Monday, October 15, 2007

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Ophelia's Gaze: Iris explores (and deplores) Armani's official site in Second Life


Can a leading name in fashion compete in a virtual world with its own thriving grassroots industry?  When word got out that Armani was opening a branch in SL, I sent New World Notes style correspondent Iris Ophelia  to review the legendary designer's contribution to metaverse fashion.  She was decidedly unimpressed, and sent back this scathing diatribe. - HA

If I had to list the top ten fashion names of real life style, it should go without saying that Giorgio Armani would be included. So naturally when the company's presence in Second Life was announced, the fashion community busted at the seams with excitement.

But when that highly anticipated sim finally opened, the bubble burst. I, like many other fashionistas, found myself completely at a loss for how a company (and a man) with such an innovative style could fall so terribly short at innovation.  The irony is that the media may blame Second Life for this-- but not even know about a place like Armidi, the homegrown fashion emporium which succeeds where Armani has failed.


The response to the Armani emporium (direct teleport here) from Residents has been overwhelmingly negative for quite a few reasons, but let'€™s start small... Or rather, big.

The Armani store is huge, taking up about half of the sim itself. Empty pavement and lawn trimmed with sparse trees, along with a staging area, occupy the remainder of the sim. The store itself is a bit like a labyrinth, filled with prim clothing folded or hung on racks for show, and displays of real life products and mannequins that seem to be single-prim photographed versions of displays in real Armani stores. There is a men'€™s department, a women'€™s department, areas for jeans, areas for underwear, areas for accessories, a perfume counter, a book store, a lounge, some sort of lunch room, a bathroom, changing rooms, and a pay phone, all entirely represented by non-functioning and fairly simplistic prims with bare-bones texturing (if any at all.) You can'€™t even click a book cover to go to the page (which seems like a simple enough way to profit from the space.) In essence, it's a massive building that could just as easily be empty.


That isn'€™t to say, however, that there is nothing for sale in the entire store. In a small room on the northern face of the building, there are 10 items for sale, based on real Armani branded items (sometimes quite loosely.) The majority of these items are also of upsettingly low quality, something the greenest of designers might create for their first store, but not what we would expect from Armani. Seriously, it's Armani! Are we wrong to expect the best?

The nicest item they do sell, in my opinion, is the Abito Uomo suit. If you buy it, you'€™ll find it in your inventory in a folder confusingly named "€œObject"€. This goes for every other item in the store except for the Stivali Uomo boots, for some reason.

Hamlet in Armani's Abito, left, and Armidi's superior Italia, right

Hamlet's been kind enough to model Abito, as well as the Classic Italia suit released at another highly anticipated sim-opening recently, Armidi. Armidi is a line run by a couple veterans of Second Life Fashion, Nicole David and Lola Marquez of Elephant Outfitters.  (I'm wearing some of their work in the first image for this article.) Armidi built up a lot of buzz during the Summer, and their opening did not disappoint. They, in fact, gave much more than I had expected.

Armani's Abito is on the left, and Armidi's Italia on the right. The most noticeable difference between them is that Italia has a lot more depth in the texturing. Puckers, wrinkles, lapels, and pockets all seem to pop out a little from the suit itself.

Abito, unfortunately, has the same problem that a lot of Photosourced clothing in SL has-- it'€™s flat. Hamlet looks as though he's had a Looney Tunes-style run-in with a steamroller. The nice thing about this suit, however, is that the cuffs and collar are cut properly, whereas the other in-world Armani tops have quite a few rough edges.

There have been rumblings blaming the technical limitations of Second Life itself for these flaws, but I would like to point out that most of SL'€™s talented designers manage to avoid these issues easily. How different would the in-world Armani line have looked with the skilled hands of an established SL designer shaping it?

Xak Allen and others explore the popular Armidi fashion island (screenshot by Hamlet)

Consider Armidi once again: Their sim has everything that Armani'™s has, from shoes and shirts to belts and bags, but in greater volume and of higher quality. The difference is undeniable, as Armidi'€™s Traffic stood at about 32,000 last week, and Armani'€™s, under 1000. That's a pretty dramatic difference, even if you aren't mathematically inclined.

All this boils down to one thing: Translation. To bring a real product or item into Second Life, you need to translate it from RL to SL values. If you don'€™t do this, failure is as good as guaranteed, especially where fashion is concerned. Translating doesn'€™t mean directly importing the item, but rather figuring out what makes it worth having, and figuring out how that fits into the values and culture of SL (or any other community, for that matter.)  For example, an Armani suit is made of very high quality textiles, but in Second Life, fabrics are unnecessary. A quality fabric is replaced with quality texturing on our value scale, and Armani failed to realize this.

The Armani sim seems torn between being a 3-D billboard and a gift shop, and it's not doing either particularly well. So why should we care?

Armani seems destined to be added to the ammunition of those who say that Second Life is a waste of money and time for RL companies. The blame will fall on SL and not the people responsible for the build itself, and it could easily discourage other major fashion presences in the future that would have done a better job. But there are a lot of other companies putting in the effort and taking the time to grasp SL as a platform and as a community. Their presence brings in new Residents, new perspectives, and enriches our world...

When they do it right.

Iris Ophelia covers and creates metaverse style for New World Notes.  Visit her blog for a view at the source.


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Dirk Singer

An excellent post.

"The irony is that the media may blame Second Life for this." Watch this space for media or blog chat several months down the line where Armani is held up as another American Apparel style 'failure.'

After all, if a brand comes into SL and noone visits, who is to blame?

Why it's obvious!

