Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of the metaverse in late 2021 took the whole world by surprise. Being a Namibian tech enthusiast myself, I never really bothered reading too much into the metaverse, as our technology sphere is at least a decade behind the giants in developed nations – or at least I thought it was, until I read up on African Metaverse Fashion.
says Idiat Shiole, a Nigerian virtual fashion designer, “I say that because I’m Muslim. When I worked as a fashion illustrator for most fashion houses, their first impression of me was normally ‘won’t this lady just draw Islamic dresses for us or can she even draw?’ But in the metaverse, nobody cares who you are, they only care what you can do. I just wanted to do what I love without being oppressed.”
Idaite Shiole is a Nigerian based designer who specializes in textile designs and 3d garments. While she studied textile design in university, and started her career in physical fashion – she always felt that she want to do something more. “Given that the textile industry in Nigeria is relatively less developed in scale, I developed an interest in digital fashion,” says Idaite Shiole.
In 2018, Idiat Shiole, stumbled on a software called marvelous designer to help her create locomotive 3D models and fabrics. At first she had become a virtual fashion designer only because she didn’t want to find a job after graduating University, however with time, Shiole began gaining a massive clientele both locally and internationally via her creative brand, Hadeeart Atelier.
The company was started in order to create print fashion wear and items for gaming clients like Decentraland and fashion and also working with fashion brands like Spatial and OKC to create virtual versions of their clothings and collections, and host virtual fashion shows.
Even though the metaverse is a relatively new concept, everywhere including Africa, Shiole is part of a handful of African virtual designers making digital outfits in preparation for the metaverse.
According to Founder, Mark Zuckerberg – the metaverse is an interactive environment built on blockchain and internet technology. By combining virtual reality with actual reality, people will be able to interact with avatars, each other and the environment, at the same time.
Many people are quite sceptical on it and News24 reporter Scott Nover wrote, “Depending on who you ask, the metaverse is either a meaningless buzzword or the next big digital platform…If the metaverse is for real, it’s a chance to rethink what we want our digital lives to be like.”
A recent Meta commissioned report says that if the metaverse was to be adopted in Africa and grow in a similar way as mobile technology, it could add an additional $40 billion to Africa’s GDP in the next decade.
When African virtual designer, Aisha Oladimeji started making virtual fashion dresses, she wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into, “All I knew was that I was tired of being in covid lockdown and needed something to keep me sane.”Last year, she had a collection titled ECLECTIC which was inspired by experimentational buildings around the world and had showcased at the New York digital fashion week earlier this year.
In late 2020, UX Designer Delz Erinle came up with an idea to launch the first African metaverse made by African creators. He contacted Niyi Okeowo, an artist, and they made a team of 30 consisting of 3D artists, environment creators, games developer, and 3D modelers—with a common goal— launching a metaverse now known as Astra.
At first, it came off as a digital fashion studio for fashion brands to create 3D assets of their physical clothing but it is rather now a metaverse with several events. Users can play games to earn crypto, go shopping with their avatars or attend events by wearing VR gadgets.
To end this off, Idaite Shiole believes that virtual fashion could eradicate the problem of fashion waste that creates environmental issues. “I’m creating a sustainable brand with Hadeeart Atelier. That is why I’m taking my time to source for sustainable materials, fashion pieces that are biodegradable, (and) which customers can recycle when they’re no longer interested in wearing them.”
The metaverse, at least for now, will be virtual for many users but it is a very real and profitable concept for many people. African creatives such as Idaite Shiole as well as Delz Erinle have managed to take advantage of the opportunities presented thus far and I believe that with time many more creatives will be able to find themselves in this space – opening infinite horizons for African entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives.