Why the fashion world is diving into NFTs and the metaverse

Canadian luxury outerwear brand Moose Knuckles joins the metaverse with a unique NFT jacket created by Portuguese digital artist Tiago Marinho. Moose Knuckles celebrates the opening of a new pop-up and is part of the brand’s third Heatmakers initiative,” reads the press release we recently received in our inbox. And Moose Knuckles isn’t the only brand exploring the metaverse through NFTs.

The metaverse, the future 3D version of the Internet, promises us access to interconnected virtual and physical spaces where you can work, but also socialize, play, learn, create and, of course, shop! This dream from 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction book snow crashbecame the obsession of Silicon Valley, and now little by little it is becoming a reality: Mark Zuckerberg through Meta, the old Facebook group, and Microsoft with Mesh, the version of Teams with an avatar… Fashion also seems to succumb to the phenomenon.

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From Burberry to Julien Fournier and even Gucci: many brands have already jumped on the virtual bandwagon. They mainly do that with NFT (non-fungible or non-replaceable tokens, ed.) – digital values ​​that are encrypted in the blockchain (technology with which data can be shared without an intermediary, ed.)† They drive collectors crazy who pay an incredible amount of money for it. Or by buying 3D experience space on virtual reality platforms, such as Sandbox, Roblox, and Decentraland.

The new Eldorado, a technological bubble or a dystopian scenario?

“The metaverse thing has been around for a long time,” confirms Deborah Marino, strategy manager at Publicis Luxe, the agency that conceived the partnership between Balenciaga and the video game Fortnite. “But the pandemic provided an additional boost.” During the lockdowns, IT people learned to mix more the virtual world and reality, representing shows in ‘phygital’ (physical and digital) and developed 3D software to design collections remotely. Luxury houses and sports brands took the lead.

“At first, Balenciaga saw it more as a publicity stunt,” he continues, “but when the entire fur collection sold out in seconds, we understood the potential of this market.” According to investment bank Morgan Stanley, the fashion and luxury sector could extract $50 billion from the metaverse by 2030.

Press

“It’s a world you have to approach as an ethnologist,” Marino warns, “an even more mysterious world populated by gamers, cryptocurrency fans, collectors… but also where there’s room for creativity and style.” “People care about their identity and image online, it’s a form of self-expression,” said Christina Wootton, vice president of brand collaborations at Roblox, a platform that develops fun and immersive environments for fashion.

“One in five Roblox users update their avatar daily.” Hence the success of ‘profile photos’, these exclusive profile photos are currently flying out the door of Sotheby’s for tens of millions of euros. “Whoever has a CryptoPunk or Bored Ape Yacht Club as an avatar belongs to a fashion club with associated codes,” says Luc Jodet, co-founder of Arianee, a platform specialized in NFTs and active in the luxury sector. “It’s like owning a Rolex, only you don’t wear it, it’s more about the fun of collecting.” Givenchy has already collaborated with artist Chito and Gucci launched three NFT series with Superplastic, Paul Budnitz’s ‘art toys’ brand.

The future

For now, fashion brands and their customers still cannot imagine giving up the physical object. But a decade from now, younger generations will undoubtedly be willing to buy 100% digital products. They are already being presented as an ecological alternative to fast fashion. They do not present any problem in terms of waste, transport or stock, but they do have a significant CO2 footprint (an NFT would produce 200 kg of CO2), which can be reduced with the advent of blockchains that consume less energy.

But already thorny questions arise: what about data security or intellectual property? (Fashion house Hermès is already suing artist Mason Rothschild for selling his MetaBirkins, NFTs inspired by the fashion brand’s handbags.) And can you move freely from one universe to another while maintaining your avatar?

“The metaverse is not only an immersive 3D environment, it is also a social and economic project”, says Luc Jodet. “Web3 (the new internet generation, ed.) wants to offer decentralized communication and financial protocols that are fully accessible to everyone and therefore not dependent on major platforms.”

Rudder Van Mechelen

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As a fashion expert, he knows how to interpret trends and developments like no other. He is a fan of Dries Van Noten and Prada and sees his clothes as a worthwhile investment. He has as much fun with stock sales as he does their birthday, Christmas, and summer vacations together. He finds few things more satisfying than drinking too much natural wine and people-watching on a terrace.

tags:

Metaverse, NFT, Virtual Mode.

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