Inside AUROBOROS and Grimes’ riotous Metaverse Fashion Week collaboration

With the shapeshifting musician set to close the first ever MVFW, the label’s co-founders discuss Grimes’ DM slides, meta-scepticism, and Web3 raving

Claire Boucher has taken on many guises. Since landing on Tumblr back in 2012, she has, without a hint of irony, asked to be referred to as WarNymph, Baby Wolverine, and c – lower-case, italicised – among a slew of other short-lived reinventions. Once a micro-fringe and rockabilly Ray-Bans kind of girlie, in recent years, Grimes has fashioned herself in the image of a post-human, neo-feudal warrior woman, with her latest incarnation coming in the form of a Web3 avatar designed by tech couture house AUROBOROS

Described by co-designers Paula Sello and Alissa Aulbekova as the label’s “first muse”, Grimes will close the inaugural Metaverse Fashion Week in a waterfall-walled chamber on Decentraland’s VR platform – bringing a bit of heft to an event that is, by its very nature, intangible. “Grimes first reached out to us over DMs in 2021,” the founders say, “so MVFW felt like a great opportunity to start this relationship, elevating the digital fashion arena to a more immersive experience.” In and amongst a thunderous light show, the shapeshifting musician – or her avatar, dressed in AUROBOROS’ Mystique-inspired bodysuit – will perform live in the label’s virtual locale, a serpentine art gallery crafted from Damascus steel by digital architecture firm, Voxelarchitects.

Over the past year or so, crypto-clothing has gone from the margins of Discord servers to increasingly enter public consciousness. And yet the metaverse, with all its NFT sneakers and Fortnite skins, has been met with scepticism by the style set – particularly those who feed off the “aura”, “swish”, and “smell” of an IRL fashion show. The industry as a whole is notorious for its slow uptake of new technology but much of the dubiousness towards Web3 seems rooted in all the tiresome conversations surrounding BoredApes, CryptoPunks, and “Beeple”. AUROBOROS, meanwhile, is an example of how creatives are looking beyond spliff-wielding, heavy-lidded monkeys, and approaching the metaverse as if it were “a form of magic“.

Already the first digitally-native brand to make it to London Fashion Week and the Victoria & Albert museum – where it housed one of its Biomimicry gowns, blooming and decaying in real-time – AUROBOROS’ closing ceremony is pegged to be the event of the meta-season. “We are part of an evolution of communication and creativity where nothing is predestined. We finally have a chance to create our future.” Here, Paula Sello and Alissa Aulbekova talk Grimes’ DM slides, rebuffing tech-scepticism, and Web3 raving.

Hey Paula and Alissa! You describe Grimes as your “first muse”. What draws you both to her? 

AUROBOROS: Grimes has always captivated us. From her sonic identity, to her ethereal aesthetics, she was one of our inspirations when building the AUROBOROS brand. We listen to Grimes and the Endel app in our studio a lot, particularly when we designed the Biomimicry collection. Grimes encapsulates the perfect crossover of mysticism, technology, and creative genius, very much aligned with AUROBOROS’ aesthetic and vision for the future. We believe in creating a utopian reality with creativity at the forefront, so it’s important to have a muse whose ethos is aligned with ours – offering the next generation a more hopeful vision.

How involved was Grimes in the collaboration? What ideas did she bring to the table? How did the project evolve over time? 

AUROBOROS: Grimes is a native in the space, so she started by sharing her preferences for an avatar and, from that, we were able to custom fit a digital wearable, optimised for the Decentraland platform. Once we shared our plans for the experience and visuals, Grimes prepared an exclusive DJ set for her performance in our nature-tech inspired world – wearing our Mystique piece which was inspired by a combination of the X-men character as well as the Black Panther bodysuit. We are super excited to rave in the space together after all the hard work!

What obstacles did you face in designing for the performance and how did you overcome them?

It was a challenge, especially with a tight turnaround. Decentraland is one of the most populated metaverses and it holds a distinct, gamified look, so all of our concepts and designs had to be optimised in consideration of its size and pixel limits. George Bileca and Ergean Ismali, of virtual architecture firm Voxelarchitects, who worked with us on the build, said: ‘This is a significant milestone. We are paving the path to fully digital design and decentralisation. AUROBOROS has one of the most unique buildings in the Luxury District and it was a real challenge to create because it had to capture something futuristic without losing emotion. The AUROBOROS logo appears on the front of the building, cloaked in a waterfall, which reflects the Decentraland sky. Inside, the walls of the cave-like structure are decorated in prismatic, damascus steel patterns, while a serpentine staircase coils around a gallery of images featuring AUROBOROS designs. The pièce de résistance – a superbly crafted wearable – is in the centre of the building, surrounded by floating pods which showcase an edited collection of fashion items.’ 

