Decentraland’s first Metaverse Fashion Week in March set the Internet alight as Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro sent their digital designs down the virtual runway. Interestingly, even beauty brand Estée Lauder participated in this virtual beauty project. Taking an artistic approach over a sensorial one, the event’s exclusive beauty partner collaborated with Alex Box. The prominent artist in the metaverse space created an NFT wearable inspired by the brand’s iconic Advanced Night Repair serum. Ten thousand of these were made available for the Metaverse Fashion Week’s attendees for free and the avatars that claimed it were recognised by their “glowing, radiant aura”.
Estée Lauder’s foray into the metaverse was a significant leap for the beauty industry. Not only did it expose the brand to a new audience, it demonstrated that it is possible for an industry that is all about sensorial experiences to exist in a non-physical space. So what else can beauty brands stand to gain from these virtual experiences? And what’s in it for beauty consumers when brands go digital?
The beauty metaverse’s brave new frontier
If shopping for beauty products before the pandemic taught us one thing, it is that there’s nothing like going to the store to feel the visceral surge of glee to sample make-up and skincare. And yet in the throes of a lockdown, we were still able to do that, thanks to brand sites that offered shade-matching make-up filters and online skincare consultations.
In a cheeky but on-brand move, Nars launched its first NFT collection on Truesy in light of World Orgasm Day last year. The beauty brand collaborated with three artists, Sara Shakeel, Azede Jean-Pierre and Nina Kraviz, to give Nars’s iconic shade, Orgasm, new life in the NFT space. Shakeel’s NFT was available for free, while the others were sold at US$50 and US$500 respectively. Over 2,000 NFTs were sold, with Kraviz’s selling out within 10 minutes, proving that there is indeed appetite for these exclusive beauty-meets-art works.
But there’s more to the beauty landscape than just digital artwork, with some brands adopting a ‘gamified’, immersive approach. “With our collaborations, the goal is always to build a compelling experience that piques the curiosity of new audiences and helps introduce them to the brand,” shares Dina Fierro, vice president of global digital innovation and strategy at Nars. “For example, with Nars Color Quest, given the Roblox community, we felt it was strategic to focus on Nars’s most iconic products and franchises, which often serve as an entry point to the brand for new consumers.”
This sentiment is echoed by L’Oreal’s chief digital officer, Asmita Dubey, who shares that the brand hopes to “shape the future of beauty with even more experiences that engage the beauty community and its many tribes including in the virtual realm. This way, we can earn our customer’s loyalty wherever they are.”
And the brand has big ambitions, with Dubey sharing that L’Oréal’s impetus to champion beauty technology “by pioneering and inventing the future of beauty” is driven by the “aim to be more inclusive, responsible and transparent than ever through science, technology and data” in order to meet their consumer’s beauty needs. As proof of this, L’Oréal, filed 17 trademarks for virtual cosmetics just this year.
The future of virtual beauty
Lofty goals and corporate mission statements are one thing, but they have yet to offer real-world solutions for consumers who may question what shopping for a brow pencil or dry shampoo would have to do with avatars, NFTs and augmented reality (AR) experiences. Perhaps then, it’s about reframing these expectations.
Adrien Mollet, a senior lead consultant with trend forecasting firm WGSN, believes that brands will be able to create platforms for self-expression. He feels that brands can co-create new experiences by listening to and amplifying their customers’ voices. “On the other hand, using artificial intelligence, AR, blockchain and NFTs can enhance the customer experience through better diagnosis, better traceability and better application of the product,” he adds. “L’Oréal has filed a patent for acne imaging tech and another one on alopecia prognosis, diagnosis and treatment, and Coty has revealed a system that allows for a dynamic and representative digital colour adjustment for virtual try-on applications.”
KinShen Chan, a senior beauty and personal care analyst at market research company Mintel, comments that consumers are often attracted to novel propositions. “Besides driving consumer’s delight, technologies like blockchain can also help the beauty industry tackle pressing issues on product authenticity and provide greater assurance to consumers.”
The future of beauty technology may be unclear, but it is the element of uncertainty that ignites imagination, creativity and excitement. According to Fierro, Nars is on track for several launches on Roblox including Lookbook, which allows users to create bespoke make-up looks for their avatars; Snapshot, an in-app social feed to encourage creativity and community; and a partnership with metaverse company Supersocial.
It’s exciting to know that there’s more to immersive beauty experiences than pop-ups and department store roadshows. Through his research, Chan sees the potential in skin personalisation technology, sharing that brands can work on that to better understand the skin’s daily dynamic change through the use of video imaging processing. “The current method still uses a static digital image, so it would be interesting to see how brands can progress from there to get a deeper understanding of the skin’s basal condition. This offers consumers targeted personalised solutions,” he shares.
We’re just scratching the surface. Sure, these developments in the digital sphere may not be as sensorially immersive as the physical world, but that is perhaps the best part.
In this borderless realm, creativity, colour and true self-expression can roam free. Isn’t that what the essence of beauty is all about?