. Do you feel that the experiences that you are simulating in second life regarding developing a brand and coordinated fashion lines, presenting and merchandising your brand integrates and simulates the knowledge and skills that you are learning in your fashion education classes?
If anything else, Second Life inspires me. I am eager to create and design garments and have the ability to change what I am making with a simple click of a button, instead of having to completely redo a sewn garment. I am faster at finding ways to get things done more efficiently in my fashion classes.
3. Are your fashion design and merchandising related experiences in Second Life providing you with a clearer picture of what is involved in the real world design and merchandising process? If so how?
Second Life is making having a fashion line real to me. It’s a fast pace enviroment and putting your ideas into Photoshop and Illustrator and then into Second Life virtually shows an image of what my designs would look like on a body, without the cost of materials and sewing time. I like seeing the progression of sketches to actual garments, and it cuts time so much shorter to see it on a virtual body first to make sure everything looks they way I want it. I also have always had a love for marketing and the business side of fashion, and I get to do this in SL by running my store and modeling. So it’s the best of both worlds… literally. [note from e.polvinen: Missy really does mean this literally because the Lindens $L she makes from selling her virtual fashions are easily converted into $US dollars.]
4. Would you recommend a virtual fashion design and merchandising experience to other fashion students?
I absolutely would recommend virtual design to other fashion students because that is where technology is taking us. If we have the programs available, it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with them, in order to make presentations and amazing concept boards. So many things are done now with the computer, so why not make fashion with it too?
From my own experience as a professor teaching fashion students introduction to fashion concepts in Second Life for the last three years, it is an ideal platform for developing unified fashion garment/line /brand concepts, building presentation skills, organizational skills, fashion terminology, business and marketing skills…and it’s an opportunity to makes real $$$.
Other blog postings related to Missy: