THE DEVIL WEARS (AR-supported, blockchain-authenticated, sustainably-sourced) PRADA: a Critical Examination of the Metaverse and Web3 as "Charismatic Market Trends" in the Post-Pandemic Fashion Industry

Jarrett, Rebecca Adeline, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Swartz, Lana, AS-Media Studies (MDST), University of Virginia

The term “metaverse” gained widespread popularity in 2020 as companies explored the potential of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality technologies to create an all-encompassing virtual world. Similarly, the term “web3” captures an envisioned future iteration of the internet powered by decentralized blockchains. This thesis investigates these two internet imaginaries in the context of the global fashion industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Chapter one explores how AR-supported digital fashion emerged as a means to address a crisis of everyday life, chapter two analyzes how blockchain technologies were utilized to address a crisis of control, and chapter three considers how both kinds of metaverse/web3 projects sought to address a crisis of environmental impact. The objective of this research is not to evaluate the success of fashion brands’ metaverse or web3 ventures but to examine how the imaginaries surrounding them blend reactivity, proactivity, and charismatic speculation. To capture this amorphous mix of hype, speculation, uncertainty, and doubt, the author proposes the term “charismatic market trend” as a way of seeing the technological bubble and synthesize what it embodies about the market it seeks to innovate.

MA (Master of Arts)
Metaverse, Web 3.0, Global fashion industry, Digital fashion, COVID-19 Pandemic, Charismatic market trend, Informatization
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