Virtual fashion: When wearables meet NFTs
The crypto-craze has crept in different kinds of industries, including–who would’ve known–the world of fashion. After all, many of our transactions have gone digital. However, we are not just talking about online shopping. In recent months, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have also entered the fashion scene. But do they really have the potential to be as big as e-commerce, especially in wearables retail? And are they really the future of the fashion industry?
NFT 101: Non-fungible Tokens
Let’s discuss what an NFT is first. These non-fungible tokens are so-called because they are unique, hence “non-fungible,” which means cannot be replaced. According to a Verge article, they are different from bitcoin, another popular cryptocurrency. When you exchange one bitcoin with another, you get the same thing. But NFTs, which depend on blockchain tech, is not the same thing. If you trade one NFT with another, you’ll get a completely different thing. They are often suited for luxury, albeit digital, items.
The popularity of NFTs surged earlier this year, mostly used in the creative industry though it’s not relatively new. Digital arts were the common ones, like buying the ownership of, say, a cute drawing of a cat. But for thousands, or even millions, of bucks, apparently. Well, others can also get a copy, but the artwork with the NFT, which has more stored data compared to bitcoin, is owned by the buyer. Like with traditional, physical fine arts, the value of the token, while unique, can increase depending on its popularity or the artist’s. And ownership can be transferred from one buyer to another.
Fashion meets NFTs
As we said, they are not limited to digital artworks. Anything that is digital, basically, can be bought and configured to be an NFT, like virtual stickers, or a song, and exchanged in the metaverse. The fashion world, being in the creative industry, has also welcomed NFTs, sort of. But like most art-related NFTs, they are also worth a lot.
We’re well aware that the world of fashion has also embraced the internet, with the rise of digital stores and online shopping. Even the most recognized brands also ventured to e-commerce with the boom of the internet globally. And while this has been commonplace nowadays as the pandemic only sped it up, the same cannot be said with NFT. They are still popular among wealthier enthusiasts. But it’s yet to be seen whether it dictates the future of the industry.
Luxury brands venturing in the metaverse
Even with skepticism around the NFTs, they have suddenly become a rage in the past few months, per news reports. Astounding amounts of money have been involved, generating millions for businesses. Whether they’re digital kimonos for your avatars or virtual versions of limited edition sneakers, the hype has definitely sparked. And this got the attention of luxury clothing brands.
In recent months, here are three of the recognized luxury brands that already jumped in this NFT-craze.
In June, Italian luxury brand Gucci auctioned off its first-ever NFT, which was bid at $25,000. The NFT is configured to be a three-channel video on a loop that was based on the company’s centennial celebratory fashion film “Gucci Aria.” The auctioned short film features dazzling fashion drawn and inspired by the company’s Fall/Winter line this year.
Christie’s was tasked to curate and auction the NFTs, which was not their first time this year. However, Gucci was the British auction company’s first partnership with a well-recognized brand, gaining more traction. This latest digital piece is part of the “Proof of Sovereignty ” special auction consisting of NFTs. The curator was credited to a digital artist called “Lady PheOnix.”
Proceeds for the Gucci NFT went to nonprofit efforts for providing access to COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the contemporary art specialist of Christie’s, Noah Davis, this can change the way “artists make art and the way every creative industry operates.” Davis noted that blockchain technology could actually empower “creative people everywhere.”
Louis Vuitton has also jumped on the NFT bandwagon, but not in the way you’d think. They joined the hype in quite a unique way–a mobile game you can play. In August, the French fashion brand launched a new game called “Louis: the Game.” Louis Vuitton, more known as LV, teamed up with graphic designer and digital artist Beeple, whose earlier artwork has been auctioned and sold for an astounding $69.3 million, one of the earliest to create a buzz surrounding NFTs and their value. And totes one of the most expensive artworks to exist, but we digress.
Anyway, the new and addictive game, available for both Android Playstore and iOS App Store, will let you immerse in six different colorful and vibrant worlds. It will follow Vivienne’s adventures as she uncovers 200 candles, each revealing a part of Louis’s life. This is part of the 200-year birthday celebration of the company’s founder. Of course, you can change your Avatars with various recognizable LV prints.
The digital tokens, designed by Beeple, are hidden somewhere in the game, in which the only place to get them is by playing the game. Reports say there are 30 NFT collectibles to be found, and they are not sold this time. Maybe LV is just testing the waters for something more in the future, like launching intangible fashion items? Whichever, it is still a significant start.
Dolce & Gabbana
In September, Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana held an auction consisting of digital pieces, in collaboration with digital culture marketplace curator UNXD. During their Alta Moda event, the nine-piece NFT collection was unveiled by the Italian fashion brand.
Dubbed the “Collezione Genesi” (Genesis Collection), the pieces were personally designed by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The auction featured both physical and virtual items (the NFTs), including women’s and men’s wear and jewelry. And the collection pieces are definitely gorgeous, even virtually, as you’d expect from Dolce & Gabbana.
Moreover, some of the digital collection pieces included real-world, tangible items–handcrafted by D&G themselves–accompanying the virtual version. And the remaining others are solely virtual tokens, which include what is called “The Impossible Tiara.”
Afterward, Dolce & Gabbana reported that it has sold the collection pieces for over 1,800 Ethers, or about $6 million. It may be an “underwhelming” amount compared to Beeple’s artwork, but that was only the start. The duo’s brand, along with UNXD, plans to launch the DG Family, an NFT community with four tiers of memberships. Who knows what more mesmerizing virtual pieces, or tokens, our eyes can delight in are in store from the fashion duo in the future?
The future of fashion trade?
While we don’t think the merging of NFT and fashion will be as widespread in the near, foreseeable future, at least not as huge as what e-commerce is today. Vogue Business pointed out that “use cases of NFT are currently in their infancy, especially for fashion.”
In the same article, Cathay Hackl, a CEO for a company that assists companies in dealing with virtual goods, mentioned that these NFTs from fashion houses are more as an art, and not utility. It could change, but she reckons, “We’re not there yet.” These tokens, while many of them are expensive, remain as art pieces to admire for now.
Right now, we feast our eyes on these tokens, and at the end of the day, still cling to reliable clothing shops, online and brick-and-mortar, for what to actually wear. Although, there is a potential for these virtual tokens to become something to look forward to, and brands may be NFT-driven if they want to.
These virtual tokens may be for the crypto-wealthy in the meantime. But the place they move in, the metaverse, is still on the internet, where most of us are. We could be doing our own shopping in NFT stores someday as easily as we can share on social media. Who could tell how much we’ll embrace non-tangible digital fashion?
By looking at fashion as an art, selling NFTs will be a way for artists and other creatives to share their artwork and express themselves to enthusiasts from all over the world. And it’s not entirely a bad thing, even with the skepticism surrounding the concept. There may or may not be tangible items you get, it’s still interesting to see how NFTs could influence the way we wear someday, virtually or otherwise.