As an immersive exhibition in London highlights Gucci’s heritage, a corresponding digital version gamifies the experience on The Sandbox, adding quests and digital Gucci apparel for a new generation.
TECHNOLOGY: Today, Gucci opens the virtual doors of Gucci Cosmos Land, an immersive digital experience in blockchain-based metaverse world The Sandbox. It offers a digital interpretation of the physical Gucci Cosmos exhibit currently open in London, and both serve as a journey through the brand’s 102-year history.
This approach — mirroring popular physical experiences with digital counterparts to expand access and offer digital-only perks — has become a key strategy of Gucci’s ‘Dream Big Team’, which oversees the brand’s metaverse and Web3 strategy.
The fantastical elements of the physical Gucci Cosmos exhibit lend themselves nicely to a digital counterpart. Gucci’s horsebit motif is accented with digital galloping horses, and archival luggage rotates on a moving conveyor belt mimicking baggage claim. An all-white, Flora-themed room includes larger-than-life insects, and an interactive corridor reveals archival illustrations, lookbooks and ad campaigns. It’s almost as if artist and stage designer Es Devlin, who designed the exhibit, and curator Maria Luisa Frisa were influenced by the otherworldly opportunities of virtual worlds.
The virtual version is set in a digital London and is open for two weeks. It invites avatars to “parkour” through various themed worlds while completing metaverse-style quests. It, too, starts with a red and gold hallway that illustrates the story of founder Guccio Gucci’s start as a porter in London’s Savoy Hotel. Further on, a cavernous blue room highlights multiple digital bags, while the arches of the all-white Flora room look out to the sky beyond. Crucially, in both versions, an all-red ‘Ancora’ room highlights the aesthetic from new creative director Sabato De Sarno, who showed his debut collection in September.
At a time when the Kering-owned brand is undergoing an aesthetic transition, the experiential “love letter” to its origins works to unify the past and the present in the minds of consumers; this digital-physical hybrid similarly blends Gucci’s aesthetic in multiple realms.
Unlike the physical experience, the digital version lets all attendees wear Gucci — at least, as their avatars. The first 100 players to complete the quests will have the option to wear one of four runway designs, including a look from De Sarno’s debut show. Those who complete all the quests can also be entered to win SAND 100, The Sandbox’s virtual currency.
The Sandbox is one of the leading decentralised gaming worlds, in which players can connect their crypto wallets to acquire digital, blockchain-based assets, and in which people can own digital real estate (similar to Decentraland). It’s become a popular partner for brands, from Gucci to Adidas and Nyx Cosmetics, who want to build virtual worlds.
Gucci’s first experience in The Sandbox was in October 2022, in which a Gucci Vault Land was open for a limited time and served as a landing space for all of Gucci’s “multiverse” and Web3 efforts, including curated NFT artwork, Gucci’s own NFTs, a ‘Garden of Curiosities’, vintage pieces and gamified education about Gucci.
Gucci originally opened a version of the Gucci Cosmos exhibit in Shanghai in April (which included a simultaneous experience on China’s QQ platform). It pioneered the “phygital” event concept as early as May 2021, when a virtual Gucci Garden pop-up experience on Roblox mirrored a physical exhibit in Florence. That gained the attention of the wider fashion-tech community; a peer-to-peer resale of a digital Dionysus bag notably went for more than the physical equivalent (converted from Robux, Roblox’s digital currency).
The Gucci Cosmos experience also ties into a concurrent industry trend that sees major heritage brands re-introducing their stories to a new generation. High-tech nostalgia and immersive experiences are two emerging trends highlighted by high-tech forecasting agency Spate, which uses generative AI to identify and analyse cultural trends through a fashion lens, exclusively for Vogue Business. Prada will open Pradasphere II in Shanghai next month, designed to trace the history of the brand’s 500 physical and digital artefacts. Prada’s monthly limited-edition phygital Prada Timecapsule drops also now regularly link NFTs to pieces made from archival fabric.
Additionally, Ralph Lauren has recently revived archival designs in a designated Fortnite experience; Clinique opened a standalone, larger-than-life metaversal “lab”; and Fendi celebrated the 25th anniversary of its well-known Baguette bag with a digital experience made with metaverse group Altava. Louis Vuitton’s major NFT project is centred around the concept of a Web3 journey that is enabled through a phygital representation of one of its historic travel trunks; in the past, it has created educational, historical games that reward players with NFTs.
In addition to its ongoing presence in Roblox and The Sandbox, Gucci is developing experiences with Otherside, the virtual gaming world from Bored Ape Yacht Club parent company Yuga Labs; earlier this year, it released a phygital ‘KodaPendant’ — a play on the concept of “codependent” — awarded to participating token-holders.
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