Many, many years ago. At a sim called Blackliquid. One Eshi Otawara mounted her art dress piece that occupied at least 3/4 of the sim. It was not for sale but you could line up to sit on the poseball that she placed in it and you felt like you were wearing it. Sadly I did not keep those photos and there seems to not be any trace online of said piece that was put in exhibition only twice in her Second Life.
As time went by, fast fashion and pret-a-porter seemed to become more of the standard and with the slew of mesh bodies and heads coming out and replacing the basic system avatar in Second Life, some of these artists kind of started to leave, be it RL, lack of interest, the feeling of not being able to keep up with the market growth that no longer seemed to require the haute couture ways they produced.
Back in 2009 I did my model training, went and participated on runways, contests, ran some of them myself and of course I joined magazines and ran a blog for a long time and an agency at some point. Frolic Mills, who is now back in SL, ran BOSL, that alongside Avenue, Maniera and of course the Modavia Fashion Directory ran the Second Life Fashion World. We all wanted to be there, those of us in the modelling world, those were the dreams. You know?
Every week one of the major agencies seemed to be having a runway and it was THE event to be at if you belonged to that world or were a part of the blogosphere. You had to be there, see what came out, shop what you wanted then go to your blog (an actual site) and write about it all, or if you worked for a magazine, write an article about it.
Designer brands like Eshi Otawara, Solidea Folies, Miamai, Mea Culpa, Violator, Les Petites Details, [sYs] Design, Bliss Couture, Finesmith, Gems and Kisses (to mention a few) were the representatives of the very high end fashion and haute couture that was almost like a work of art. Later on brands like Lelutka joined the fray with their ULTRA collections, as well as Miamai’s Black Label or Honey Bender’s Faster Pussycat.
The fashion world in SL was divided between the models and the ‘supermodels’ because yes, back then there was a whole separation between them. People like Petra Messioptra, Poptart Lilliehook, Mimmi Boa or Blackliquid Tokyoska that ruled not only runway but the fashion directory, magazines and photo galleries were the epitome of the work of art put on someone’s avatar.
So what happened to this world? Why did these creators leave? What happened to Haute Couture and the works of art they brought into our lives?
Some of them evolved into something new or changed the way they made stuff. Lelutka went on to create the biggest bento head brand in SL, sYs and Faster Pussycat went on to create pret-a-porter and later on urban and “fast” fashion. Shi carried on making clothes with a flare of couture but clearly more geared towards casual and accesories. Baiastice, the pioneers of the hair attachments (when tattoos were first added in SL) went on to do pret-a-porter and formal fashion.
Others left for a while, then came back to carry on creating couture pieces, Rozoregalia for example making jewelry. While a few adapted quite well, GIZZA, Gabriel, Masoom, Celestina’s, Boudoir to mention a few. They continued creating and thriving.
And some of them just left. Miamai, Eshi Otawara, Solidea Folies, Finesmith, LesPetitDetails, sYs Design, Violator, Mea Culpa, Bliss Couture, Shiki, Angel Dessous, A la Folie and many, many more. The magazines that once were also present, now are gone, BOSL was acquired by someone else who still runs it, but had to be adapted to the new markets. Avenue and Modavia just closed and Maniera became a RL magazine. I should know, I was there for the launch IRL and wrote the cover article.
You can still go and look through the pages of the remaining issues of Maniera Magazine, the Modavia Fashion Directory or Avenue Magazine and notice just how many of them there used to be and the possibilities and beauty that some of these artists offered to the SL base avatar.
At the same time, a few new directories and magazines came to take the space of what those once were, Hikaru Enimo’s L’Homme for male fashion being one of them and Frolic Mills’ SL20, though more recent, being another. They have tried to kept the look and feel of what once was and showcase more of that fashion that seems now to be so niche.
And so the question remains:
Whatever happened to Haute Couture in SL?
From my experience, it’s gone, at least in that artistic/conceptual idea. Mesh and Bento, while the best thing to have ever happened to us, and boy am I thankful when I look back at some of these pics, brought with it a series of limitations placed to what someone could create. Concepts and needs that were being determined not only by the market but what the technology allowed. Between rigged pieces, bento meshes and new animations, the flexi prims, sculpts and so on became less sought after and that may have forced some designers to leave.
Admitedly around 2014 I became so tired and busy between college and blogging that I had to step back from fashion and the shows and eventually Second Life. Coming back now and again but just to blog then leave again, so I became disconnected with that world. But coming back a lot of the models had moved to bento mesh bodies and heads and most of them were doing more pret-a-porter and very rarely would I see them wearing actual haute couture or artistic pieces.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still think there is a ton of artists out there that CAN and ARE doing couture and fashion, the latest SL Fashion Week 2022 organized by SL20 basically proved that, but if we actually inspect just a little closer, the very haute couture, art being worn on the images above, the one that actually pushed boundries between art and clothing, is not there, not anymore. Not like the pictures included in this post. Nothing even close to the idea that one Eshi once had to fill a sim with sculpts, flexi prims, shines, particles and scripts to create a wearable work of art.
I really wish sometimes that those artists and their works of arts came back into SL. Or that someone would inject us with the fuel and inspiration that those haute couture artistic/conceptual pieces brought once upon a time.
Perhaps someone will read my small opinion piece, see my photos and the art those people created, read about my experience and feel inspired to try and create something like that themselves. If no one reads it, I know I will be fine. I still have those pieces and wearable dresses that to this day inspire me oh so deeply and I love mixing and matching them or adapting them to the new content made in SL by fantastic designers.
The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 3: Eshi Otawara (2013)
Stanford University and Irena M. Morris/Eshi Otawara Exhibit
Miss Virtual World 2012 Red Carpet Event - Metaverse TV
AVENUE Spring/Summer Fashion Week 2013