If you’ve read a fashion-based news article in the last two months, we’d wager it has mentioned the latest fashion (and arts) craze: NFTs. In case you haven’t, NFT stands for ‘non-fungible token’, a unique digital asset linked by blockchain that can you can own but never tangibly hold.
NFTs are making big waves in creative fields like art and fashion: from digital artist Beeple’s US$69 million NFT sale at Christie’s in March 2021 – making him one of the three “most valuable living artists” – to a virtual hoodie from Overpriced being snapped up for £19,000 recently.
RTFKT Studio’s NFT collab with sneaker artist Fewocious resulted in sell-out sales of £2.2 million, all in a matter of minutes. Interestingly, those who purchased the Fewocious trainers were rewarded with a physical pair – but that wasn’t the point, just the icing on the (virtual) cake.
NFTs aren’t just for independent designers and streetwear labels. Some major luxury brands such as Gucci have already dabbled in NFTs and you can find interpretations of iconic fashion items, like a reimagined Birkin bag, sold as NFTs. The ‘Baby Birkin‘ NFT animation, featuring the Hermès bag 40 weeks pregnant with a child, just sold for $23,500 – more expensive than a genuine Birkin bag.
Like the most coveted physical fashion items, these fashion NFTs create momentum and interest. You need to be in-the-know about when launches are happening: blink and the items will be sold out. Most NFTs are special edition, limited pieces (RTKFT’s latest collaboration with Jeff Staples’ Pigeon streetwear brand only featured 100 of each style).
Research from NonFungible and L’Atelier BNP Paribas identified roughly 75,000 NFT buyers in 2020, and in 2021, crypto collecting is on the rise. NFT virtual fashion shows are even becoming a thing: see IMVU‘s virtual fashion show in May 2021, featuring virtual NFT designs from designers like Mimi Wade and Collina Strada, and Crypto Fashion Week coming in September 2021.
The Fabricant is a digital fashion house embracing the mantra of bigger reach and smaller impact. It’s known for digital couture as well as helping traditional brands experiment in the digital space. Footwear brand Buffalo London’s first collaboration resulted in a sneaker that looks like it’s aflame – designed to be worn in the virtual sphere. The two brands have also just teamed up on an NFT shoe, inspired by female surrealist painters’ works and available through Async Art. What’s especially interesting about this Buffalo x The Fabricant collaboration is that the NFT sneakers can be split into various layers, to be collected and traded separately by buyers. This allows the purchaser to become a co-creator in a sense, helping to collectively design the piece, changing the sole, laces, background and so on.
Breaking down the elitism in fashion is one of digital fashion’s goals: The Fabricant shares its digital patterns, urging new collaborators to put their own imprint on a particular digital garment. However, some worry it can be reproduced easily, whereas an NFT can be traced and tracked through its supply chain. Both can help with community building, offering a new way for fans to collect pieces and can enrich the brand-customer experience, changing how brands and consumers interact beyond the physical.
NFTs are also potentially indicative of bigger shifts in consumer behaviours: is dressing our metaverse self becoming as important as dressing our physical body?