Must be the 'dumb' consumer and the platform. It couldn't possibly be the brand or agency that created the concept and failed to understand the medium ;)

Garth Goode

This reminds me so much of the Internet in the early 90's. Some companies just put up web sites that amounted to nothing more than electronic brochures (many still do) while others innovated and used the net to add new and useful customer services. SL is going through the same evolution and it's going to take years before companies get it... but it's fascinating to watch them try all over again.

Nanoox Nitschke

While I agree with everything Iris says here, a personal pet peeve of men's fashion in SL is the ubiquitous "puckered" suit. In RL, puckering would be the surest sign of an under-sized and poorly-constructed suit on a guy.

I'd have to see the suit in person, but it seems to me the Armani suit looks a bit more formal and "better cut", at least in the coat. I do agree though that the fabric texturing on the Armidi suit is greatly superior.

I realize the avatar UV map makes creating loose fitting clothing (obviously the province of most men's fashion) difficult. This is a challenge for menswear in SL which has yet to see an adequate solution.

Marianne McCann

What everyone else said, above. This is the same sort of growin pains as the mid to late 1990s, as companies attempted to join into this "interweb" and largely failed, because they attempted to apply print advertisement ideas to the medium. They now look at Second Life as "3D web" - a concept that they've been sold on in such terms - and watch in disgust as their "3D Websites" fail to catch on.

Meanwhile, projects like Greenies Home Rezzable or the aforementioned Armidi grasp the concepts of Second Life, and create content that appeals to Second Life's residents.

Of course, the fault will fall towwards Second Life, in much the same way it was 'the limitations of the Web" that ruled popular opinion in the 1990s.

Patchouli Woollahra


But seriously, I've seen a couple of men's outfits that make use of the 'skirt' in an attempt to cheat on the hem of men's jackets...

It's a lame one to be sure, and probably one of the many reasons why men's fashion (outside of RP and cosplay) seem to be falling a tad behind that for females in SL.

Tenshi Vielle

What on earth was the point of tying Armidi into this post other than a similar (re: RL ripoff!) suit? yeesh.

Armani was a slap in the face for the SL community, moreso on the fashion end. For all the time I saw them in SL (a year ago nearly!) poking around and "researching" this is just a flop. It says, "hey, we don't really care about what the community here is like. We're going to duplicate the RL stores!"

I spoke to someone on the design team, and even they were depressed. "The orders came from the sky," he said in his broken english, "and I did what I was told." Armani just threw money at Second Life and had the gall to make a video (found here - about how great it was. It's not great. It's an insult.

Iris Ophelia

The point of including Armidi is that they:
1) Opened around the same time as Armani
2) Experienced a lot of buzz like Armani
3) Sell a lot of items similar to what Armani sells in RL in the vein of fancy shoes, bags, jeans, tops, suits...
4) They are a perfect example of a successful shopping sim, without being a cliché (yet).

Also, I wouldn't call the suit a ripoff. It comes in many colours, I just picked the navy blue to illustrate the differences more clearly without distractions. Things they do have in common, like breast pockets, 2 buttons, creases down the leg, are features true to a number of suits from before and after Giorgio Armani.

Also, it's worth noting that the Armidi suit has a prim tie that goes with it, but I opted not to show it as it would hide the detailing on the front, which I felt it was important to show (even if it looks ill-fitted ^^)


"Armani seems destined to be added to the ammunition of those who say that Second Life is a waste of money and time for RL companies. The blame will fall on SL and not the people responsible for the build itself, and it could easily discourage other major fashion presences in the future that would have done a better job."

This is the main issue we have to convince sceptical companies about the value of SL. They answer often is : "Look at what have been done for our competitor XXX... No ROI, no interest..."

The problem is not SL but what people are doing with it ! "Your World. Your imagination" means we need to have some imagination !

TigroSpottystripes Katsu

in the picture with the suits side by side, is the Armidi's one too black to the point of loosing all details only for me?

Veyron Supercharge

What's interesting here is that about a year ago everyone was bemoaning how the big corporations are coming into Second Life and going to take over everything. You had SL "insurgents" attacking corporations trying to do things in SL. Yet this is a classic example of how a big corporation can be clueless and be steamrollered by comparatively tiny operation.

The corporations then save face by announcing that SL is not a good platform for them to do business in....

Jason Banks

I'm new to Second Life (almost a month old) and I have to say I like the Armani suit better. The Armidi suit looks too tight.

But the bigger problem seems to be the tools Second Life gives designers. Neither suit should be as skin tight as they are.

Digit Darkes

My opinion coincides with what Matthew G. Nelson of
The ClickZ Network, He really hit the nail on the head when he said:

""A lot of the problems with marketing in virtual worlds stem from brands and their agencies thinking you can just parade into a virtual world and take it over as if you belonged there all along. The 'a-ha' moment happened in 2007 when some of the big early brands that entered the virtual space pulled out," he said. "People did a lot of stupid stuff in virtual worlds that they shouldn't have been doing."

and Automatically thinking the marketing, design employee's skill level/knowledge, and success would be exactly the same as what it is in the Real World. BUT! Thats the best part, all of us Second Life residents have one thing they DONT have, experience with marketing and branding in a virtual world.

jeff paul

Jeff Paul - Instant Internet Cash Marketing Bible Teaches you how to get on the road to marketing success with very Simple & proven business models you can copy to make your on-line fortune at

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well i totally agree the fact that Armani suit is made of very high quality textiles, but in Second Life, fabrics are unnecessary. A quality fabric is replaced with quality texturing on our value scale, and Armani failed to realize this. hope so they soon realize that .

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