The thrill is the same: the meditative but determined scrolling through page after page of fashion e-commerce sites. Looking for something for a special occasion, I settle on a set of two shimmering, fringed amethysts from Beyoncé’s favorite Dundas. A little more there than I usually would, but I think it’s a good time to be adventurous.
There’s the dopamine release that comes with “making an offer” that immediately intensifies the more it’s accepted – the look is mine. The only thing that’s different? There will be no tracked packages to tear up, no textiles to touch or try on. Far from being physical, this look is all about pixels, a fashionable non-fungible token (NFT) designed to be worn only in digital space.
Like a Birkin and a waiting list, fashion and the metaverse are perfect and inevitable partners. Both are riding the zeitgeist, prioritizing exclusivity and confusing the masses – and major fashion houses are getting in on the action. In 2021, users sent over $44.2 billion through NFT marketplaces, a big increase from $106 million in 2020.
Gucci was one of the first luxury brands to dive into the NFT universe. The Italian fashion house‘s NFT came as a four-minute film inspired by its Aria collection and auctioned at Christie’s for US$25,000 in June 2021. They have since created brand towns on the metaverse gaming platform Roblox and collaborated with digital artists on the release of new NFT collections. Burberry launched wearable NFTs for its character NFT Sharky B (in the crypto video game Blankos Block Party), which generated over $375,000 in sales.
Dolce & Gabbana set records after debuting a nine-piece NFT collection during Venice Fashion Week for a total of $5.7 million. In January, Balmain launched its NFT collaboration with Barbie, creating a “phygital” product featuring three different digital dolls wearing monochrome pink looks finished with the house’s signature monogram print. It launched with a co-branded physical collection of dresses, t-shirts, jackets and shoes.
The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which runs Paris Fashion Week and Haute Couture Week, recently partnered with Arianee, a leading NFT platform for the luxury and fashion industries, to create NFTs that could be redeemed at the Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2022 menswear shows and other haute couture exhibitions.
Meanwhile, Prada, Richemont and LVMH have teamed up to create the Aura Blockchain Consortium, offering tracing solutions to their customers.
Like fragrances, makeup and accessories, NFTs can enable greater entry-level access to the world of high fashion, offering customers a new way to sample the exclusive realm.
There are Crypto and Metaverse fashion weeks in partnership with brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger and Etro, and flagship fashion stores such as Gucci and Off-White that now accept crypto payments. It seems like everyone is getting in on the action. But if you’re like me, you might feel like even though people are busy doing NFT, you don’t really know why or how.
So what are non-fungible tokens? Like Bitcoin, NFTs are considered a form of cryptocurrency. Unlike Bitcoin, they are not “fungible” (capable of being exchanged for other goods of the same value). NFTs are unique, one of a kind and cannot be duplicated, only reacquired when purchased from their current owner. An application called blockchain analyzes and tracks the activity of every NFT buyer and seller, tracking the logistics and movements of the NFTs.
“At the moment, only a small number of people [about 360,000 globally] own NFTs, so brands entering this space are really doing so either to connect with their consumer who is already playing or to seek to underscore their position as an innovator in the wider market,” says Petah Marian, Business Commentator luxury based in Melbourne.
“Trendlines suggest that in the future we’ll likely be spending more time in metaverse-style spaces, which [indicates] that digital assets like NFTs will gain in relevance. As the industry progresses, digital assets are likely to have deeper intrinsic value because they have more connections to the real world.
Neuno, an Australian startup and digital platform, encourages its audience to buy, sell, collect and trade NFTs from collaborating designers such as Glenn Martens and Diesel. He’s also worked with bodies like the Australian Fashion Council to help eight designers bring their NFTs to the Metaverse, and with shoe designer Giuseppe Zanotti for Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week.
On the platform, consumers will be able to use their fashion NFTs in different ways. For example, if you were to buy a dress, you could virtually try it on and dress your game avatar in the same room.
“The transformation of traditional fashion into its metaverse counterpart, which we call ‘metafashion’, has happened and continues to happen very naturally, supporting the global shift in the way we experience and explore the world around us,” explains Natalia Modenova, co-founder. (with Daria Shapovalova) from digital fashion platform DressX.
“We have already become ‘avatars of ourselves’ in multiple social media channels, messaging and streaming services. Digital fashion is designed to dress up our digital selves. We believe that in the future, every fashion brand – luxury, haute couture, streetwear, everyone – will have a digital fashion line and every person will have a digital fashion wardrobe; we call it metacloset.
With the goal of “digitally dressing a billion people”, DressX had to respond to its users’ growing interest in NFTs in the first months of its mid-2020 launch. Since then, the company has dropped several collaborations in the NFT space, including with Jason Wu and crypto.com.
Demand was so high that it launched the first and only NFT marketplace for wearable digital fashion, a space in which to buy, buy, resell and “port” NFTs – much like the Net-a-Porter of NFTs . The overall goal of the platform is to provide an “endless digital closet” for anyone who desires one for their digital presence and to enable 3D and fashion designers to grow professionally.
Currently, the platform’s consumers are international – mostly from the United States, Europe and Eastern European countries – with the main age groups being 18-24 and 25- 34, although Shapovalova is careful to note that digital fashion is used by people of all ages. , genders and nationalities. They mainly come from social media such as Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, as well as games, video calls and XR (augmented and virtual reality), groups which she says are “growing rapidly”.
“Freedom [the] The created digital fashion industry will definitely influence the way people consume and use fashion,” says Shapovalova.
“While some people use digital clothing simply to experiment with how they look or enhance their old photos, others use it as an opportunity to be the people they’ve always dreamed of. [of].”
According to Sasha Wallinger, a former marketing executive specializing in translating fashion into different modalities and who worked on the Gucci x Superplastic “SuperGucci” NFT collaboration for Gucci’s 100th anniversary last year, this new group of consumers is simply looking to express themselves and how they live in the world through what they carry in the digital space. They are interested in developing “digital matchmaking” and creating a character, almost like a stylist would.
“In Fortnite, the Balenciaga hoodie was huge,” says Wallinger of Balenciaga’s digital-to-physical collaboration with online video game Fortnite – the first time the platform has allowed a high-fashion brand to enter his world. Players could outfit their avatars with the new Balenciaga collection, as well as shop the collection at Balenciaga brick-and-mortar stores. “As with fashion, there’s always this momentum to show and share, it’s just that we show and share in different ways,” she says.
Wallinger, a woman in a field too often dominated by men, emphasizes how important it is for us to “lean” into the metaverse.
“I’m really advocating for women to be educated about even one component of Web3: augmented reality, virtual reality, graphic design – there are so many phenomenal female artists with a legacy in the space NFT.”
Indeed, smart contracts allow artists to be truly compensated for their work for the first time, in a decades-old culture of copy/paste and uncredited work being shared on social media. Web3 spaces are also, Wallinger explains, very inclusive.
“LGBTQ+ and gender fluidity happens freely in these spaces, a huge component for women and non-binary individuals who enter these ecosystems and feel free to be who they are in many ways,” she says. .
So, for those of us who have been reluctant to dive into the NFT pool so far, what’s the right way to get in? “Just buy them. There’s no two ways about it,” says Wallinger.
“Choose a project that resonates with you. I look for aesthetics and how it relates to who you are as an individual, like buying an item of clothing or an accessory in real life. Just go for what you love.
This story originally appeared in the September issue of Marie Claire.