NFTs in the fashion industry
Not a week goes by without a series of fashion brands proudly announcing their entrance into the world of NFTs. “Non-fungible tokens"’ technicality tends to cause confusion and raises questions about their concrete contribution to fashion companies. FashionNetwork.com examines NFTs’ three main types of possible uses (authentication, marketing and virtual fashion).
One of the most relevant applications of NFTs is its ability to tie itself to a physical product offered by a brand. The token becomes the embodiment of the product in the digital world, including luxury items, rare sneakers, or watches.
Through the issuance of NFT by brands, consumers have both a proof of purchase and a proof of authenticity of their product. Several players have already positioned themselves to support companies in this area, such as the blockchains Arianee, GoodsID or Aura, launched by the LVMH group.
The VeChain project aims to integrate the NFT directly into the product through an RFID chip or a QR Code, a device that has been tested by Nike on a pair of Air Max 1. This approach to NFTs is not only limited to luxury and rare products, as recently demonstrated by Levi’s.
This product / NFT association could also allow brands to follow a buyer’s consumer behavior, particularly in the world of second-hand luxury. The NFT is transferred to the buyer at the same time as the product.
NFTs in marketing and communications
The NFT token could also be converted into a key to access exclusive features and benefits. This approach was adopted by Paris Fashion Week last summer, when buyers, journalists and influencers received "utility NFTs" giving them access to exclusive augmented reality presentations. Beyond the fashion shows, giving NFTs to a brand's client roster can be a powerful marketing tool for capsule collection or store opening events.
Adidas’ latest collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club (a collection of illustrated monkeys sold as NFTs) gave owners access to both physical and digital experiences. This use of the NFT as an exclusive access key can also take brands into the growing field of gaming marketing. Forever 21 has done this with a game that allows the player to open a Forever 21 store in the metaverse, (a fictional virtual world).
The virtual world and the metaverse
Perhaps the most unsettling function of these tokens is digital fashion. In both cases previously mentioned, NFTs are intended to be a bridge between the physical and virtual worlds. But it can also be solely virtual through the purchase of unique or limited digital creations, selling them in virtual stores located in the now famously coined "metaverse". These virtual universes resemble video games, where the user can own a personalized home or land and wander around to meet their peers. All of this is done through an avatar, which comes "naked" for the purpose of being eventually dressed up according to one's taste in the future.
It is against this background that several brands have begun to roll out virtual pieces and collections, sometimes offered in the real world. This is the case for Dolce & Gabbana’s digital capsule Genesi, the collaborations between Balmain and Barbie, Givenchy and Chito, Gucci Aria, and the initiatives launched by Guerlain, Havaianas, DKNY, Adidas, Diesel, H&M.
The metaverse also gives rise to creators who exclusively design virtual clothing, such as the pioneer The Fabricant, launched in 2018, which sold the following year a dress NFT for $ 9,500, or RTFKT, inaugurated in 2020 and recently acquired by Nike.
There is still a big problem however - a lack of interoperability. There are several different metaverses where NFTs and virtual fashion outfits are not transferable from one to another. Brands must therefore carefully select in which metaverse/s to launch or multiply their investments in order to occupy all fronts.
But which metaverse to choose? Several virtual universes are currently sharing the spotlight. From the very colorful world of Decentraland to The Sandbox, famous for creating virtual games and experiences. There is also Roblox, Cryptovoxel (where it is possible to buy art galleries and stores full of NFT creations) and the upcoming Horizon Worlds of Facebook, which has awakened the interest of the general public on these universes by renaming itself last year "Meta". For the moment, no player seems to be taking the lead.
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