Homeluxury bag → Welcome to the age o...

Welcome to the age of crypto fashion: the rise of NFTs opens up a juicy market path for luxury

Attention, ask: would you pay for a garment, an accessory, some shoes, that you will never be able to wear in real life? No, don't answer yet. First, answer this other question: where is the first place you show off and show off that garment, accessory or shoe you just bought? If this second answer invariably goes through social networks, then the first should not offer too many doubts either. The TikTok in the fitting room, the story or the post with the selfie in front of the mirror, the tweet or the WhatsApp with the self-satisfied photo are gestures that precede the premiere of clothing on the physical plane for a long time. In fact, it's the gestures that count because they happen where it really matters, more and more. Normal that there are those who already think about how to dress for our technological daily life. The mechanism is very simple: it is enough to track the desired virtual item –newly minted or the result of the 3D digitization of one previously marketed in the real world– on any of the electronic platforms developed for this purpose, acquire the rights of possession and use on it (what has been to buy) and wear it, either dressed by our avatar in an ad hoc environment, or superimposed on the corresponding part of the body by means of a filter or by augmented reality through the application that will allow the phone's camera mobile take the snapshot of rigor to upload to the networks. Well, maybe it's not that simple. In any case, definitely welcome to the age of crypto fashion.

Last March, Gucci joined forces with Wanna, an app specialized in rendering sports shoes, to launch a series of 25 brand-new sneakers for virtual use only. For 7 euros, in Wanna itself, and about 12, in the application of the Italian firm, the user could get the complete lot and put on the designs at will through augmented reality (in case someone was not convinced, before the purchase it was possible to test versions of existing models physically). The experiment was widely cheered as it was considered the first incursion of such an important brand in the vibrant territory of the so-called non-fungible tokens, NFT for short. We are talking about those non-movable (intangible) goods with unique characteristics that make it impossible to exchange them for others and that, furthermore, do not wear out, spoil or be discarded after repeated use, even though they are consumables. It is, of course, the prerogative of a digital nature. The thing is, no, the sneakers in question weren't actually NFTs, in that they were available in unlimited numbers – anyone with one of the two apps installed could get hold of them – and, on top of that, they were infinitely cheaper than the real ones Because, indeed, in this new and fascinating field of play, price and exclusivity rule. That is why the luxury mega-corporations are salivating at the predictably enormous business expectations that are open to them.

Although recent, the NFT market has been explored for some time by fashion brands conceived for the digital medium, whose designs are only found, consumed and used online. RTFKT (read Artefact), a gamer-oriented content and creation studio launched in January 2020, made history last February by monetizing NFT sports worth three million euros in just seven minutes of sale. Three months later, he managed to get several venture capital entities to invest around eight million in the company, "aimed at establishing the future of fashion in the metaverse," according to Benoit Pagotto, one of the three founding partners. With collaborations that involve both emblematic brands (see the Atari sneakers) and stars of digital art, dispatched in drops that fly as soon as they appear on their website, RTFKT wants to be the virtual Supreme. The key to these files – which is what they are, images in jpg or gif format, although there are also audio ones – lies precisely in that comparison: they appeal to the cultural consumption tradition of streetwear; to the scarcity of the product that triggers their greed and, with it, their value; to the craving for the collectible item. In fact, NFTs are considered the digital answer to physical collectibles. So much so that real fortunes are paid for them, either in cryptocurrencies or in legal tender currencies. The rendering of a classic Hermès Birkin fetched $24,000 after being auctioned off among members of the e-commerce platform Basic.Space in May. The piece, a 2,000 x 2,000-pixel animated gif by Los Angeles-based digital artist duo Mason Rothschild and Eric Ramirez, shows a fetus developing inside the bag that is supposed to be made of clear plastic.

Of course, the new question is: but who is interested in such unreal fashion/luxury items? A pertinent question knowing that the consumer of NFT is mostly that type of man, young, gamer, who is easy to imagine gorilla in front of the screen of the electronic device holding (accumulating and speculating with cryptocurrencies, that is). But it turns out that he is also the one who has no qualms about spending money on such products, such as the so-called 'sneakerheads', compulsive sneaker collectors. The presumption, in addition, sins of sexist: the number of women in the universe of online video games does not stop increasing. Gucci, again, has already tried his luck with them by offering them a digital version of the Dionysus bag on the Roblox platform. The model, which in the store is close to 3,000 euros, was sold for 350,000 Robux, the in-game currency necessary to acquire certain exclusive objects (all free games require their own currency, which is achieved by paying a monthly fee, in this case of 4.99 euros). The estimated real change would be about 4,000 euros. However, once again it is a false NFT, because its appearance is reduced to Roblox as an accessory to the player's avatar, while the non-fungible token can be used in any online environment and at any time, in addition to being susceptible of transfer or resale, always higher. To explore the clothing potential of genuine NFT, better take a look at the fashion catalogs of virtual goods and crypto-collectible auction and trading sites such as OpenSea, KnownOrigin, Neuno or Nifty Gateway. In Decentreland, for example, it was possible to bid a month ago for the clothing extravaganza resulting from the collaboration of the digital firm The Fabricant with Adidas and the NGO Kode With Klossy of the model Karlie Kloss. On any of these platforms you can pay by credit card, which avoids the hassle of acquiring cryptocurrencies.

The kid (and not so much) for which to pay to subscribe to YouTube channels and online games or market in apps and resale platforms is like breathing is in the spotlight of this succulent business. For fashion, there is no better way to reach it and touch its consumer fiber, hence the avalanche of partnerships between luxury firms (Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Gucci...) and video game developers. Now, the question is to go one step further with the creation of NFTs, exclusive crypto fashion designs whose ownership and title of authenticity can only be possessed by whoever gets hold of it in bidding. For this, the same mechanism that guarantees cryptocurrencies is used and that serves to certify the originality of digital works of art, blockchain technology. This system, based on a node of computers operating in a network, is what allows the creation of an unalterable record (database) of unique and original digital content, which cannot be copied without losing the authenticity signature, encrypted and accessible in Internet for those who wish to verify the origin of that virtual content (the file in question). This signature or certificate also allows the part/article to be resold, just as it happens in the physical plane. And, in addition, it helps in its traceability. Hence, it is used in sectors as disparate as health, aviation or the food industry. Luxury entered the rag at the end of 2019, with the creation of the Aura Blockchain consortium promoted by the LVMH, Richemont and Prada groups for the sake of authentication and registration/monitoring of origin of those exclusive items that are increasingly flooding the portals of resale. That is, if they are good, they are listed as NFT and herding. Fashion thus gives its support to blockchain technology, which was already operating networks such as Arianne (at the service of Audemars Piguet, Ba&sh and Vacheron Constanti), VeChain (Givenchy, H&M) or Lukso, a digital network of fashion and lifestyle that is helping Eric Pfrunder, Chanel's former Fashion Artistic Director, to certify Karl Lagerfeld's personal photo archive for future digital operations/transactions. Although once again it is Gucci that, now yes, comes forward by marketing a genuine NFT with artistic depth, Proof of Sovereignty, a piece of video art co-directed by Alessandro Michele and the photographer and filmmaker Flora Sigismondi inspired by the audiovisual staging of the firm's latest collection, Aria (the one with the Balenciaga hack). The British digital curator Lady PheOnix has taken her to Christie's, where bids from $20,000 were accepted for charity until June 3. What happens from there with crypto fashion remains to be seen, but its normalization is sensed just around the corner, for sure. Everything is to show off a record-breaking look in virtual society.

Tags: #TheFutureOfFashion|digital art|technology

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