Culture converges with blockchain as luxury fashion brands launch NFT collections

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It’s no surprise that non-fungible tokens (NFT) are dominating the crypto market this year. The booming digital asset class generated over $ 2.5 billion in revenue in the first six months of 2021, representing unheard of financial gains for artists, brands, and content creators around the world.

The rise of Metaverses has also impacted the adoption of NFTs as the world draws closer to visions of a future defined by augmented reality. As such, NFTs continue to demonstrate the convergence of culture and technology, which in turn impacts a number of mainstream industries.

Present culture and community

In particular, the multi-million dollar luxury fashion sector has started to take notice of NFTs. High-end fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Jimmy Choo recently launched their own NFT collections, while designer Rebecca Minkoff was the first American designer to create and showcase an NFT collection during New York Fashion Week 2021 .

Megan Kaspar, Managing Director at Magnetic Capital and a member of Red DAO – a fashion-focused decentralized autonomous organization – told Cointelegraph that she thinks fashion is one of the most interesting NFT categories:

“The fashion industry, one of the largest industries in the world, had annual sales of $ 2.5 trillion worldwide before the pandemic. Red DAO’s thesis on digital NFT fashion contains the potential for global sales that will at least double in the next two decades due to the digitalization of fashion and new opportunities. “

While NFTs are still a very early concept for the fashion industry, Kaspar explained that physical fashion today has its limits. For example, she pointed out that luxury fashion items will always have secondary retail value, but as a product degrades over time, the items lose their value.

However, digital fashion pieces are always retained, with additional potential for appreciation if they are in high demand. Kaspar commented that digital NFT fashion pieces can also be worn virtually, as she recently demonstrated in a video interview in which she wore virtual NFT earnings and other accessories.

Kaspar further noted that digital items, as opposed to tangible fashion pieces, can be used as a security for customer loyalty and community engagement. Kaspar mentioned that high-end designers currently have limited interaction with consumers: “NFTs can be used to redeem physical items or to unlock upcoming fashion drops. They can also grant access to private events. ”She added,“ Designers will also be able to communicate with customers through digital wallets, much like email. ”

While recognizing that these use cases are very early on, Kaspar believes that at some point more brands will begin developing NFTs to gain such benefits. Right now, however, it is noteworthy that some innovative luxury and haute couture fashion brands have already started to showcase the potential of NFTs.

Source: UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana

Shashi Menon, the Dubai-based editor of Vogue Arabia and founder and CEO of UNXD – a creator and curator platform that designed all of the digital assets for Dolce & Gabbana’s nine-part NFT collection – told Cointelegraph that his team was direct to Dolce & Gabbana. turned in April of this year with the idea of ​​launching an NFT collection.

Menon shared that the opportunity has been contextualized from a place that understands both the luxury fashion sector and the crypto world. “We’ve been involved in both for years and think we offer a unique perspective,” he said. Believing that the story of NFTs and fashion is not technology, but rather culture, Menon notes that both fashion and NFTs are “ultimately forms of cultural expression.”

While culture can be the most important element from a brand’s perspective, blockchain technology plays a vital role in ensuring the unique benefits of NFTs such as immutability and origins. For example, Menon stated that the Dolce & Gabbana NFT collection – known as the “Collezione Genesi” – was historic for several reasons:

“There’s a deep lineage – here we had one of the iconic luxury brands in the world creating their first NFT collection, and it was designed personally by the founders / eponymous designers. There is also extreme rarity, as the collection only consisted of nine items. These pieces were made once and will never be made again. “

Menon added that the craftsmanship and materials used in the physical creations were exquisite, which in turn meant a lot of time was spent on the digital artwork. “We were obsessed with the smallest details of textures, fabrics, lighting, shadows, reflections and physics to get an intensely photorealistic result. The dresses and suit were decorated with Murano glass and Swarovski crystals, while the crowns were made of silver, gold-plated and palladium-plated and showed beautiful rubies, sapphires and diamonds, ”he commented.

