As the blockchain economy is taking over creative industries, fashion brands are experimenting with NFTs. But what exactly luxury has to gain from this technology is still uncertain.
NFT project "Eyes of Fashion" by Talia Zoref
The question of whether a piece of designer clothing or an accessory is actually “worth their money” has always been somewhat debatable. Yes, there is the value of high-quality material, yes, there is the value of, in some cases, exceptional craftwork.
But it´s no secret that, when luxury customers buy 400 Euro sunglasses or 3000 Euro handbags they actually invest in something else. A feeling, an emotion, a culture, a world they want to be part of.
In that sense it does not come as a surprise that the recent Hype around NFTs has made many fashion brands wonder whether there is a new opportunity on the internet-horizon, to promote their message and earn some money while doing it. Gucci is the latest and probably one of the most famous examples so far of brands experimenting with the technology: In early June it sold its first NFT at an auction lead by Christie’s, a video inspired by its recent collection called “Gucci Aria”. It was sold for 25.000 US-Dollars, proceeds which were donated to UNICEF USA to improve global access to Covid-vaccines.
As a unique compilation of characters, these “Non-fungible Tokens” have been used like digital stamps to attribute authenticity and uniqueness to digital artworks minted and sold on the blockchain, virtual goods, which you cannot hang onto your living room wall or in your walk-in closet. That hasn´t stopped some collectors and crypto-believers from putting huge amounts of money into NFTs. The sale of an NFT-artwork by American artist Beeble in April for almost 70 Million-Dollars was called by some as the beginning of a new era, and suddenly, NFTs were everywhere, being created by famous creatives like Grimes and Snoop Dogg or small artists.
However, jumping on the NFT-bandwagon only to be part of a trend is probably not going to benefit either a brands’ cache or their bottom line. „Fashion brands just need to look and see where their fans have a collector’s mindset already, and they can leverage NFTs to unlock new ways of creating products and generating revenue”, said Benoit Pagotto, founder of Virtual Fashion Brand RTFKT, to „Vogue Business. “Brands shouldn’t create NFTs because they have FOMO or want to be in the press. They need to consider their long-term vision and build towards the future.”
As is the case with many technological novelties and new forms of expression they have their roots in subcultures and niches, where pioneers build communities of like-minded people. Digital-only or crypto-native brands and early adopters like London-based Designer Edeline Lee, who dropped her entire Autumn-Winter 2021 collection on NFT-platform OpenSea, might therefore have an easier time to instil the enthusiasm in their followers it needs to make money. RTFKT has sold digital goods worth 4,5 Million US-Dollars this year already, a proof of the potential the blockchain-sphere holds for fashion - even though both crypto currencies and NFTs have experienced a dramatic drop in sales and prices as of late.
Many experts see this less of a bursting bubble and more of a necessary cool-down of an overheated market. They foresee an NFT-economy that will be more stable, durable and mainstream. Whether that will become a reality or not, it might not be a bad idea for fashion brands to prepare for it.