The event is billed as a “360 immersive soundscape”. How do you plan on making the performance feel immersive when people will be watching on a 2D screen? 

AUROBOROS: Visitors can engage with the space in a way that would not be possible physically – from the immediate dress-up of avatars, to unlocking physically-redeemable items (such as fine jewellery) through URL games, and most importantly, experiencing an intimate live performance and light show with Grimes. The classic catwalk no longer feels relevant to us, particularly in a virtual world, and this space chimes with our new community-first approach, where collectors can meet us personally and learn more about the future and ethos of the AUROBOROS brand. With this, we are proud to be launching our new Vault membership programme. Together with the UNXD luxury NFT marketplace, which brings the most significant cultural moments into the metaverse.

The event is billed as a “360 immersive soundscape”. How do you plan on making the performance feel “360” and “immersive” when people will be watching on a 2D screen? 

AUROBOROS: Visitors can engage with the space in a way that would not be possible physically – from the immediate dress-up of avatars, to unlocking physically-redeemable items (such as fine jewelry) through URL games, and most importantly, experiencing an intimate live performance and light show with Grimes. The classic catwalk no longer feels relevant to us, particularly in a virtual world, and this space chimes with our new community-first approach, where collectors can meet us personally and learn more about the future and ethos of the AUROBOROS brand. With this, we are proud to be launching our new Vault membership programme. Together with the UNXD luxury NFT marketplace, which brings the most signifcant cultural moments into the metaverse.

This is the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week but even the most die-hard fashion fans aren’t convinced that digital fashion will take off. What would you say to people who are still sceptical? 

AUROBOROS: All technologies are met with fear or scepticism at first and we believe this is actually an important step in making the tech feel more welcoming. We are only at the precipice of a Web3 world, building the foundations of a future that will impact all of us, regardless of interest. Everyone should learn and talk about what’s happening in a constructive way, so that they will see themselves reflected in the change. Technology has been for a specific type of person for too long, it needs to diversify. We encourage fashion fans to think of technology (or the metaverse) as a form of magic, through which we can realise what is impossible in the physical world. It’s a beautiful tool that can be used to create the most otherworldly and incredible fantasies. After all, that is what fashion is about – self expression.

This is the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week, but even the most die-hard fashion fans aren’t convinced that digital fashion will take off. What would you say to people who are still sceptical? 

AUROBOROS: All technologies are met with fear or scepticism at first and we believe this is actually an important step in making the tech feel more welcoming. We are only at the precipice of a Web3 world, building the foundations of a future that will impact all of us, regardless of interest. Everyone should learn and talk about what’s happening in a constructive way, so that they will see themselves reflected in the change. Technology has been for a specific type of person for too long, it needs to diversify. We encourage fashion fans to think of technology (or the metaverse) as a form of magic, through which we can realise what is impossible in the physical world. It’s a beautiful tool that can be used to create the most otherworldly and incredible fantasies. After all, that is what fashion is about – self expression.

The past year has seen digital fashion move from the margins of Web3 into mainstream consciousness. What do you think people get wrong about it?

AUROBOROS: The rise of the metaverse is associated with a separation from the physical and natural world, which is a drastic and limited view. We are part of an evolution of communication and creativity where nothing is predestined. We finally have a chance to be creating our future. The metaverse can intertwine, overlap, and upgrade the physical world. We are working towards interlinking the two simultaneously – this is where we envision the future of Web3. 

Can you tell me a little more about the AUROBOROS Vault concept. Why is this important? 

AUROBOROS: Our community is the reason we strive to push boundaries. With the launch of AUROBOROS Vault, we are creating culture. With an exclusive membership, our members will receive first access to events including the soon-to-be-announced AUROBOROS Muses Sessions, personal customisations, and genesis NFT collection drop. This, of course, will blur the metaverse and the physical world, innovating in a way that has never been done before. 

So, how and where will you be watching the Grimes performance? Are there any other MVFW events you will be attending? 

We will be attending the Grimes Performance at our AUROBOROS closing show for MVFW the same way other attendees will, via a virtual Avatar in Decentraland. Meeting new people and connecting with our community through the four-day event and satellite events across MVFW…