The golden glass dress NFT by Dolce & Gabbana. Source: UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana

One of the great advantages of digital fashion pieces is the experience they can bring to the virtual world. Menon stated:

“The benefits for Genesis owners combine the digital and physical worlds in an unprecedented way. We offer digital benefits through metaverse wearables, physical benefits with the products and exclusive access / experiences to achieve a really special result. “

Although the concept remains futuristic, the sales figures have been impressive. Dolce & Gabbana announced on September 30th that it had sold the nine-piece NFT collection along with some physical couture pieces for a total of 1,885,719 ethers (ETH), which was nearly $ 5.7 million at the time.

Kaspar mentioned that Red DAO won the auction for “The Doge Crown”, which also came with a physical version. Red DAO was paying 423.5 ETH, or $ 1.27 million, at the time of the sale. The organization also won the two all-digital “Impossible” jackets for a total spend of nearly $ 1.9 million.

“The Dog’s Crown” by Dolce & Gabbana. Source: UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana

Kaspar stated that winning “The Doge Crown” was an exciting moment for Red DAO as the rank of “Doge” (as in an elected head of state) has its roots in Italy, along with the Dogecoin (DOGE) crossover. “We already had a number of celebrities promoting Dogecoin and asking us to wear the crown at upcoming events,” said Kaspar.

In addition to the Genesis collection from Dolce & Gabbana, the luxury fashion accessories brand Jimmy Choo recently launched an NFT initiative in collaboration with New York artist Eric Haze. The collection offers 8,888 “Mystery Boxes” for sale, which underpin the collectibility theme.

Jimmy Choo x Eric Haze Mystery Box. Source: Ucollex

In addition, a digital version of the sneaker produced for the collection was recently made available for bidding on the Binance platform. All profits from the auction will be donated to the Jimmy Choo Foundation in support of Women for Women International, an organization that helps female war survivors.

Robert Tran, CEO of Ucollex – the NFT platform behind the launch of the Jimmy Choo collection – told Cointelegraph that the sneaker NFT, spinning against a canvas of Hose’s signature script, only exists digitally. However, the highest bidder in the auction will also receive a hand-painted, limited-edition sneaker.

Staying true to the theme of culture, Tran added that this collaboration combines fashion with art, along with the development of street culture in an experimental meeting of creative minds from different worlds:

“The concept of collectability is a strong theme in the collaboration, as the limited edition ‘Be @ rbrick’ shows, which was sold out on the morning of the market launch. So the time was right for the brand to step into the NFT conversation and step up the creativity of New York artist Eric Haze and Jimmy Choo’s designs as digital collectibles that speak to new audiences. The merging of digital and physical will continue to gain influence. “

Is the mainstream ready for fashion NFTs?

Although digital fashion today certainly brings a number of advantages, the concept is still in its early stages. As social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok continue to invest in Metaverse features, industry experts predict that fashion NFTs will become more common.

For example, Tran pointed out that Metaverse had already been introduced into the mainstream through remote work meetings. In return, he believes that mass adoption of NFT is not far off: “There shouldn’t be a fight, the industry will only continue to explode. There will come a day when fashion shows will be conducted digitally and the rights to these exhibited items will be offered and sold for digital use only. “

Jimmy Choo x Eric Haze, Chasing Stars auction. Source: Ucollex

Menon added that while these concepts are not universally applicable today, they will become the norm in the future. He indicated that fashion brands and other companies interested in continuity may want to develop NFTs for their audiences in the future. In terms of community engagement, Menon said that Dolce & Gabbana plans to start its own NFT community called “DGFamily,” which will be rolled out in the near future.

Education is still needed

While it can be assumed that more brands will want to develop NFTs in order to stay up to date, Kaspar pointed out that we are also witnessing a trend where fashion brands and designers are jumping into the NFT hype just to gain their market share conquer. With that in mind, she believes most brands still don’t fully understand the power of wearable digital fashion and the full range of features that NFTs can offer.

For example, Kaspar shared that a less discussed disruptive feature of the digitization of luxury fashion is the ability to use these items as collateral in smart contracts for decentralized finance: “These will all be NFTs on the blockchain that are tied to smart contracts. This is what this technology offers. ”

Given the early nature of fashion NFTs, Kaspar mentioned that this opportunity also had an educational component: “I have fashion brands calling me to find out how to get involved. I think what Dolce & Gabbana has done is progressive and will lead the way for other brands. “