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Blockchain and NFT, the cryptocurrencies of fashion

By Giuseppe Di Rosalia
6 min read

Fashion has always been attentive to social, anthropological and now also financial changes. We all know that fashion is attracted to the new or what goes around it. I’ll tell you right now: there’s nothing crazy about the data recording technology that supports both cryptocurrencies and NFTs that have recently become the guilty pleasure of art, except for the numbers. The Blockchain is the consequence of these NFTs.

But what are NFTs and Blockchain?

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, a digital unit that you can exchange like Bitcoin or Ethereum. The NFT, in short, is an electronic certificate of digital authenticity with an encrypted code and the signature of the artist. The latter certifies the uniqueness and ownership of something that exists only on the web but can still be resold as it is always distinguishable from any other “reproduction.”

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While the Blockchain is a subfamily of technologies, or as it is often specified, a set of technologies, in which the registry is structured as a chain of blocks containing transactions and the consensus is distributed on all nodes in the network. All nodes can participate in the validation process of transactions to be included in the registry.

So far, so clear, at least I think so.

The fashion world, despite being overwhelmed by the pandemic, has turned to the web as its only salvation. In fact, fashion shows, events, showrooms, fairs and billions of dollars of purchases have moved online. So much so that, just to name one, even the photographic legacy of Karl Lagerfeld will reach a blockchain.

For those who don’t know, or don’t remember: the Kaiser of fashion was creative director of Chanel for 36 years and Fendi for 54. Lagerfeld was among the most prolific designers who ever lived. He was also a good photographer, able to simultaneously shoot advertising campaigns in Paris and photograph two lovers in India. 

After he died in 2019, Eric Pfrunder, former artistic director of Chanel, inherited his collection of more than 120 thousand photographs. Rather than sell them at an auction or set up an exhibition in a museum, he decided to register them on the Lukso blockchain. 

By doing so, Karl’s photos will be published at predetermined intervals in the form of digital copies, limited editions, physical copies, exhibitions or books. Lukso is a German blockchain startup.

What can blockchain do for fashion?

Today, fashion is grappling with two big problems: fighting to reduce its heavy footprint on the ecosystem and defending itself against the growing counterfeiting of its products, and this is where the dark side of resale platforms comes in. According to some estimates it would cost the fashion industry more than $450 billion a year—more than just pocket change.

Experts say the use of Blockchain could offer possible solutions to both problems. Cool. The identification system already in use for NFTs can certify a product’s durability, include knowledge of its manufacturers, its origin, previous owners, even the production batch, making its authenticity fully verifiable. 

Physical garments, which have always been produced in full factory runs, on order or pre-order, without knowing if they will really be purchased, could remain purely virtual in Blockchain, even enter the online resale or come back into circulation as part of a different collection at a later date. 

This would also allow brand X to test their liking before producing them and set quantities without wasting anything.

The digital fashion industry is a real market. With the sale of skins for video games, important brands such as Nike, Gucci, Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Off-White have already embarked on this adventure. They’ve created a sort of crypto fashion week.

If someone were to buy, as has already happened, in the art world an NFT worth 63 million dollars, or Jack Dorsey’s first tweet yields 2.9 million, why shouldn’t there be exclusively digital ready-to-wear collections?

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Auroboros answers this legitimate question and has already put its first collections on sale. 

Auroboros, whose name refers to the ancient icon of the snake that eats its own tail, is the first fashion house to merge science and technology with physical high fashion, as well as digital-only ready-to-wear. Their website says:

Creating a romantic premise for the near future, our work is synonymous with innovation, sustainability and immersive design.

In short, the first digital brand for sale on the styling games app Drest, founded by Lucy Yeomans, former director of fashion platform Net-a-Porter and before that of Harper’s Bazaar UK, alongside luxury brands such as Prada, Burberry or Valentino.

Blockchain
On Drest, players range in age from 21 to 39, and the app allows them to improvise as stylists and shop.

The Auroboros collection is built around 14 garments on sale for between £100 and £450. Paula Sello and Alissa Aulbekova started their experimental side project during college. But things started to take off when Alexander McQueen‘s Sarabande Foundation chose them as the up-and-comers to support in 2020 providing them with studio space and guidance on how to launch their brand.

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Instead of paying to own a physical garment, Auroboros shoppers pay to secure digital versions of tops embellished with tendrils, dresses decorated with elements of the lymphatic system, or coats constructed from tiny plants that live a life of their own. 

Once the purchase is made, they send images of themselves to these digital tailors who will dress them. They won’t receive anything physical but an email on their PCs. Yes, I know it’s crazy, but everyone spends their money how they want.

In the balance between real and virtual, one consideration must be made. 

On March 11, Beeple’s NFT reached 69 million dollars in a digital auction held by Christie’s. 

Blockchain

But a few days later, in Dubai, the world’s largest “hand-painted” canvas was auctioned for $62 million. British artist Sacha Jafri completed his The Journey of Humanity on 1,600 square meters, then made 70 panels to be resold to raise funds for children affected by the pandemic. 

Businessman Andre Abdoune bought them all at once for a price that doubled expectations, so much so that Beeple and Jafri are not superstar artists like Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, and synchronous (and unprecedented) alignment of the real and virtual like this makes one wonder, first and foremost, about the markets that supported them.

Blockchain

The virtual is catching on beyond all predictions cause pandemic and now sits alongside the real with no more complexes. 

However, once the PCs are turned off, the need for physical and real contact remains strong. Therefore virtual collections, NFT or skins are destined to join the real collections in the whirlwind of Gen Z Millennials. And even more so by the brand new members of the Alpha generation. Those who were born after 2010, who are already able to direct the purchases of their parents. 

Even if 20 years late, welcome to the 21st century.

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Written by
Giuseppe Di Rosalia
6 min read

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